Latin American cuisine is gaining international attention, with Peru leading the charge.
In London alone, at least four Peruvian restaurants have opened in two years.
The Mistura food festival in Lima drew chefs from around the world this year, while the inaugural Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards recognized the emergence of a region that has been overshadowed by the gastronomy of Asia and Europe.
(The best restaurants list is here: http://www.theworlds50best.com/latinamerica/en/the-list.html.)
Here’s what some of the world’s culinary masters had to say about Latin America in interviews, in Lima and in La Paz, Bolivia.
Alain Ducasse (Alain Ducasse, Paris): “The Peruvian culinary scene is incredibly vibrant. The country benefits from biodiversity, while Gaston Acurio and many young chefs are exploring the region’s culinary traditions, from ceviche to grilling techniques. Peru has a clear vision of its future in terms of both cuisine and sustainable development. The country knows also how to unite all its talents to succeed. And, even more importantly, every chef realizes he has to find his own personal style of expression. Tomorrow, Peru will become one of the leading actors on the global culinary scene.”
Rick Bayless (Topolobampo, Chicago): “Peru has one of the greatest cuisines in the world. You say Peruvian food to a person in the U.S. or in Europe, and they wouldn’t even have a clue what it is, maybe ceviche and that’s as far as they could get. But it’s a beautiful cuisine, not from just the standpoint of academically interesting: It’s deliciously interesting.”
Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, New York): “We’ve eaten around in Lima and I’ve been very impressed. It’s incredible.”
Rene Redzepi (Noma, Copenhagen): “Mexico is the place, besides Denmark and Macedonia, that I’ve spent the most time in. I’m in love with the rich and ancient food culture and the huge diversity of produce. Similar things could be said about Peru’s emerging restaurant scene.”
Gaston Acurio (Astrid y Gaston, Lima): “Latin America has a long culinary history and fine ingredients, but that isn’t enough in this connected world. We needed to join forces -- not only fine-dining chefs but street-food vendors, farmers producers, fisherman and even customers -- to be proud of our culture and win recognition internationally.”
Alex Atala, (DOM, Sao Paulo): “I’m super happy and positive. Latin America has amazing ingredients and great chefs coming up. It’s going to spread across the world.”
Sanjay Dwivedi (Coya, London): “I’m amazed how quickly things are moving. Lima is a different city for restaurants even from when I came 18 months ago before opening Coya. I’d heard Latin American cuisine was taking off. Things have been bubbling away for some time. The chefs are thinking differently.”
Rodolfo Guzman (Borago, Santiago): “It’s great to be part of this movement. There’s a diversity that is a lot different to Asia and Europe. Chile is a long way from other places but Latin chefs are becoming very close and we’re happy to learn from each other. Before, we never really shared the knowledge. We were separated from each other and now we’re coming together.”
Nuno Mendes (Viajante, London): “Judging by what I’ve experienced -- the flavors, the techniques -- there’s a lot of creativity and there’s a huge range of new products. There are completely different flavors and a strong sense of place. It’s a new vocabulary. It’s very refreshing to see.”
Martin Morales (Ceviche, London): “Peruvian cuisine has surged in popularity in the last few years, which makes me very proud of my heritage. The flavors are very diverse. Our national dishes range from those steeped in indigenous Andean culture and tradition, to those influenced by the migration of Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and African people through the ages.”
Kamilla Seidler (Gustu, La Paz): “It’s not that Bolivia has to be famous in New York or Peru has to open a ceviche bar in Greenland. It should be more about the products. Llama meat, for example, should be much more recognized. It’s low in fat, it’s lean, it’s kinda gamey. I really like it.”
Mitsuharu Tsumura (Maido, Lima): “We are amazed because right now, everyone wants to see what’s going on in Latin America. We are delivering creativity and we are finally uniting, from Lima to Sao Paulo. We know that we have different flavors and different products. Everybody has these things. But we also have new techniques, avant-garde creativity.”
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)