Sunday May 08, 2022 8:46 a.m.
MARÍA Teresa Campos Martínez and Germán Oliva Iglesias wanted their son, like them, to dedicate his life to teaching, however, he decided to study gastronomy. Today, Germán Oliva Campos, 31, although he does not do it in a classroom, honors the example of his parents, sharing his culinary knowledge as an extraordinary promoter of Mexican cuisine in the world and as chef of the Embassy of Mexico in Japan; that island country in the Pacific Ocean full of mountains, imperial palaces and an ancient and imposing culture.
What led Germán to the kitchen was curiosity. He wanted to know and experience flavors. He remembers how at a very early age, when his parents took him to a restaurant where they expected him to order something from the children’s menu, he would order, before the incredulous look of his mother, a salmon or a carpaccio; He loved to eat, he was the classic child that they set as an example to his cousins because he was the one who ate everything that his grandmother prepared. This being the case, one might think that since he was a child he had been very clear about what he would do in the future, but no.
After completing preschool education at the Jardín Niño Benito Juárez, primary education at the Fray Pedro de Gante Institute, and secondary education at Enrique Corona Morfín, he reached Bachillerato 4, at the University of Colima, in the area of technical drawing, with his sights set on a career in architecture. However, life had other scenarios for him very far from the architectural plans, because in the end he decided to enter the degree in gastronomy.
After collaborating for the Ministry of Tourism of our state, in the promotion strategies of Colima cuisine, they invited him to apply at the Embassy of Mexico in Japan; Once the filters, the interviews and the requested requirements have been approved, he arrives in 2019 in this impressive country, where the first thing that catches his attention is the culture, and obviously the food.
For the Japanese, he is only grateful, because he says that they are extremely kind and polite, which surely helped him in the coupling stage, which was very complicated because there is a general idea that whichever country you go to if you do not master the native language, then the English can help you. However, in Japan, English is not spoken and those who use it do so with a strong accent. Apart from that, the experience of being in the Japanese country has enchanted him for its quality of life, for the cleanliness and order with which they live. Although he does not find similarities with our city, he comments that in summer the climate is very similar to that of Manzanillo, in addition to the fact that the cosmopolitan city of Tokyo, which is also the capital, has a beach.
There are two topics with which the Japanese invariably approach it when they know its origin: tacos and tequila. He also comments that within their culinary conception they cannot imagine how it is that chocolate and chili, ingredients of one of our most typical dishes: mole, can merge in the same dish. He also shares with me how difficult it is for them to understand how it is that we call a bread bread of the dead.
For El Chef, as his friends call him, the subject of food is much more than eating food, since he assures that it is intertwined with the culture of the places, as is the case with our dishes, which accompany us in events that go marking our life; like the tatemado, which we enjoy when we celebrate someone’s life on a birthday; or in counterpart the coffee with bread, that we take in the funeral services when saying goodbye to a loved one.
The Chef paused to share a recent experience that marked him. A few days ago, on the occasion of Children’s Day, which is celebrated in Japan on May 5, he held a virtual class for children of Mexican parents born in that country. The class consisted of teaching them how to prepare Mexican dishes in a menu that included the preparation of a quesadilla, a guacamole and a pico de gallo. His surprise was enormous when, once his explanation was over and the preparation time was over, the children showed his creations, which were exactly the same as the ones he had taught them. At that moment Germán realized that his knowledge had managed to cross the barrier of distance and language, because he was able to transmit with the passion that he does; his love for our cuisine to this group of boys and girls who do not know Mexico, but thanks to this class they had perhaps, for the first time, an approach to our food and our culture. I sincerely believe that they could not have had a better teacher.
For his performance, Germán received special recognition in the first edition of the Taco de Oro award, promoted by Cocineros MX around the world, held in Dubai. 611 Mexican chefs, cooks and restaurants from 143 countries were nominated, with Germán being the only one to receive it.
The family is what he misses the most, but also, like a good colimote, our delicious sopitos, that’s why these days he came to our city to enjoy his parents, his sister Angélica, the rest of the family and surely his friends , has also taken time to taste the flavors with which he grew up. The same day he arrived he made a technical stop at the Cenaduría Julia, to savor a delicious rib sope.
Germán, who in his free time likes to visit cafes and restaurants, in addition to his degree in Gastronomy, studied sommelier, food culture and a specialty in French cuisine; he lived his first years in Colima, to later reside in Tijuana, Mexico City, Monaco and now in Japan.
Germán’s success story seasons the lives of his guests to make it richer through each dish he prepares; He generously shares his love and passion for our food with the rest of the world, putting the name of Mexico on high, and of course Colima, our small homeland.
Thank you very much, Germán, for the time you dedicated to Colimenses around the world, for representing us as you have done so far. I wish you continued personal successes and the rise in your gastronomic career.
If you were born in Colima, live abroad or know someone who wants to tell their story, write me, I’d love to share it.
ADRIANA CORTES ALVAREZ