Since we first opened in 2007, the Awasi Atacama kitchen has been led by Chef Juan Pablo Mardones.

Juanpi is a passionate cook and beloved team-member who thrived within the lodge’s adobe walls, becoming part of its history.

Juan Pablo Mardones, Head Chef at Awasi Atacama, Relais & Chateaux

He formed his own family (as he married and had children with Awasi pastry chef, Mora), and inevitably defined Awasi’s culinary style as we became a part of Relais & Chateaux in 2011.

However, the time came for new challenges and Juan Pablo is now pursuing personal projects.

He leaves behind a solid and creative team, which will be led by our new head chef, Chef Sebastián Prieto.

Sebastian Prieto Chef Awasi Atacama

Awasi Atacama’s new Head Chef, Sebatián Prieto.

Sebastián was born in Lima, a city which over the last two decades has positioned itself as one of the gastronomic capitals of South America and the world.

Perhaps growing up amidst this foodie hype, with some of the most unique cultural fusions of the region is what inspired Sebastián to become a chef in the first place.

As a child I loved animals and nature, so I dreamt of becoming a veterinarian. But as I grew older I discovered cooking was a great choice for me, I loved the creative aspect of it.”, he says.

Awasi Atacama – Relais & Chateaux

The truth is, unlike so many other cooks who were inspired first-hand by heaty family dishes, Sebastián doesn’t recall food being a central part of his upbringing.

Instead, as he became a teenager, he quickly realized that this path would grant him independence and the possibility to being exposed to many interesting people.

Awasi Atacama Private Excursions

Awasi Atacama offers an all-inclusive experience with a private guide and a 4WD per room, offering quality ingredients at each meal including during excursions. Photo by @julianimkephotogaphy

While studying gastronomy in Peru, he first worked at a few fast food restaurants which taught him the importance of processes, organization and protocols.

After graduating, he switched to working at high-end hotels and restaurants, discovering his passion for working with quality products.

In 2013 he decided to travel to Chile, where he ended up working in several world-class restaurants of Santiago de Chile for three years and San Pedro de Atacama for the past seven years, working closely with renowned chefs like Virgilio Martinez.

Atacama Region, Chile – Relais & Chateaux

He adopted Chile as his second home, discovering many similarities to his home country.

They both share a huge coastline of the Pacific Ocean, making fish and seafood a central part of their cuisine.

They are both crossed by the Andes Mountain Range, granting them with a variety of produce that is difficult to find elsewhere.

Awasi Atacama – Relais & Chateaux

They are both influenced by ancestral cultures and overseas immigration, making for an extremely rich melting pot of traditions.

However, Sebastián is a big fan of honoring local produce and traditions, so his menu will always feature the freshest, most unique dishes that a place has to offer, supporting local producers and biodiversity.

I’ve been living in San Pedro for seven years, and people visit thinking they will only get to see the driest place in Earth… What they don’t realise is that the Atacama is so much more than a desert. There’s incredible ingredients that they would most likely not get to taste in their home countries.” – Sebastián says.

Flamingos in Atacama – Chile

And about his newest challenge of taking over Awasi Atacama’s kitchen he adds:

I am most excited about this next step in my career as Awasi has an excellent reputation and is a part of one of the world’s most reputable gastronomic associations. Chef Juan Pablo is handing over a very solid team, of great professionalism who have a fantastic work dynamic, which I am now happy to be a part of.

We wish both Chef Sebastian and Juan Pablo the best of luck in this next chapter.