As Peruvian cuisine grows in stature around the world, so do the number of visitors looking to explore the food on its home turf. A few years ago you could barely find a culinary tour if you tried. Now there are several decent ones that bring you face to face with leading chefs and to visit markets and restaurants that only culinary insiders have heard of.
“Since we launched Pica Peru, international awareness of Peruvian food has grown. Gaston opened La Mar in San Francisco. Countless bars have added the pisco sour to their menus. As more people become aware of Peruvian food, they want authentic experiences with Peruvian food,” says Kazia Jankowski, who runs Pica Peru Culinary Vacations. “I think that’s why they now seek out Peruvian culinary excursions in addition to their trips to Machu Picchu. In response, more and more travel companies are beginning to offer culinary trips.”
“The travelers who sign up for culinary trips tend to have a genuine appreciation for cooking and tasting,” Jankowski said. “They are not necessarily professional chefs, but they like to make dinner at home, even throw dinner parties, and a culinary excursion is sort of the travel version of that experience. Pica Peru’s travelers have ranged from 24-mid 60s, with the average age skewing older. On all of our trips, people love to try the different flavors and preparations of Peruvian food in the markets and restaurants, but they’re most engaged when they are participating in a class. That’s when people fall into a rhythm, relax, and really start to enjoy the full sensory experience (colors, tastes, smells) of Peruvian food.”
I’ve compiled a list of some of the better tours available in Peru. Most are based in Lima, though there are dozens of others from multinational tour operators (that generally contract out from these local tour operators). Most companies run a standard weeklong trip that combines visits to restaurants and cooking classes or demonstrations in Lima with a short trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Other tours are day trips from either Lima or Cuzco, while others take in the North or South Coasts. Contact each operator for prices, dates, and specific details.
Peru Based Gastronomy Tours
Delectable Peru Gourmet Food Tours
Right now, Ericka LaMadrid’s tours are the most comprehensive food tours being offered in Lima. On the tours you can chat with the chefs, ask what ingredient(s) make a dish a delight, see where the magic happens in the kitchen and learn about some of the many treats specific to Peru. They have several options for lunches and dinners, as some dishes are meant to be eaten during specific times of the day. While Ericka specializes in custom experiences tailored to your needs, her set tours include:
1.- History and City tours in Lima’s center with a Criollo buffet
2.- Experiencia Nikkei
3.- Experiencia Amazonica
4.- Dinner with celebrity chef.
5.- The best ceviche experience in the world.
6. Experencia Mercado with a traditional Peruvian lunch.
They arrange transportation and allow ample time for photos.
In US you can call directly to T: 1 239.244.2336.
American Kazia Jankowski, who helped author the latest edition of Moon Peru and whose work has appeared in various other Food Media, and Peruvian partners Norma and Sandra Gamio began this tour company after seeing a lack of options for culinary tourists in Peru. The group offers the most specialized classes to fit interests and budgets such as a 1-day cooking class with or without a market visit, or their 9 & 10 Day trips that pair Lima with either Cuzco and the Sacred Valley or Mancora on the North Coast. There longer tours have culinary tours (visits to restaurants, markets, and with chefs) and cooking classes everyday. PicaPeru has the most trip dates throughout the year of any of the groups (*note prices go down with fewer people).
Taste of Peru
From the team at Magical Cuzco Tours, who have been organizing trips around Peru for 20 years. The culinary wing of the tour operatoroffers a standard week long culinary tour that involves visits to markets and tastings at well known restaurants in Lima, a 3-day side trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, and a few cooking lessons. There’s also 2-day Foodie Tours in Lima, and a 3-day trip into the Central Highlands and jungle from Lima.
A Taste of Peru
Penelope Alzamora and Brisa Deneumostier, two Peruvian sisters whose family owns Bohemia Café y Mas restaurant in Lima, run this popular tour operation. Both sisters went to culinary schools in the United States and worked and taught for cooking schools and restaurants abroad, so their experience is first-rate. Their standard 8-day trip splits time between Lima and Cuzco and packs in hands on lectures and classes on Peruvian fruits, seafood, chefs, and markets, as well as meals at special restaurants and plenty of sightseeing and museum visits. You’ll learn to prepare ceviche with the famous chef Cucho La Rosa and prepare numerous other dishes. Occasionally they hold one-day trips and tours in the Lima area, such as the Lurin Valley or Barranco, as well.
Parque de la Papa
Opened in 2008, a 22,000 acre eco-preserve near Cusco dedicated to the conservation of Potato varieties has begun offering 1, 3, and 5 day trekking tours to meet with farmers, weavers, and cooks and eat all sorts of the thousands of varieties of potatoes available in the Andes. There are shorter day tours as well with potato tasting and brief meetings with farming communities.
Incas del Peru
In the Central Andean city of Huancayo, Incas del Peru has long been the main traveler resource for getting involved with the local community, whether it be studying weaving, train journeys, visits to artisan workshops, music lessons, volunteering, and anything else that gets you an insiders view into Andean culture. While cooking classes aren’t their most common activity (though Huancayo is the birthplace of the famous Papas a la Huancaina), they do offer half day cooking classes with visits to a local market to prepare any dish you like and even a week long culinary immersion program with three hours per day of cooking lessons. Prices are more affordable than you will find anywhere.
D’Gallia Instituto de Alta Cocina
This cooking school in Lima offers 1-week courses usually taken used by expats living in Peru. The courses teach technical skills and the basics for many traditional Peruvian recipes and end with a Diploma in Peruvian Cuisine. Dates are select, so planning needs to be done well in advance.
Tours Gastronomicos Peru
Lima based day tours run by Gonzalo Angosto, a chef with more than 30 years of experience cooking in restaurants around the world. Trips explore the Barrio Chino, Pachacmac, the cevicherias on Avenida La Mar, and the Boulevard Gastronomico in Surquillo. There are also multiday trips to Tarma and Cusco.
Peruvian Culinary Tours Based Outside of Peru
These one day tours from the multinational operator are well rounded and include a class, market visit, Pisco tasting, and lunch. It is hard to know in advance exactly how intimate the experience will be. As a plus, AAA members get a discount.
Eat Smart Peru Tour
Run by author of Eat Smart Peru and the Eat Smart series Joan Peterson, the 10-day tour begins in Lima, takes in Pisco tasting in Ica, a stop in Paracas, has a demonstration from Cucho La Rosa at the Casa de Don Cucho in Pachacamac, a trip to Cuzco with lots of sightseeing and more cooking demonstrations. The trip is usually offered only one week per year for a select date.
This gastronomic tour operator runs programs all over the world. Their week-long Peru trips check out Lima and Machu Picchu and are offered four times per year.
This tour operator aims to provide direct interaction with local communities in an ethical and sustainable way in four Latin American countries. They have specialized Epicurean Peru tours, along with specialized trips during Inti Raymi and to visit with weavers.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.