Canberra Centre Masthead

Latin American Flavours Festival

Wendy Johnson

Remember the days when dinner was all about meat and three veg?

Not any more… the vast flavours of the world now feature in most households and have infiltrated the kitchens of cafes and restaurants. We see little kiddies dining out and confidently ordering chilli, sushi, dumplings, curries and other adventurous food and foodies flourishing everywhere, with more and more bloggers furiously writing about international cuisine.

This month, the capital feasts on the wonders of Latin American food with a special line-up of dinners being held at the Hyatt’s Promenade Café, created by Executive Chef Nitin. The chef and his culinary team have spent months researching authentic dishes by 12 countries, from Cuba right through to Mexico.

Chef Nitin

Chef Nitin

The first night of the inaugural Latin American Flavours Festival features Cuban cuisine. The cuisine of 11 other countries will then roll out each night until 22 September. For $69 you get a buffet dinner (between six and eight hot dishes), salads and dessert for each of these nights. Fresh seafood will also be served most nights.

Unfamiliar with Cuban or Argentinian cuisine and unsure of what to expect? Let’s take a tour of some of the offerings.

Cuba will celebrate the festival with a rum Mojito tasting and an opportunity to get those hips moving with the lively music of a Cuban band. Peru will dish up humitas (traditional corn cake steamed in corn husk), Columbia a whole roast stuffed pig and Uruguay pascualina (a traditional dish with spinach and hard-boiled eggs stuffed in pastry).

Peruvian - Humitas King Fish and Scallop Tiradito

Peruvian – Humitas King Fish and Scallop Tiradito

Guatemala will have a guest chef in the kitchen. Chile’s menu features traditional potato pancakes, Argentina wine tasting and empanadas. Venezuela will serve up a mighty tasty Creole red snapper dish and Mexico will have Chef Maria Del Carmen Saenz on site to add a special touch to dishes like Mayan pork and Mole Coloradito chicken.

Latin America is a big part of the world with some figures suggesting it takes up almost 13% of the earth’s land surface with a population of more than 600 million, so it’s no wonder that the flavours and styles of food are so diverse.

Moqueca De Peixe Brazilian Fish Stew

Moqueca De Peixe Brazilian Fish Stew

Chef Netin says it’s been a fascinating experience pulling the festival together and the support and guidance of embassies and high commissions has been invaluable. Not that this much-loved member of the Hyatt family doesn’t have his own international experience. He’s worked in the kitchens at many luxury hotels, including Grand Hyatt Delhi, Hyatt Regency Mumbai, Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove and Hyatt Regency Auckland.

Chef Netin has also catered for many fascinating people throughout his delicious career, including Rick Stein and the Sultan of Brunei and he has cooked for Aung San Suu Kyi here in Canberra.

Peruvian Stewed Chicken In Cilantro Sauce

Peruvian Stewed Chicken In Cilantro Sauce

The Latin American Flavours Festival will be hard to resist for anyone who loves taking their taste buds for a dance. I’d personally love to go to all 12 dinners myself, but am going to settle on one—the Paraguayan evening—and indulge in yummy, sticky, slow cooked beef short ribs. Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to be served with Sopa Paraguaya (a hearty cornbread) to soak up the flavours and Chipá Guazu (a cake made with cornbread).

the essentials 
What: The Latin American Flavours Festival
Where: The Promenade Cafe at the Hyatt Hotel, Yarralumla
When: Friday 11 September to 22 September
Cuisines: Friday September 11 – CUBA

Saturday September 12 – PERU

Sunday September 13 – COLOMBIA

Monday September 14 – URUGUAY

Tuesday September 15 – EL SALVADOR & GUATEMALA

Wednesday September 16 – BRAZIL

Thursday September 17 – CHILE

Friday September 18 – ARGENTINA

Saturday September 19 – PARAGUAY

Sunday September 20 – ECUADOR

Monday September 21 – VENEZUALA

Tuesday September 22 – MEXICO


Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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