Ari Ungüenrien! Let’s Cook With Mario Castrellón

Let’s Cook With Mario Castrellón!

From September 21 to 23 the community of Rio Caña, located in the Kusapín district of the Ngäbe-Buglé region, will receive a visit from the renowned “ambassador of Panamanian gastronomy”, Mario Castrellón. The chef will participate in a program led by the organizer Felipe Baker, where workshops will be held for the women of the community with the objective of learning to incorporate different perspectives of the kitchen, learning new techniques and habits, while always valuing their local ingredients.

Se puede leer la nota original en español aqui.


Mario Castrellon

Mario Castrellón


Owner of the Maito restaurant in Panama City, Castrellón is recognized for emphasizing 100% Panamanian cuisine and the use of native ingredients, which identify the country and the culinary influences that have existed within it. Regarding the gathering in Rio Caña, he was interested in becoming familiar with a new gastronomic culture, understanding it and sharing it. “My goal is to contribute any extra gastronomic knowledge and help empower the women of the community to present their local gastronomy with pride to the clients of Rio Caña,” he said in dialogue with Bocas Breeze.

The event is under the name Ari Ugüenrien, which means “let’s cook” or “we are going to cook” in Ngäbere, the indigenous language of the region’s Ngäbe people. The new era of tourism in this type of indigenous communities generates a greater demand on their kitchens since more people arrive each year to consume their culture and gastronomy. “There is a need to consult the women on their cooking, so that their services can improve and surprise the visitor who comes to connect with nature and their dishes,” said Baker, organizer of the event and a native of the community.

The community of Rio Caña

The community of Rio Caña. Photo by Alexander Arosemena.

In addition, Baker explained the objectives that arise with this proposal: “With this exchange of experiences and empowerment, women will be able to value the local resources in their dishes and with this the importance of continuing to preserve the recipes of indigenous families.” It should be noted that this initiative arose as a result of other workshops held by Castrellón, such as in the Kankintú community, where the chef founded a bakery together with 30 women from the community and taught them new cooking and customer service techniques.

It is estimated that about fifteen women will participate in the meeting in a public area of ​​the community. The event is being funded by donations. Physical items that can be donatd are stoves, gas tanks, aprons, gloves, cutlery and other kitchen supplies. Any person or entity is free to contact Mr. Baker (; +507 6881-7915) if they wish to help the Río Caña community so that women can attend this special day of cultural exchange.

Article originally written in Spanish; English translation by The Bocas Breeze. 

Felipe Baker and Mario Castrellón

The organizers: Felipe Baker (left) and Mario Castrellón

A lady dumping out her coconut milk rolls

This photo and featured image by Alexander Arosemena

Joaquin Parada is a traveler, journalist, photographer, surfer, diver and ocean-lover. Since living in Panamá, he become immersed in the sea world. Surfing is his passion. He also loves diving and free diving when there are no waves (taking photos every time). He's looking forward to new places, new oceans, new waves and new people.

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