How Gastón Acurio Helped Introduce The World To Peruvian Food

What began as a mission to share Peruvian cuisine with the world turned into a dream of saving it.

Gastón Acurio began his restaurant empire (he boasts almost 50 restaurants across the globe, as per his Chicago spot, Tanta) with a French restaurant in Lima. A graduate of the Cordon Bleu School in Paris (per Le Cordon Bleu), serving French food made sense. But after running his flagship, Astrid and Gastón, for a few years he realized the opportunity he had to share the diverse cuisine of his homeland and impact the Peruvian economy. In his TED Talk, Gastón cites the internet as pivotal to his ability to spread awareness of Peruvian food and ingredients worldwide.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez, who some consider the godfather of Nueva Latin food, tells The New York Times, "Peruvian is the single most important cuisine in Latin America." In part because Peru is home to many integrated, diverse cuisines.The ingredients and techniques brought by Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Jewish immigrants, coupled with Peru's traditional dishes, created uniquely Peruvian cuisines (via The Social and Cultural Origins of Peruvian Food), including Nikkei: Japanese- Peruvian and Chifa: Chinese-Peruvian fare. If that wasn't enough to provide diversity, Peru had widely biodynamic growing regions (per The Eater), ranging from the high altitudes of the Andes to Pacific coastal deserts and Amazonian rain forests (per LAC Geographic).

Introducing the World to Peruvian Cuisine

Some of Gastón's restaurants embrace Peruvian-style fusion, such as Madam Tusan's Chifa-oriented menu. Other restaurants focus on homestyle Peruvian cooking, in accordance with the chef's belief that focus on the home and the kitchen are central to healing the planet. As he explained in his TED Talk, he applies these concepts to his restaurants. Acurio tells The Guardian, "Cooking allows you to promote a series of values. The chef is someone who acts as a bridge between consumers and farmers, fishermen, industry and nutrition and health."

Additionally, Acurio wants to help his home country thrive by promoting Peruvian foods (other than the ubiquitous potato) to draw tourism and export Peruvian goods worldwide. The chef now has restaurants in twelve countries and has penned over twenty books, including the award-winning "500 Years of Fusion" (per Tanto). As the Chef and restaurateur, Indira Vilarosa tells The Guardian. "We used to take pride in Machu Picchu, and now we're proud of our food." Ultimately, Acurio seems comfortable with his contribution, telling Stakeholders, after honoring students of the Pachacútec Institute, an educational program he supports, "Peruvian chefs can rest easy because today they have shown that Peruvian cuisine is in very good hands."