Gisela Medina – Special Mention

From Mburucuyá, a small town located in the Argentine province of Corrientes that serves as a point of entry into the vast and remote Iberá Wetlands and their natural diversity, Gisela Wadiana Medina launched the Iberá Chefs Network in 2017. This initiative has provided training and guidance to 80 humble cooks from the region, the majority of whom are women. Participants are equipped with skills and training to enable them to open their own home businesses serving traditional Corrientes cuisine to tourists, and thereby secure their own independent income.

Wadiana-Medina’s work demonstrates how gastronomy can drive development in a community facing challenging circumstances, including low literacy rates and few economic resources. Her project has changed the lives of its participants by empowering them with skills to earn a living and validating their cultural pride and identity. This region’s culinary traditions and ingredients have long been belittled as “poor people’s food”, and thus unworthy of being served to visitors. Today, however, thanks to this chef’s hard work, this region and its cuisine have blossomed into a dynamic tourist attraction and source of income for local residents.