Caldo de gallina: An ancestral dish from award-winning Natalia Vallejo


Kathleen Squires

Puerto Rico is world-renowned for its gorgeous beaches, top-tier musicians and fine rum. Now, in 2023, the island is finally receiving major awards for its cuisine. This was the year for Boricuas (people of Puerto Rican birth or descent) at the James Beard Foundation Awards, which honours the US’s top chefs, restaurants, cookbook authors and food journalists.

At the ceremonies in early June, 43-year-old San Juan restaurant Casita Blanca received an “America’s Classics” nod; food writer Illyanna Maisonet took home the “Emerging Voice” award for her cookbook Diasporican thatexplores Puerto Rican cooking stateside; and Natalia Vallejo of Cocina al Fondo in San Juan earned the award for “Best Chef South” over chefs from Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. She is the first Puerto Rican woman to be nominated for this specific award, and the first Puerto Rican ever to have won. “It is a proud and celebratory moment that recognises the dignity of our cooking,” Vallejo said.