Proyecto Paladar was an artistic experiment in cultural diplomacy designed for the 11th Havana Biennial in May 2012. Artist/architect Craig Shillitto bridged the cultural and political divide separating U.S. and Cuban citizens, bringing U.S.-based chefs to Havana to pair with paladar chefs to create ten unique meals over ten days. The locals showed the visiting chefs how to ferret out the best food available—sometimes from legally dubious sources. The U.S.-based chefs engaged with their Cuban counterparts in a culinary exchange. For three days, each pair planned their menus as the Cuban chefs would, going to markets, farms, and marinas to negotiate for ingredients. The project’s impetus arose during a conversation between gallerist Alberto Magnan and Shillitto, and was conceived in response to the Biennial’s theme, “Artistic Practice and Social Imageries.”
The project’s structure was comprised of five shipping containers. Defying the challenges of staging an ambitious artistic intervention in a place where building materials and fine ingredients are scarce but bureaucracy is abundant, the team succeeded in building and running a pop-up restaurant and art project that served inventive dishes to over 800 Cubans and foreign visitors at the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art. Two seating areas flanking the kitchen were arranged to serve twelve diners at a time, where one side of each table seated foreign visitors to the Biennial, and the other side was reserved for locals.
Cooking, Dining, Drinking, Making, Engage