Gastón Acurio is Peru’s most famous chef and arguably the best-known Peruvian in the world. The son of a senator, Acurio went to study law in Madrid, Spain, but had a change of heart and went to Paris to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. His first restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, was an instant success in Lima and it soon spurred satellite restaurants around Latin America and other chains based on the various types of Peruvian cuisine. The growth in popularity of Peruvian cuisine around the world in the past decade would not have been possible without him. Here is a list of Acurio’s vast restaurant empire around the world:
In the past year, I’ve seen more and more Peruvian restaurants in Lima adding Ceviche Frito (Fried Ceviche) to their menu. The concept sounds perplexing, but really isn’t. It’s basically battered and fried seafood that is given the same treatment of purple onions and bits of rocoto that are soaked lime juice (basically, leche de tigre) poured over it just like a typical Peruvian ceviche.
El Señor de Milagros, or the Lord of Miracles, is a venerated image of Christ, apinted by an Angolan slave, which has been attributed to protecting the city of Lima from earthquakes for several centuries as well as curing worshippers of various ailments. During an earthquake in 1655 nearly the entire city of Lima was destroyed, but still standing was the image and the adobe wall it hung on in the Pachacamilla neighborhood. On select days every October, El Mes Morada (the purple month), the image is carried from its resting place in Las Nazarenas church around the center of Lima as tens of thousands of purple clad followers watch and pray. It’s the largest Catholic procession in the Americas and one of my favorite spectacles to occur in the city (outside of Mistura, of course).
While I travel around Peru fairly regularly and have probably eaten a wider range of Peruvian restaurants more than anyone on earth, Mistura was a revelation. Getting around Peru and sampling different restaurants takes time, but Mistura brings some of the better ones from across the different regions to one location. There were chefs, restaurants, and street stalls from Lima, Arequipa, Tarapoto, Trujillo, Tacna, and elsewhere that I had ever heard of. Some vendors served obscure or classic regional dishes, while others saw talented chefs altering Peruvian classics in funky new ways.
The wait for food at Mistura ranges from just a minute or two to more than an hour. While you can get food from the majority of vendors in less than 20 minutes, there are a few with lines that grow longer by the day because of word of mouth getting out about their particular dishes. El Grifo’s Fettucines a la Huancaina has created the most buzz in my opinion, though many of the more simple and rustic vendors are drawing huge crowds as we
At Lima’s food festival of Mistura, it was the bees that first attracted me to Postres Tradicionales Tina. The restaurant is headed by a group of Afro-Peruvian women who serve a long list of traditional Limeño sweets. For some reason, every bee within a mile of their stand at Mistura flocked to their trays of Mazamorra Morada, Arroz con Leche, Arroz Zambito, and especially their camotes glaseados (glazed sweet potatoes) and another chunky mixture I had never seen before. There are dozens of other vendors selling sweets at Mistura, but the bees didn’t go there. They only came to Postres Tradicionales Tina.
This year’s Mistura is dedicated to the Potato, el papa. The entrance to the festival’s Gran Mercado has a display labeling roughly 500 types of Peruvian potatoes. They are red, blue, white, yellow, black, purple, and even multicolored. If you walk further into the market you will find cooperatives of vendors, most of them in traditional garb from the region they live, and baskets and bags of the potatoes from their respective regions. The potatoes being sold from Puno are completely different from the potatoes being sold from Huancayo. The shapes are different, the colors are different, the sizes are different, and the flavors are different.
The food being served at Lima, Peru’s 3rd annual Mistura Gastronomic Fair is broken up into 15 Eating Sections:
In a cab home from the opening day of Mistura I noticed that there were actually buses with people in them moving driving in the spot where the long awaited Metropolitano mass transit system was being bu
As I sat in a conference listening to Sonia Bahamonde of the cult cebicheria Sonia in Chorrillos speak to a closed room of Latin American reporters, along with her husband Fredy and daughter who is also named Sonia, a sort of hubbub came from outside. Shouts of “Gaston, Gaston” rang out and came closer. Soon Gaston Acurio, Peru’s most famous chef and the organizer of Mistura, walked in the door. He stood to one side of the room, certain not to interrupt one of his culinary idols. He was just catching his breath it seemed.