Around 3 years ago while working in the kitchens of one of London’s most exclusive hotels, I met a fellow chef called Luis. He was Peruvian and had recently moved to London (having just come over from Spain) in order to improve his English. Although we never actually worked in the same kitchen we would frequently cross paths, have lunch in the canteen together and chat …mostly about food and chefs. One day he made statement I found quite peculiar at the time, which was: “in a few years my country is going to be one of the world’s culinary hot-spots”.. (perhaps in slightly more broken English).
Now this was at a time when ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ was a term in it’s infancy, ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ was giving way to more apt terms such as ‘Molecular Cooking’ or even ‘Modernist Cuisine’ and the international culinary focus was still very much focused on Europe, be it Spain, Denmark, England or even France. So in light of all this I didn’t quite get how he was coming out with such a sweeping statement, however he was a smart guy with excellent culinary skills, so there had to be something to it…
The growing popularity of Peruvian cuisine
Over the past few years the Latin American food scene has gone from strength to strength with the endorsement of chefs like Ferran Adria being quoted as saying “I want the world to know what’s happening in Peru. I’m excited about the flavors and the food” and that “The future of gastronomy is being cooked up in Peru’.
Adria has also expressed much respect for Peruvian Chef (of international acclaim) Gaston Acurio who opened his first restaurant in Lima in 1994, and now has 32 restaurants in 14 cities worldwide. Other world renowned chef’s have also brought much attention to Latin America, Peru in particular; as a young man Nobu Matsuhisa, the chef and a co-owner of Nobu, spent four years cooking in Lima and has said ”My food is Japanese technique and Peruvian influence”.
Other top Latin American restaurants
At the 2013 Mesoamerican gastronomy congress held in Mexico, chefs including Rene Redzepi of Noma and Jordi Rocca of El Cellar De Can Rocca were lavishly praising their Latin American counter parts. Jordi Rocca is quoted as saying “It’s a question of time for Latin American chefs to reach the top because, to me, they already are at the same level as Europe”.
Now we find ourselves waiting eagerly to see what the first ever Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards will have in store this September. The awards are being held in Lima, Peru which will only serve to add to the country’s growing culinary glory and we will see 50 of Latin America’s top chefs become globally recognized, a privilege those already on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are now becoming accustomed to.
“Lima is home to a host of restaurants currently in the top 100 list of World’s Best Restaurants list: Gaston Acurio’s Astrid & Gaston, which ranks 14th (the highest climb on this year’s list), Central by Virgilio Martinez coming it at number 50 (new entry), and Malabar from chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, which placed 76th.
Currently, the highest ranking Latin American restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is Alex Atala‘s D.O.M. in Sao Paulo. D.O.M. earned the sixth spot on the list and was named the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in South America.
Other Brazilian restaurants that made it onto the top 100 list of the World’s Best Restaurants include Helena Rizzo’s Mani in Sao Paulo, a new entry that came it at number 46, and the eponymous Roberta Sudbrack in Rio de Janeiro, which took the 80th spot.” – Fine Dining Lovers
All of this is great press for a region steeped in a rich culinary history which has benefited from its own broad array of climates which yield a plethora of exotic and varied ingredients as well as the fact that it is a melting pot of cultures with Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Japanese (there are around 90,000 Japanese descendants in Peru) influences sprinkled throughout their native cuisines. One thing is for sure; Luis was definitely on to something.