How Mexican celebrity chef Martha Ortiz plans to shake up London’s food scene

‘I believe in women, I believe in their power,’ proclaims Martha Ortiz, Mexico’s most famous celebrity chef, as we sit on the top floor of the Intercontinental Park Lane, sipping lemon and ginger tea. ‘I love to give them opportunities, I love to learn from other women. I believe that we can do it better.’ 

Ortiz, 47, is celebrated for resurrecting her home country’s culinary traditions and invigorating them with a modern, sensually feminine sensibility. Her Mexico City restaurant, Dulce Patria (‘Sweet Homeland’), is regarded as one of the best places to eat in the world. She has written eight books and is a talented and telegenic TV performer, not least on Top Chef México, where her tendency to come out with statements such as ‘Chilli is like a lover — you need to feel its presence’ goes down swimmingly. 

She is also fiercely feminist in a profession often dominated by sweary, macho chefs; she’s famed for calling out the industry’s ‘caramel ceiling’. ‘You say the glass ceiling, but it is caramel for us… And I will make all my effort to break it. Maybe in Mexico a lot of women don’t hear me because they’re more interested in being married and having… for me, this horrible life, no? A horrible life of dependency.’ 

This September Ortiz will bring her brand of defiant culinary girl power to London, when she opens Ella Canta (‘She Sings’) at the Intercontinental, in an ornate space designed by the David Collins Studio, admired for its work at The Wolseley. Alongside a playful assembly of rainbow-coloured tacos, ceviche and jewel-like gold grasshoppers, she will serve a drink entitled Female Warrior, made from grana cochinilla (an…

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