y SachaJi has always been dedicated to nourishing the mind, body and soul in a setting of divine natural beauty. Now the wholesome experience extends to the taste buds with the arrival of new chef Maria Cecilia Acuña, who brings gourmet cuisine to the wellness ecolodge in the Ecuadorian Andes.
The Argentine national, who worked for several years with visionary chef Tim Nickey who inspired her signature Asian fusion style, has designed the new menu as an opportunity for guests to try delicious, healthy food that fits into their eco-conscious lifestyle.
Her aim is also to introduce guests to new ideas in a relaxed and beautiful environment.
These include using only organic, locally sourced produce that is in season, much of which is from My SachaJi’s own vegetable garden and orchard; therapeutic juices, like detoxing beetroot juice and invigorating spinach, lemon and ginger; and hands-on outdoor cooking experiences for guests.
Maria Cecilia, who specializes in vegetarian and vegan dining, says, “Vegetables aren’t only for salads, they can be used to create delicious things like hamburgers. Taste is really important!”
Favourites on the menu include vegetable lasagne, vegan chorizo made with chickpeas and grilled like meat, and quinoa hamburgers, alongside chicken and seabass dishes.
With so many world-class ingredients coming from a stone’s throw away from My SachaJi, like shrimp from the Pacific coast and Pacari chocolate, the menu is a showcase of Ecuador’s finest.
And while much is Asian-inspired, the chef hasn’t turned her back on the essence of Andean cuisine, using traditional ingredients like pumpkin, “And Ecuador is all about soups, so you can’t lose that identity,” she says.
Lunch is a casual, rustic affair, whereas dinner is gourmet experience, in which she views presentation as an art form. On the dessert menu you’ll find plenty of vegan tarts: apple, chocolate and taxo, all full of goodness and flavour.
Two decades of her career were spent perfecting her craft in Miami, which is where she worked with Tim Nickey and then for 15 years catered for the world’s elite at La Gorce Country Club.
Love brought her to Ecuador, where she worked with Chef Francisco Vintimilla – now part of the illustrious Hilton Guayaquil team- before setting up her own café in the northern city of Ibarra, named Casa de Frida.
Though she includes white meat and fish on her menus, Maria Cecilia does not eat animal products herself. She is keen to explain to people how the mistreatment of animals can affect the quality of the end product.
“Through food I want people to become more conscious of what is happening: the mistreatment of animals and of people, with the chemicals that are often in food,” she says.
“I want people to eat healthily. When people come here, they come to cleanse their mind and body. Here we have the vegetable garden full of wonderful things, all organic with no chemicals.”
Dining is an integral element of the My SachaJi experience, in which satisfaction and relaxation combine with wellness, sustainability and local culture. With a new-and-improved restaurant with sweeping views of the Imbabura volcano, lunches open to the public, anda brilliant chef, My SachaJi’scuisine is naturally fine dining experience.