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economy has grown enormously over the past two decades. However, unemployment in the region still hovers at 8 percent,
double that of the United States.
Youth joblessness is even higher-almost 15 percent among Latin Americans under the age of 18. Sixty percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24
work informally, without a contract, benefits, or social security.
The region also has
among the world’s highest violence levels, a problem some scholars have connected to high joblessness. In Brazil, for example, studies show that a
1 percent rise in male unemployment leads murders to rise an additional 2.1 percent.
Some Latin American restaurateurs think they can help.
These pioneering chefs
are stepping out of the kitchen and into public service, going beyond feeding customers to creating jobs, boosting economies, and preventing violence.
This movement-dubbed “social gastronomy” by Brazilian chef David Hertz-is the focus of my
academic research on the politics of food.
Here are five Latin American culinary ventures you should know about.
1. Brazil: Cooking to prevent violence
Hertz first realized that food could help alleviate the poverty and violence of São Paulo’s poorest neighborhoods over a decade ago.
In 2006 he launched a project called
Gastromotiva, urging local gang members to come train with him and start their lives anew as chefs.
“By interacting with other people through cooking, you learn confidence, discipline, collaboration,” he told me recently. “So why not use gastronomy to empower people?”
So far, Hertz’s social gastronomy program has trained 1,850 young men and women,
80 percent of whom have gone on to get jobs in the restaurant industry.
Working with the
World Economic Forum, chef Hertz urges leaders across Latin America to use culinary training as a violence prevention tactic. Gastromotiva has expanded to Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and El Salvador.
During the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Hertz worked with Italian chef Massimo Bottura to launch a Brazilian …