Director Ernesto Cabellos, the Lima, Peru-based director of the lovely new film about Peruvian identity through food entitled, De Ollas y Sueños, or Cooking Up Dreams (read our review here), was kind enough to answer a few questions with us about making the film, the relationship Peruvians have with food, and some of his inspirations in making the project.
Peruvian cuisine is one of the driving forces of Peru’s economy and growing national pride. Like Japan or France, here food, and the people that make it, are respected at all levels of society. It is the most revealing aspect of Peruvian society, more so than music or futbol. A beautiful new film, entitled, De Ollas y Sueños, or Cooking Up Dreams, has recently opened to much acclaim. The film follows Peruvian cuisine around Peru and around the world.
It took five knocks on random doors to find the right house, even though I had been there before. When I finally found Chez Wong I was told that I couldn’t come in because I didn’t have a reservation. I looked behind the doorman and no one was there. I pleaded but no luck. He handed me a business card with a phone number and asked me to call later. The following week, this time with a reservation, I returned to Chinese-Peruvian chef Javier Wong’s closed-door cebicheria in his house in La Victoria, an unassuming neighborhood of Lima, Peru near busy avenue full of auto body shops.
The foodie set in Lima, particularly Gaston Acurio, has been pushing for special status of this market in Surquillo, a few blocks from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. Products from around the country can be found here: fruits from the Amazon, chiles and potatoes and buckets of quinoa from the Andes, fresh seafood from the coast. You can buy kitchen utensils. I spent the equivalent of $10 a year ago on wooden spoons and other handmade tools. If I picked up the same items in the States, I would have spent $100 easily. Other things I’ve found here include a beautiful 2kg octopus for a backyard grilling, a bottle of cumari peppers from the jungle, and Andean potatoes that are far too rare for the Supermarkets.
Panchita is the latest Gastón Acurio creation in Lima. The emphasis here is on traditional Criollo dishes, which are served in large portions. They call Panchita an anticucheria, though that might be a bit of a stretch. While in general I like most of what Acurio puts out, it is hard to get an honest review of most of his restaurants because most everyone in Lima is so blinded by his star power that they accept whatever is put on their plate for gold. He makes Peruvian food that is acceptable for the international crowd and the restaurants can stand on their own in any city in the world. That said, I always have a good meal at one of Acurio’s restaurants, just not a great meal.
There are two real restaurant hotspots for cebiche (or ceviche) in Lima: in the coastal suburb of Chorrillos south of Barranco and along Avenida La Mar in Miraflores. Avenida La Mar is the more upscale of the two and the only one where big name chefs operate restaurants.
Few realize just how abundant Nikkei cuisine is in Lima. In Peru, the ancestral cooking style fuses traditional Japanese with Peruvian to make some of the most interesting takes on one of the world’s great culinary brands. The international media in their new love of Peruvian cuisine consistently overlooks Nikkei chefs, however, many of the top fine dining restaurants in Lima are in fact Nikkei. Examples: Osaka, Hanzo, and Costanera 700.
Whenever there’s any talk of cevicheria’s in Lima, usually someone mentions Pescados Capitales. The name means Capital Fish, which is a play on the phrase Capital Sins (Sins in Spanish is pecados, which sounds almost like pescados). The menu, which is ginormous, is arranged around capital sins such as Greed, Gluttony, Vain, Ire, Envy, and others.
Barranco, Lima’s seaside suburb to the south of Miraflores, was once a weekend retreat for Lima’ s Creole bourgeoisie built homes there in the 19th and 20th Century, as well as wealthy German and British immigrants. In the late 20th century the area became decrepit, a haven for drugs, and fell apart. The last few decades have seen resurgence in investment and in the neighborhood and many of the most prominent families, writers, artists, and celebrities in Lima now live in the restored colonial mansions that line the cliffs.
Lima, Peru is quickly becoming the gateway for many airlines to fly to and from South America. From Lima you can fly direct to nearly anywhere in North, Central, or South America. Lima is the hub for air travel onSouth Americaâ€™s Pacific coast. Hereâ€™s is a breakdown of every airline that flies in and out of Jorge Chavez International airport in Callao, twenty minutes form downtown Lima and about thirty minutes from the tourist center of Miraflores.