Your Everyday Heroes highlights regular people who lead exceptional lives and positively impact the communities they serve through their inspiring actions.
Rodrigo Pacheco is a culinary celebrity who cares more about revitalizing the environment than cashing in on his fame.
He is one of Ecuador’s most well-known chefs and is so immensely talented that he was cast in Netflix cooking competition The Final Table, where he and partner Charles Michel stunned judges with their gorgeous plates until they were eliminated right before the season finale.
While others might have embraced their newfound celebrity, Rodrigo is more interested in making his mark on the world by helping to create a more sustainable future through his regenerative food project, Bocavaldivia.
Rodrigo Pacheco’s Love of Cooking
Rodrigo’s passion for cooking began at a young age, when he found a sense of comfort in the preparation of food in his family home and surrounding community.
“I grew up taking part in the kitchen chores at home, together with my mother, my father, and my grandmothers,” he told an interviewer.
“It became a regular dynamic. I remember that when I was little, even though we lived in the city, we had ducks, chicks, and a vegetable garden.”
“Then, it was my lifestyle; I never thought it would influence me so much, but nowadays, this is how I live, and this is my daily environment,” Rodrigo continued.
“It was how I developed my love for the products, their origin, and their preparation. These early memories were imprinted forever in my taste memory. This was the real beginning.”
The Ecuadorian chef learned advanced culinary techniques when he left his native country to learn at Ipstitut Paul Bocuse, an ultra-selective culinary institution in France.
After graduation, he came up by honing his craft in Michelin star restaurants Alain Chapel, La Palme d’Or, and Michel Bras.
Rodrigo went home to Ecuador to launch his own acclaimed restaurant at the Casa del Abelo Art Hotel and Restaurant, then went on to open Bocavaldiva, an exclusive restaurant and sustainable tourist destination with his partner Dayra Reyes.
What Is Bocavaldivia?
Bocavaldivia combines Rodrigo’s passions: gastronomy and conservation. The ocean front plot on the coast of Puerto Cayo is home to both a restaurant and “creative permaculture project.”
Bocavaldivia is its own ecosystem, and the once barren 200 acres has flourished into an “edible forest,” under Rodrigo’s care.
He has been planting climate resistant food species along with those that are indigenous to Ecuador, and which is then harvested to feed patrons of the restaurant and the surrounding communities.
According to Rodrigo, the edible forest is not an artificial ecosystem. “All the elements that work in a normal forest, we try to replicate into an edible forest,” he told CNN.
“They are native species… We’re just gathering all the edible species and putting them together in a place.”
“We need to see trees and plants as the highest technology,” he commented.
“They are working for us to create a better environment, a more rich environment… the more plants, the more climate-proof we are, the more resources we have, the more carbon we sequestrate, the more food we can get.”
He believes that the addition of edible forests like Bocavaldivia could help feed the hungry all over the world. “This is essential to combat climate change, to bring back biodiversity,” Rodrigo said.
With Bocavaldivia, Rodrigo believes he is investing in the future of the planet.
“We create an ecosystem that will last for hundreds of years,” he stated. “And when you maintain this ecosystem, you definitely see a different dynamic. We invest in the weather of the future.”
“It’s possible to do this anywhere!” He insisted. “As humans we have the capability to adapt, to be resourceful and resilient. These values can be applied anywhere.
“Cooks have become too comfortable; they need their equipment, their ovens. They wouldn’t light a fire in case of a power outage. I learned to use electricity as a fun resource, not as a main tool.”
Rodrigo Pacheco’s Respect for Indigenous Culture
Bocavaldivia is re-adopting the gastronomy practices of indigenous cultures and moving away from industrialized food production, which Rodrigo thinks will become the template for a more sustainable future.
“We’re here in the southern coast of Ecuador, in the Manabi province,” Rodrigo said. “This is not just any land. There are 12,000 years of human history here… the Valdivia culture was the first culture in all of the Americas… when I came here 10 years ago and started cooking with the local people… I got the feeling that I was learning more than I would from any Michelin 3-star restaurant in the world.”
Rodrigo strives to preserves the native cooking traditions of the indigenous culture where his sustainable project is located.
The edible forest is full of food native to the region, and he makes sure to prepare his restaurants dishes in a traditional manner, despite his classic French training.
“We are growing different species of plants from Ecuador, such as purple potato, corn, cacao, papaya, peppers, pineapple, avocado, chilies, pumpkin,” he said about his forest’s produce.
He believes that his home country is “paradise” for being home to 30,000 of the 300,000 species of plants on the planet.
“That’s 10% of plant species, while Ecuador covers only 0.2% of the earth’s surface! Using this diversity is what I call ‘food of the future,’ but with a question mark, because it’s also the food of the past,” he said in a 2021 interview.
“This is what makes Ecuador special to me. It represents this amazing biodiversity, but also has the advantage of this biodiversity existing over a small distance.”
To ensure regional traditions are adhered to, he hires local chefs that are versed in indigenous methods of cooking to cook at Bocavaldivia. “Rodrigo is my hero because I like his way of thinking about nature,” one of his employees said.
His efforts to sustain the environment have been internationally recognized, and he was elected Ambassador of Good Will for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2021.
He uses his platform to advocate for regenerative food practices across the globe.
Watch at Your Everyday Heroes to learn more about Rodrigo Pacheco’s conservation efforts.
Meet More Of The Your Everyday Heroes Season One Cast
Alex LeVesque founded the Automotive Mentoring Group (AMG) to offset the troublesome street activity that plagues the lives of innumerable inner-city teenagers in Chicago, Illinois.
AMG creates opportunity for former youth offenders from across the city, by coaching them on the life and work skills they need to permanently leave street life behind and embark on the path to becoming auto mechanics.
His dedication to transforming his mentees lives goes beyond teaching them to be mechanics, LeVesque tackles the root causes of organized street activity, which typically arises from insufficient access to resources.
In addition to training participants how to fully restore classic cars, Alex provides his students with mental health resources, life skills training, and even free meals, so they can have their best chance at succeeding.
He takes his students out of the confines of the autobody shop and into the world, so they can find out what life in the real workforce is like.
AMG has a coalition of 82 hiring partners who are willing to take on any student who successfully completes LeVesque’s life-saving program, no matter what their past mistakes were.
“The only way that you can truly be successful in changing what a person does is changing the way they think,” he commented.
“And the only way you can change what a person thinks is through exposure, exposing them to many things so that they can dream bigger.”