Inés Páez, known as Chef Tita, has been a cook since the age of 17 and a judge on MasterChef. Born in the capital, in Santo Domingo, she is currently known as the precursor of the new Dominican cuisine, as well as one of the creators of her country’s Gastronomic Diplomacy program, with which she travels the world to promote her country through food.
This interview is part of “The World Made Local” a global project of Condé Nast Traveler’s seven international editions, which gives voice to 100 people in 100 countries to discover why their own territory should be your next destination.
What are the scents that define your memories?
The smell of coffee in the morning. It is part of our culture and identity. I have also been marked by the aroma of ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass infusions.
What are your favorite local markets?
The Dominican Republic is a very fertile country that, apart from tourism, lives from agriculture. I like to go to the markets, enjoy the people, the joy of the Dominicans and how picturesque we are. Seeing and learning about the diversity of products that are produced in our land, looking for new ones and finding those that have disappeared over the years is something I enjoy. My favorites are the Feria Ganadera market, which is on George Washington Avenue, on the Malecón, the most central. Another one I love is the Mercado Modelo, on Mellá Avenue, north of the colonial zone and a landmark of the island. It has more than 70 years of history. Its crowded aisles are full of local and mostly handmade products. There are also clay pieces, paintings, handicrafts, sweets and a wide variety of products. Another one I love is Merca Santo Domingo, inaugurated in 2012 and located on the Duarte Highway. It is a collection and distribution center for all the fruits that are produced in our land, from where they are sent to the different markets and supermarkets in the country. Also the Central Market of the Agora Mall, which is held once a month. Here I support low-income producers who work with me, giving them visibility and projecting their products. And to buy utensils, Paragourmet.