Mario Castrellón

If Panama stands out on the culinary map of Latin America, it’s to a great degree due to the work of Mario Castrellón. He is the head chef and owner of Maito and Humo, two restaurants that are setting the trend for new forms of Panamanian cuisine. As a leader in his generation of chefs, his work has set a before and after in his country’s gastronomic tradition and its relationship to the local products that provide it with character. He has worked with the native communities who live in the two jungles at the country’s borders—Bocas del Toro in the north and Darien in the south. This relationship has begun to bear fruit as rediscovered products have made their way to the most dedicated kitchens as well as to some of the markets in the capital. His support of street food vendors has given value to the local fondas and his work extends to coffee, through the three locations of Café Unido.