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Serving Spanish-Latino Fusion to the Nation’s Capital

April 02 2020

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Chef Daniela Manrique moved to Montreal with her family at a young age, eventually making her way to Florida to pursue her culinary education at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. After building the foundation of her culinary career at Miami’s top restaurants, Chef Manrique returned to Caracas to earn her Master’s in Business Administration.

With a strong combination of business knowledge and culinary experience, Chef Manrique moved to Ottawa to open and operate her current restaurant, The Soca Kitchen.

 

We chatted with Chef Manrique about the concept behind The Soca Kitchen and how she plans to expand the restaurant’s brand.

 

You specialize in Spanish and Latino cuisine. What inspired you to fuse these two cuisines together to create The Soca Kitchen’s menu?

My inspiration behind The Soca Kitchen’s Spanish and Latino cuisine is a combination of two things. The first being my Latino heritage and roots. Secondly, it sparked from the flavour profiles I experimented with and developed during my culinary and restaurant training.

 

Describe your flavour process for bringing a Spanish and Latino fusion to the centre-of-the-plate at The Soca Kitchen.

When I’m creating dishes for The Soca Kitchen, I like to reinvent classics with my own style. So, I always make sure with each dish there’s a balance between sweet and salty, earthiness as well as hot and sour flavours. This allows me to prepare dishes that I want to eat, while also bringing new and old memories to The Soca Kitchen’s plates.

 

What role do spices and seasonings play in elevating the Spanish and Latino flavours in the dishes that you create?

Spices are essential in Spanish and Latino cuisine. Their aroma and flavour add that special, hidden ingredient to a dish. An ingredient that you may not always see, but you can taste that it’s there. For that reason, they become the base of my dishes.

 

What have been some of the biggest challenges in introducing your style of cuisine to Ottawa’s food scene?

When we first opened in 2014, our menu was too eccentric for the crowd that we were catering to. This challenged us to make adjustments, tone it down a notch and learn how to deliver the same flavours in a more subtle way using ingredients they were comfortable with.

 

You recently took home bronze at The Great Kitchen Party’s Ottawa regional heat. What did you take away from this competition and bring back to The Soca Kitchen?

I absolutely love a good competition. It’s a healthy way to challenge yourself, step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Not to mention, you get to test your skillset against some of Canada’s most talented chefs.

 

After each competition, I always bring back a new technique or ingredient that I picked up and incorporate it onto The Soca Kitchen’s menu. Keeps things fresh.

 

How would you like The Soca Kitchen to continue to evolve and push the envelope on Spanish and Latino cuisine?

We’re currently in the process of opening a second restaurant location. The new location will have more of a fine dining feel, but tapas will remain a core part of the menu.