Garden to plate: the story behind Awasi Iguazu’s culinary experiences

Awasi Iguazu Main Lodge Exteriors
Awasi Iguazu Main Lodge

When countries all around the world faced lockdown and our beloved travel industry had to temporarily close its doors, the team at Awasi Iguazu came together to find joy, community and routine in their organic vegetable garden.

We spoke to Paula Bertotto, Operations Assistant Manager at this Relais & Chateaux lodge in Northern Argentina about their veg patch, how this influences the culinary experiences at Awasi Iguazu and their approach to sustainable travel.

Paula working in the vegetable garden
Awasi Iguazu vegetable garden
What inspired the team to start working together in the vegetable garden?

Paula: When the quarantine was suddenly declared in Argentina we could not spend any longer at the hotel, which is actually the place where we spend most of our time, a place that we love because we feel very much cared for, and where we definitely feel like family. We all missed the time we used to spend together and, as soon as we were allowed to leave our homes, the staff spontaneously started creating “excuses” for gathering.

We were all concerned about the need to take care of the infrastructure of the hotel and our work equipment, now that the hotel was empty. One of the sectors that needed care and dedication was the garden.

The chef came up with the idea and he soon found some followers that were eager to have fun as a team while working together.

How are the vegetables from the garden used in the restaurant & bar? 

Paula: The bar uses several herbs for preparing infusions with digestive properties, such as boldo, rue, peppermint, lemon verbena, carqueja and burrito. Also some juices or cocktails incorporate passion fruit, chamomile or ginger.

At the restaurant, dishes get decorated with nasturtium flowers and also with young leaves from fennel, mustard, chard, radish or beetroot plants. Coriander, and parsley are used a lot for dressings, whilst arugula, a variety of lettuces and tomatoes stand out in salads. 

In the sauces that accompany proteins, the chef uses two native little fruits called jaboticaba and pitanga, which also make outstanding ice creams and sorbets. 

Awasi Iguazu Gastronomy Dish
Can you tell us about your favourite dish & drink that incorporates ingredients from the garden?

Paula: I love the welcome drink, which consists of a refreshing yerba mate tea, with a couple of frozen passion fruit ice cubes and some fresh aromatic peppermint leaves. 

What was your biggest takeaway from working in the organic garden? 

Paula: Of course I learned a lot on how to run a vegetable garden, but my biggest takeaway was discovering how committed the staff is. They would volunteer at the garden with no apparent profit just because they love Awasi and they feel it is home. I also got to spend time with mates who work in different areas of the hotel and we previously knew very little of each other. I learned a lot about their life, their talent and hobbies, which I find important to know in a place where we care about our employees.

The team have also created an edible forest nearby, tell us more about what can be found and how it’s used?

Paula: The edible forest comprises trees and shrubs. In not much space, we have, layered according to their height and need of light yacaratiá, papaya, banana, orange, lemon, mango, guava, ubajay and jaboticaba trees; as well as palmito palm trees, passion fruit vines and sugar cane. Most of those fruits end up being served in deserts, like ice creams, sorbets, or they could also be turned into very special sauces for accompanying beef and fish.

Arriving at Awasi Iguazu
Iguazu Waterfalls from above
The main lodge at Awasi Iguazu
Terrace at Awasi Iguazu
On the grounds at Awasi Iguazu
Get up close to nature during your stay at Awasi Iguazu
How are you approaching responsible travel at Awasi Iguazu?

Paula: Awasi Iguazu, Atacama and Patagonia are all located in some of South America’s most unique environments. We are committed to protecting their natural and cultural heritage through the conservation of their ecosystems, the reintroduction of native species and the implementation of educational and artistic initiatives with the local communities. In Awasi Iguazu in particular we work closely with several of our neighboring native communities: the Mbya Guaranís. Around 50 families live about 5 minutes away from our hotel, and we collaborate with their community by purchasing a great amount of handicrafts directly, which are used to decorate the hotel, we organize workshops with them and our guests to get to know their culture better and we periodically contribute to their local school. In terms of ecology, the Awasi Foundation protects about 240 hectares of native rainforest in the Misiones Province.

‘This ecosystem absorbs so much CO2, that in combination with the private reserve that we own in Awasi Patagonia, this makes Awasi carbon neutral.’

Are there any other way in which Awasi Iguazu engages with the local community?

Paula: At Awasi Iguazu most of our almost 100 employees are local. We provide constant trainings, cross-trainings, plus the possibility to study languages (English and Portuguese), first-aid, driving or other important life-skills to ensure the development of each individual. The idea through the years is to provide the possibility to grow to each member of our team, and so many that started out as drivers or security staff in one of their first formal jobs are now training as private guides, receptionists or team leaders. It is very exciting to watch some of these people grow personally and professionally.


Discover Awasi Iguazu, a Relais & Chateaux hotel