Dining

Panamanian Chef Andrés Morataya's Unique Approach to Cooking

This chef built his cooking techniques from the ground up (literally)
How Panamanian Chef Andrés Morataya Cooks
Photos: Austin Johnson

When it comes to hosting a party in the Hamptons, you go all out: the tablescape, the cocktails and, of course, the food. So when founder and CEO of Burch Creative Capital Chris Burch was searching for the right person to cater one of his summer parties, he knew Panamanian chef Andrés Morataya's beach-friendly grill approach would be the perfect fit.

Chef Morataya, who currently has a farm-to-table restaurant in Panama called Panga, specializes in creating unique dining experiences beyond the plate. When Morataya and his wife first opened their restaurant, financial constraints kept them from purchasing the equipment they needed—or so they thought. Those limitations paved the way for chef Morataya to explore a more unique way of cooking, something he calls "back to basics."

Both at his restaurant and at Burch's house in the Hamptons, Morataya built his own grill from scratch using bricks and driftwood. And this October, Morataya will be taking his unique concept to Nihi Sumba Island, Burch’s resort in Indonesia. "Even if I have access to modern equipment, I like to limit myself to allow myself to be as creative as possible," he says.

Can't get to Panama or Indonesia? Here's an inside look at what it's like to dine with this incredibly innovative chef.

  • A boneless rib eye seasoned with thyme, rosemary and roast garlic butter cooks to perfection at the meat station.

  • Raw octopus is hung on pitchforks over an open fire as hot air slowly cooks and smokes it for 10 hours.

  • Chef Morataya tends to the open fire he built from scratch. He has a similar grill at his restaurant in Panama, which he engineered himself out of local bricks and driftwood.

  • The tablescapes are kept simple and rustic to go along with the menu for the occasion.

  • Here, Chef holds a whole rack of prime rib, which has been cooking over the fire all day.

  • Chef Morataya's approach to cooking is definitely a conversation starter. Look closely, and you'll notice the chicken roasting over the fire, hung by a beer bottle—a trick Chef uses at his restaurant in an effort to not let anything go to waste.

  • The fish station includes fire-roasted red snapper served with a chimichurri sauce and crispy snapper scales.

  • The evening is festive with guests sipping cocktails all night long.

  • Chef Morataya and his friends, who also have restaurants in Panama, at the event. From left: Álvaro Perrino from Azafrán, chef Morataya, Chris Burch, Alfonso de la Espriella from Casa Escondida and Carlos Alba from Intimo Restaurant.

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