Thorough study on Paladares in Havana Cuba
Posted: 19 December 2007 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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By Emily Henke

Cuba: My Paper on Cuban Paladares and Private Enterprise

This is a paper I wrote about paladares, or private restaurants, in modern Cuba. I spent October of 2007 reading about legal and illegal private enterprise in revolutionary Cuba and November talking to the owners of several paladares throughout Havana. I put this paper together for my Socialist Experiment class, taught by Professor Bruce Podobnik of Lewis & Clark College. This is my Cuban baby. Enjoy her, love her, but please don’t steal her.

Cookin’ Up Some Tasty Extra Income: Paladares in Socialist Cuba

I. Introduction

The mustached, middle-aged, white man raises his glass to his lips and swallows slowly and elegantly, as if his drink is something better than cheap Cuban wine. He has a ring on each finger of his left hand and a belly that suggests he is accustomed to fine dining. On the table in front of him are various serving platters piled with the usual representatives of the Cuban culinary category termed comida criolla. The diner is faced with generous servings of arroz moro, fried bananas, grilled chicken, and canned vegetables. With the pace, confidence, and table manners of an experienced eater he triumphs over the gastronomic challenge before him and signals to the server for another glass of wine. The server, who is also the owner of the private restaurant, hastily fulfills his client’s request and asks if he likes the frituras better than he did on his last visit.

JORGE PEREZ: When you eat at a state-run restaurant, you’re nothing special. The service is slow and bad because the people working there don’t take pride in their work and don’t care about your experience. They see hundreds of faces every day. If you come back they don’t recognize you.

EMILY HENKE: How do people learn about paladares like yours?

JP: Except for the sign outside the restaurant, I’m not allowed to advertise. Some of the guidebooks recommend the paladar, but the best publicity is a satisfied customer. People talk about and come back to Las Mercedes because they have unique, personal experiences here. I try to get to know my customers on a personal level; try to cater to their personal needs and tastes. The food and the service here are enjoyable and memorable and people talk about it.

The diner responds positively; the frituras are much better than they were in July. He dabs the corners of his mouth with his cloth napkin and settles back in his wicker chair. He begins a conversation with the owner about housing prices in the neighborhood and compares the values to the real estate market in Spain. The owner asks his customer to remind him which part of Madrid he calls home. The client says that he is from the Atocha area, and the owner says he’s traveled there before.

EH: Are you proud of your business and the success you’ve had?

JP: Yes. I’m proud of my business because I’ve built it myself. I don’t make a lot of money, but I do make more than most. The money from this restaurant has allowed me to do many things. I travel more than the majority of Cubans. My son can afford to study as long as he wants because I can support him as long as I have the paladar. He doesn’t need to work.

The paladar patron says he’s lived in the Atocha area of Madrid since the birth of his youngest daughter. He lifts his glass to finish off his wine, but suddenly replaces it on the table. He tells the owner that speaking about his family has reminded him that he can’t come to Paladar Las Mercedes on Sunday, he has to meet his wife and children at the airport.

EH: What sets your business apart from other paladares?

JP: Like I said before, people who come here have a personal dining experience and I attempt to get to know them. I don’t think it’s like that at other paladares. I believe they like the attention they receive and I believe they know the food here is cooked with care. Many customers come here very frequently; for many businessmen it’s the only place they eat dinner when they’re in Havana. For example, the Spaniard who was eating here a few minutes ago felt obligated to tell me he couldn’t come to eat on Sunday. He knows I would expect him because he comes here every day when he’s in Cuba. I like that I have that kind of relationship with many of my clients.

The preceding scene and interview excerpts come from an afternoon at Paladar Las Mercedes, in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. Legal paladares are small, state-approved restaurants that Cubans like Jorge Perez operate in their homes. Through academic research, field observation, and interviews with paladar owners and servers, I have compiled an account of this form of private enterprise and the people who participate in this sector of the economy in socialist Cuba. In the first section of this paper, I will present a summary of the academic research I have completed, focusing on the history of paladares in Cuba and the laws regarding their operation. The second section of this paper will contain interpretations and analysis of my work in the field during the month of November 2007. The complications I encountered while researching will appear in the third section of this paper, along with my achievements and reflections on completing this kind of project in Cuba. The last section of this paper will contain my conclusions regarding paladares in Havana.

II. Academic Research Findings

Read the entire study HERE

[ Edited: 03 April 2011 04:23 PM by publisher ]
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Posted: 20 December 2007 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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waiting to read your whole study….
although I’ve had some good eating in state-run restaurants, they are still worlds away from service in illegal restaurants run from peoples homes or meals i’ve enjoyed in CPs
And yes, even in the good state run restaurants, the service tends to be impersonal.  But even there you can have surprises.  I had a nice lobster tail in a state owned restaurant for decent price (but nowhere near as nice with much better extras in illegals or CP) , but missed the melted butter and mentioned it.  My last day in Varadero, I went back to same place and again ordered lobster tail - lo and behold also got bowl of melted butter over a flame. No idea if they did it just for me, or if he added the melted butter for anyone (btw, I hadnt asked for it).

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