Peru, 48 times Gaston Acurio

Expected to become a politician, the chef opened as many restaurants as his birthdays. 19 in Lima alone

02-05-2016

At the Global Forum on Gastronomy Tourism in Lima, the next edition, the third one, in San Sebastian in the Basque Country, homage was also paid to the person who more than anyone else contributed in forming contemporary Peruvian gastronomy. These homages are correct. If you don’t mark the important moments of a success, given we’re always all in a rush around the world, in time there’s the risk something may be forgotten.

One thing that struck me in the culinary offer of the South American country is the strength each chef has. In Italy we know about the great names from France and the US, from London and Spain, constantly opening new restaurants, brands that go beyond the single person. Peru is further away, beyond the equator, it overlooks the Pacific Ocean and we’re not paying too much attention. Mistakenly so.

When meeting a local colleague, he asks where I’ll dine, I say «at Gaston’s, Gaston Acurio», meaning Astrid y Gastón in San Isidro, and he asks which because it' sounds like I’m dining in Paris. All right, but where exactly? I knew well that Acurio, who’ll turn 50 next year, in 2017, rightly considered a living monument by his fellow countrymen for having brought Peruvian cuisine, the so called Cocina Novoandina, to the attention of the world, has much more than one establishment. I didn’t know the exact number. Startling. The very first was founded in 1994 in the posh neighbourhood of Miraflores and it had to be the case. The son of a senator, and therefore destined to a political career, so much so that among the 50 Best Massimo Bottura calls him the president, preferred a diploma from the Cordon Bleau in Paris to a degree in Law in Lima.

I asked the exact number to Astrid, German roots and a long life beside Gaston, when dining in their current top location, at Casa Moreyra, a spectacular colonial-style white building, two floors, lots of rooms, a garden in which you could get lost with cocktails, a nice terrace and two different offers because in some spaces you can get the tasting menu and in others you can select from the list.

At the Global Forum on Gastronomy Tourism which took place in Peru from the 27th till the 29th April, of course there were cooking demos. In this case there’s Gaston Acurio and Rafael Piqueras, the chef from restaurant Maras. To the left, dressed in black, Magali Silva Velarde-Alvarez, Peruvian minister for Foreign Trade and Tourism

At the Global Forum on Gastronomy Tourism which took place in Peru from the 27th till the 29th April, of course there were cooking demos. In this case there’s Gaston Acurio and Rafael Piqueras, the chef from restaurant Maras. To the left, dressed in black, Magali Silva Velarde-Alvarez, Peruvian minister for Foreign Trade and Tourism

Astrid laughed: «I have no idea, they’re too many to remember». It’s like what one of the Morgan’s said around one century ago about the family fortune: «If you know how much money you have in the bank, it means you’re not rich enough».

When the time for dessert comes, she arrives smiling at the table, waving a brochure: «Paolooo, here’s everything. But you must count them yourselves». So I did: 48, one per each birthday celebrated until the next 30th October, of which 23 in Peru, in particular 19 in the capital, 2 at Arequipa and 2 in Cusco. Then Barcelona, Bogotá (3), Buenos Aires, Caracas, Chicago, Panama, Madrid (2), Mexico City, Miami, Paris, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santiago del Chile (9) and Sao Paulo. Sooner or later, he counts on developingYoshi, his take on nikkei cuisine, the fusion of the Peruvian and Japanese culinary cultures by going even further and assimilating in just one establishment the Italian culinary tradition too, withYoshi & Ricci. We’ll see.

Gaston is followed by many others who, as soon as they become famous enough to attract funds, they work at something and expand. After king Gaston, the most important figure is that of Virgilio Martinez, ten years his junior, previously Acurio’s executive in Bogotá and Madrid. Virgilio in the week dominated by the forum in Lima was in Barcelona, but at lunchtime on Saturday at his restaurant Central I wondered what he could have added in practice to his dishes. Of course it’s always nice to see an important chef come out of the kitchen to greet the guests. Yet I believe Peruvians are happier to know their fellow countrymen are acquiring praise around the world, as with Martinez , with two places in London called Lima. And among foreigners. While there are no famous guides for those coming from afar, such as the Michelin one, you can get an idea of the standard from these distant openings, in other nations.

4. To be continued

The three previous episodes here, here and here.


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