By Robert Bradley
Restaurants in Cuenca are as numerous as leaves on a tree, and it seems they often share a similar fate. The promise of spring gives way to turbulent weather. The shock of a late-season chill is all it takes and the leaves are gone.
All too often, well-meaning and hard-working entrepreneurs plant their future in this field believing that the sun will always shine and the land will always bountiful. It is not. Preparation for unanticipated events increases the chance for survival, but even then the odds of success are not generous. I am often reminded of, and I will freely manipulate Spinoza’s observation to embrace our own, “Growing a successful restaurant is as difficult as it is rare.”
Fortunately, there are those among us who have not only vision and talent but the knowledge to incorporate the clear-eyed professionalism required to be successful in the field.
Tatiana Gagne, chef/owner of El Confesionario, in the Seminary Courtyard of the New Cathedral is a shining example.
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Lima, Peru, Gagne studied “la technique” for a full year. Upon her graduation, she remained in the school for another full year studying restaurant management, a decision that greatly influenced her life. At the ripe old age of 22, she wisely developed a food delivery service — the first of its kind in Lima — that was quite successful. However, the best part is this; Gagne found an even greater passion. She fell in love with her now-husband, Richard, and the two of them toured South America in search of fertile ground for a restaurant of their own. They choose Cuenca.
When I asked Chef Gagne why she chose Cuenca, she replied, “Our first priority was finding an environment that considered culture as elemental to the environment. When we arrived we were immediately impressed by the cultural imperative, cleanliness, safety, and above all the majestic Cajas mountains. We knew that a restaurant would be our anchor as well as be our link to providing for and being rewarded by the community and felt our contribution would be well received.”
How right they were.
In the nearly two years of their operation, El Confesionario has yet to have an unprofitable month. Chef Gagne attributes her success as being focused, “I prefer a successful restaurant to a fancy one. Our menu is designed to challenge the staff to achieve perfection without alienating the guests. We serve an equal mix of tourists, locals, and expats, so our menu is designed to satisfy the tired traveler simply wanting a great cup of coffee as well as those wishing a dining experience to share with friends.”
El Confesionario is one of my favorite places to visit, and I do often. It is a nearly perfect example of a professionally run chef/owner restaurant where a guest’s preference, attention to detail, and an energized kitchen staff meld into a single event certain to please any guest. Chef Gagne and her staff are highly skilled artisans deserving of the praise social media have heaped upon them.
El Confesionario is a wonderful restaurant that I am happy to say comes with my highest recommendation.
El Confesionario is in the Seminary Courtyard next to the New Cathedral, Benigno Malo and Simon Bolivar, Open daily at 11 a.m.; Facebook; El Confesionario will be closed from December 22 until December 27.
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