Since Saturday 19th August marks National Potato Day, we decided to take a closer look at this root vegetable native to the Americas.  

Did you know there are thousands of different types of potato?

Native potatoes served in the Awasi Relais & Chateaux restaurant

“More than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador” says the International Potato Center
“Selected over centuries for their taste, texture, shape and color, these potato varieties are very well adapted to the harsh conditions that prevail in the high Andes, at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 4,200 meters. Farmers generally produce these native varieties with minimal or no use of agrochemicals.”

Awasi Atacama Chef Juan Pablo in Peru learning about native potatoes from expert Manuel Choqque

Awasi Atacama Chef, Juan Pablo, travelled to Peru in August along with 23 chefs from fellow Relais & Chateaux properties across Central and South America.

The chefs gathered at Hotel Sol y Luna in the Sacred Valley in Peru for four days of meetings, exchange, networking, cooking and discovering the culture and gastronomy of this unique country.

23 Relais & Chateaux chefs gather in the Peruvian Andes with Manuel Choqque, local farmer and expert in native potatoes.

As part of the agenda, they had a workshop with Manuel Choqque, a fourth-generation farmer who is turning potatoes into wine. 

“He began collecting ancestral potato varieties by himself as a hobby,” says an article in in World’s 50 Best, “studying products from Inca and pre-Inca cultures that were no longer used. Today, he has more than 380 varieties of native potatoes, which he improves by imitating bees with manual cross-pollination.” 

Chef Juan Pablo tries wine made from potato on a trip to Peru with fellow Relais & Chateaux chefs

According to the International Potato Center, “wild tubers were first domesticated around 8,000 years ago by farmers who lived on the high plains and mountain slopes near Lake Titicaca, which borders modern-day Bolivia and Peru. The tubers grew well in the cold, harsh climate and quickly took root as a centerpiece around which life revolved.”

Native potatoes from the Andes

A little further south at Awasi Atacama, we source exotic purple potatoes from a local farmer in the village of Socaire.

Rich in antioxidants, these potatoes grow at 3200 meters of altitude.

Chef Juan Pablo Mardones who heads up the Relais & Chateaux restaurant at Awasi Atacama, Chile

Chef Juan Pablo uses Socaire potatoes in a variety of dishes at Awasi Atacama, our Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant.

Favourites include foam of purple potatoes with olives; confit purple potatoes with goat’s cheese (as pictured below); and lamb stew with purple potatoes and beans.

From field to plate: confit purple potatoes with goat’s cheese at Awasi Atacama – Relais & Chateaux

“For me as a cook it is a privilege to be able to work with local and seasonal products” says Chef Juan Pablo.

“Socaire potatoes represent seasonality since you only find them between March and June. They are delicious and aesthetically highly valued for their purple and blue colours for serving. At Awasi we find it very important to share with our guests these products that speak of tradition and heritage.”

The Awasi Atacama Relais & Chateaux restaurant

Awasi Atacama is a 12-room Relais & Chateaux hotel in Northern Chile.

After spending days exploring the Atacama Desert with their private guide, Awasi guests can enjoy delicious food by Chef Juan Pablo at our Relais & Chateaux restaurant.