The Peru effect: the rise of Peruvian restaurants across the globe

Finally, Peruvian food has emerged from the shadows and is receiving the international recognition it deserves. In London, the Peruvian restaurant Lima and its head chef Virgilio Martinez were recently awarded Michelin star status (their first of many, we hope) – the first such accolade for a Peruvian restaurant in London. Another proponent of Peruvian food is Martin Morales who, after the phenomenal success of Ceviche in Soho, is opening a second restaurant in Shoreditch. It seems that Londoners can’t get enough of the taste of Peru. And with good reason too…

Virgilio Martinez

You wouldn’t think that nestled away in the corner of South America lays one of the most varied gastronomies. But it is Peru’s location that makes its cuisine so diverse. The seafood rich Pacific Ocean is on Peru’s doorstep, the Amazon gives birth to exotic fruits and herbs, and the Andes provides the perfect climate for potatoes and corn. It is the availability of full, fresh ingredients and the fusion of many different cultures that really sets Peru apart. With common dishes like cerviche, to chifa and nikkei – drawn from Chinese and Japanese migration into Peru, or dishes that can trace their ancestry back thousands of years like pachamanca – succulent meat, traditional, local potatoes and lima beans cooked on hot stones buried underground; Peru really comes alive with its food, and there is a dish to suit even the most discerning of critics.

Peruvian Food

Host to the largest food festival in Latin America, Mistura, Peru – and the Peruvians – take their food exceptionally seriously, with a passion to rival even that of the Italians. Fresh, spicy and full of variety, Peru offers a culinary experience like no other. But, with the bold Mexican and Caribbean flavours to the north, possibly the world’s best steak producer to the south and vibrant, fruity tastes from the east, it is easy to see why Peru has sat somewhat in the shadows until the efforts of a brave few to export it worldwide; and we should all be thankful they did.

Gaston Acurio

London best keep its ears – and stomachs – open for the arrival of “the Peruvian Jamie Oliver”, Gaston Acurio, who is rumoured to have his sights set on the city. It’s about time the rest of the world learnt that food in Peru isn’t just limited to a roasted guinea pig, or half leg of llama, although they still taste delicious too.

 

Q&A with Gustavo Borja, Executive Chef at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

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Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be at ITMP
My name is Gustavo Borja and I’m from Lima, Peru. I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Miami, Florida, and worked for the Marriott Marquis in Miami, for the Marriott in West Palm Beach Singer Island, and the National PGI resort in West Palm Beach. I´ve also worked as an advisor for several Peruvian restaurants that opened in Miramar, Florida, before moving back to Peru to work at Inkaterra.

What is the ethos behind the food at ITMP- Both in the main restaurant and at Café Inkaterra?
We want our guests to understand the country and all of its cultural aspects before returning home. To enhance the culinary experience and knowing that our guests are travelling so need to feel strong throughout their trip, we have designed a menu that is both healthy and authentic, selecting each flavour so that the final product is a complete gastronomic experience.

What is so special about Peruvian cuisine?
There are three main elements that make Peruvian cuisine so special: firstly, the variety and taste of our products that is not found elsewhere, like the yellow chili pepper, the potatoes, and the corn; secondly, it’s the ancestral ability to use herbs in the kitchen that gives Peruvians a special talent for seasoning. Finally, it is the influence of different cultures (Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese, Italian) that merge with our very special seasonings and has created a kitchen with a soul, a kitchen with its own identity that is distinct from any other cuisine.

What are the most important or iconic ingredients in Peruvian cuisine?
This question is very difficult because I think that Peruvian cuisine has a significant number of seasonings that make it so special. If I had to highlight one in particular, it would be the yellow peppers – I think this ingredient gives Peruvian cuisine its distinct flavour.

Tell us a little more about the diversity of Peruvian food
The gastronomy of Peru is the most diverse in the world, which is proven by the fact that it has the largest number of dishes. Lima is the gastronomic capital of the Americas and has developed greatly thanks to the incredible creativity in the dishes found here. The finest Andean, Afro-Peruvian, Eastern and Western cuisine are found in Lima. Recently, cooking has become Novo Andean, which incorporates the best products and Andean spices along with balanced dietary preparation.

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How have you incorporated different ingredients and styles of cooking at ITMP?
At Inkaterra we create Peru’s ‘haute cuisine’, which underwent great change during the twentieth century through the Nouvelle Cuisine (or new kitchen).  This refers to a new way of cooking based on creativity and imagination. It resulted in a movement that freed the chefs and allowed the creation of new styles of cooking called “signature cuisine.”

Are there any other chefs particularly that have inspired you?
It is the passion for what I do that inspires me but if I had to name one person in particular it would be my mother.

What’s your favorite dish on the current menu?
The lamb shank; it´s a dish that contains lots of flavours, all beautifully balanced, and the technique we use creates a very soft meat. It comes with a sauce, which is fresh and uniquely flavoured.

And what drink would you wash it down with?
This dish would go very well with a cabernet sauvignon, Zuccardi Q (Argentinian wine). This line of wines is characterised by a fatty nuance that wraps the bobbin with well-balanced tannin shavings, and is a perfect combination of red fruits, pepper and wood.

Finally, if you could eat at any restaurant in the world, where would it be and why?
I don’t think I could choose a restaurant, but I would eat anywhere in Peru! The creativity and the diversity of food ensure Peru has an incredible variety of dishes, unlike anywhere else in the world. The creativity, advance in our cooking techniques, coupled with the assortment of dishes, put us in a privileged position.

Hungry? Where to eat in Cuzco!

Newly opened in London this month, Lima is a great example of classic Peruvian food. Equally popular is the new patio at Peruvian Chef Gaston Arcurio’sNew York venture La Mar.

If you’re lucky enough to venture to Peru itself, here are our suggestions of the best places for high end palates in Cuzco. Continue reading

Inkaterra and Action Against Hunger

“Against hunger and malnutrition” is the main idea from the campaign carried out by Action Against Hunger‘s Spanish arm, an organization that since 1979 has been active in more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.

Between the 15th of June and the 15th of July, 50 of the best gourmet restaurants in Peru will offer special menus and beverages with money going to support the 700.000 children that are suffering from chronic malnutrition and 800,000 from anaemia in Peru. Continue reading