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Orígenes by Diners Club® is working to preserve Ecuador’s rich culinary traditions and promote a sustainable future

With multiple cultural influences and a rich biodiversity, Ecuadorian cuisine has a variety that’s rarely seen in a country of its size.

On the coasts, fish stews and ceviches play a starring role. In the Andes, potato and corn crops show up in hearty soups and patties, sitting alongside roasted guinea pig (cuy). And from the Amazon, with its large indigenous population and copious crops of fruits and vegetables, come delicacies such as grilled fish wrapped in plant leaves and skewered worms.

But many of the lesser-known recipes that have long existed in the kitchens and dining tables of Ecuador’s small towns are being forgotten. That is why Diners Club Internationalâ is harnessing its own expertise in food-related enterprises to help rescue Ecuador’s lost recipes and bring them to the tables of new generations of diners.

As part of our commitment to improve the lives of people in the markets where we operate—especially through food, we are pleased to see the impact that Diners Club® Ecuador through its program, Orígenes, is having. Through this effort, we are witnessing the launch of new food businesses, more tourist activity, and greater job creation throughout the country.

Origenes and Diners Club International logo

Orígenes uncovers lost food traditions

There are more than 24,000 dining establishments in Ecuador, according to Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR). More than 70% of them are owned by women, with the majority having low levels of education.

Many of these restaurant owners lack the business skills needed to build successful food businesses. That is why Diners Club Ecuador, leveraging our legacy in dining, developed Orígenes, a program aimed at rescuing traditional recipes from communities of less than 25,000 inhabitants.

By focusing our resources, the program works with these local restaurants to professionalize their operations, ensuring that those uncovered recipes won’t be lost. Restaurant owners get assistance in the technical skills they need to run businesses that are economically viable, benefitting the owners themselves, providing jobs, attracting tourists, and improving the local economy. To date, Orígenes has trained 5,000 people in the food industry.

Enjoying an Ecuadorian breakfast

The power of food for social change

As part of our history in the dining space, Diners Club also believes that food sustainability can be a positive driver of social change. Our global corporate social responsibility program, “Together for Change,” allows us a direct way to be part of that effort.

Together for Change plays out differently in each of the markets where Diners Club operates. While the programs are locally relevant, there are universal themes. We approach our corporate social responsibility work through the lens of sustainability to find ways that we can be partner for positive social change in the markets where we operate. In particular, we are striving to eliminate food waste.

Consider this: The United Nations reports that one-third of the food in the world is lost or thrown away each year. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste, doing as much damage environmentally as every single car or truck on the planet. As responsible diners, we support programs that help the restaurant industry act sustainably, which is good for the planet and for restaurants.

Taste testing Ecuadorian sweets

Diners Club Ecuador highlights small restaurant owners

Sustainability is also at the heart of what the Orígenes program does. So far, 2,560 recipes from 98 communities have been rescued, and cooks are encouraged to upload their recipes onto a site dedicated to Ecuadorian cuisine.

In addition, Orígenes launched two nationally televised series to explore this culinary tradition: Secretos de Familia intertwines recipes with family stories, and Cocinando en los Orígenes, which shares traditional recipes cooked by program participants. The program has also compiled some of the best Ecuadorian recipes into several cookbooks. And a YouTube channel by Secretos de Familia teaches viewers how to make traditional Ecuadorian dishes through culture rescue.

Orígenes has found that restaurateurs and experienced chefs at top restaurants throughout the country have relied on these recipes as inspiration, further educating diners about the value of these hidden recipes.

The support doesn’t end there. Diners Club Ecuador, through Origenes, organizes an annual gastronomic festival in which owners of food businesses from small communities come to demonstrate their recipes and submit them for competition in three categories: starters, main course and dessert or drink.

The winners receive technical assistance for their restaurants, helping them gain valuable skills in areas like customer service, supplier management, finance, food and biosafety, and business planning.

Orígenes brings real-life benefits

For Martha Morocho, a restaurant owner from Comuna de Palmar, the partnership has provided significant help. Martha is the daughter of indigenous parents from Cotopaxi. She grew up selling vegetables with her mother and later worked as a maid, but she always enjoyed cooking and dreamt of having her own restaurant.

Martha now owns a restaurant in a highly visible location along her town’s Malecón, or sea wall. Recently, she won in the main course category at an Orígenes fair for her seafood dish and was able to benefit from technical support, helping make her restaurant more economically viable and ensuring that it will continue to support her and her family in the future.

Another example of support is the Aponte family of Mangahurco. Mrs. Aponte, the 86-year-old matriarch of the family, came to Mangahurco as a child when her parents were desperate for work. Later, when she married and had a family of her own, she worked in corn production, making humitas, a cooked corn dish similar to tamales.

Today, her granddaughter Ana Aponte Camacho has a restaurant, serving her family’s delicious recipes. Ana’s sopa de pilcas took first place in the starter category at a recent Orígenes fair. Through Orígenes, Ana is learning the business skills she needs to make her restaurant a success.

By uncovering the hidden food traditions of Ecuador’s small towns, the Orígenes program through Diners Club Ecuador is preserving the tastes and flavors of Ecuador’s rich culinary past and helping lay the foundations of a sustainable future.

To learn more about our Together For Change initiative visit:


The information provided herein is sponsored by Diners Club International®. It is intended for informational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Content on this website may contain information from third parties and/or links to third-party websites. Diners Club International bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of this information.