Pulling on Luciana’s expertise, and Pablo’s courage to risk a new concept, MUYU (meaning ‘seeds’ in Kichwa) was created in June 2017. Located a few steps from Playa de Oro (Golden Beach), home of sea lions and unique wildlife such as marine iguanas, blue footed booby birds and frigatebirds, the restaurant is the first and only farm-, forest- and sea-to-table restaurant in Ecuador. MUYU also serves as a school that trains students in a 2-year program to become certified, world-class professionals in hospitality and gastronomy. For Luciana and Pablo, the project has been like planting a seed of hope and knowledge sharing.
Lowering carbon emissions by partnering with local organic farmers and growing increasingly independent from the mainland that lays 1,000 km (600 miles) away thanks to their organic rooftop gardens and farm, the team at MUYU dishes out sustainable catch of the day (such as the area’s giant lobster) and a small tasting menu, all accompanied by edible flowers, aromatic herbs and seasonal produce.
“Galapagos doesn’t have a native indigenous population, and this is now the fourth generation of citizens born here,” explains Luciana, who has spent much time in renowned gastronomic powerhouses like Peru, a country whose numerous indigenous populations are a living legacy. “Families still cook as in their regions of origin in Ecuador, so Galapagos didn’t have enough time to develop its own cuisine. Now MUYU is doing that job. We are researching the anthropological background and learning from the elderly ladies of the island about their dishes, traditions and stories and writing about the evolution of the first Galapagos Cuisine.”
Luciana, an associate lecturer at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (Pollenzo, Italy), the home of the Slow Food movement, and at the Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences of the Basque Culinary Center (San Sebastian, Spain), the leading modernist cuisine school at Mondragon University, has committed herself to a life of research and learning—and it is evident that she wishes the same for her students. Pulling on her connections, MUYU has received guest teachers and workshop leaders from a growing network of recognized chefs, all of whom have experience working with top restaurants such as Mugaritz, El Bulli, Noma, A Casa do Porco, El Celler de Can Roca, Azurmendi and Central.
MUYU has also branched out as a laboratory that, while not posh by any means, aims to educate and preserve. Luciana points out that relying on private funds (the foundation does not accept government's funding) has created a true guerrilla sensibility as the team has made due with what they have—and handmade what was missing, as in the case of their first dehydrator, crafted from waste material and a Youtube video. Since 2017, the team has been putting together the first catalogue of edible plants found in the Galapagos, and continue to research cassava byproducts, natural pectins and alternative proteins. Guests at MUYU restaurant are able to participate in a brief tour and demo of the ongoing work and discoveries.