Santo Domingo is arguably the most important capital city in the entire Caribbean, with maybe San Juan following closely behind. This immense 1-million-person metropolis has been growing non-stop across the country’s coast, as has it’s its historic city center, which over the past few years has been restored and transformed into an iconic landmark.

This city’s touristic “boom” has made the island the perfect place for both cultural and luxury tourism. You can find high-end restaurants here with the ease you would find them in any major metropolis , such as Los Angeles, Paris or New York. But perhaps what has made a significant impact more recently, is the construction of properties by hotel companies such as Intercontinental, Marriot and Hilton. In the past 5 years, these 3 giants have erected several hotels that double as malls and food plazas, which are frequented not only by tourists, but also by locals. These commercial spaces have given birth to some of Santo Domingo’s most well-known independent restaurants, which and in turn have propelled the country’s “gastronomical revolution” One month of every year, the city hosts a festival aimed at preserving Dominican food culture and offers world-class meals for very affordable prices. Worth it? I think so!

Someone worth mentioning who has had a tremendous impact on the country’s food culture, is Maria Marte. Maria is a chef from a very humble upbringing; she was born in the small town of Jarabacoa and learned how to cook at home on her own. Through perseverance and hard work, she emigrated to Spain to pursue her dream of becoming a chef and started working at the restaurant “El Club Allard”. She started as a dishwasher, and slowly worked her way up, proving her astonishing talent, until she became a world recognized head chef with two Michelin stars under her belt. With her success, Maria returned to her home country and became a catalyst for change, empowering several underprivileged women in Santo Domingo to live out their dreams.

Maria is now a key leader in the gastronomical movement of the Dominican Republic, and a person I truly admire. It’s stories like these that make the rich culture of Santo Domingo, all the more fascinating!