You are what you eat & drink

Posts tagged “Ventanilla

From Peru with Love

This story I found on Stumble, I have copied it here because it is about food and I love Peru. I have lived and cooked there in five different cities and towns; Lima, Pisco, Cusco, Puno and Zorritos. Not only this but I agree with Acurio, Peruvian cuisine is wonderful despite the fact that I will not eat cuy (roast guinea pig).

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Chef’s slum kitchen stirs Peruvian pride

By Philippe Bernes-Lasserre (AFP)

Ventanilla, a slum on the edge of Lima

VENTANILLA, Peru — In a slum on the edge of the Peruvian capital the young cooks bustle about in a gleaming new kitchen, stirring up dishes seasoned with social mobility and national pride.

Here world-famous chef Gaston Acurio — who recently opened a posh new ceviche joint on Madison Avenue in Manhattan — aims to bring the gourmet delights of his native Peru back to its own people.

“The real power of the kitchen has not yet been used. The power to feed, to welcome, yes. But the power to transform (the country) socially has not yet been released,” said 43-year-old Acurio.

On her way to class through the desert slum

“We live the paradox of a country with wonderful food, but where hunger persists. How can we justify this as chefs?”

His answer is the Pachacutec Institute, established in 2007 in Ventanilla, a dusty slum on the edge of the desert that still has no running water 20 years after it was built and is home to some 100,000 families.

Students at the Pachacutec Cooking Institute, northern outskirts of Lima

Popularly known as “Gaston’s school,” the institute offers a two-year cooking program to disadvantaged Peruvians of all walks of life, graduating 50 professionally-trained chefs each year.

For a nominal fee of 100 soles ($35) a month they receive lessons from chefs from Acurio’s restaurants, the kind of training that would cost 10 times as much in Lima’s booming cooking academies.

Acurio, who also was the Spanish voice for the cartoon rat and star of Disney’s animated “Ratatouille,” about a rodent who becomes a chef, now runs some 35 restaurants around the world. His cuisine has gained recognition for its diversity and his fusion of Andean, Hispanic and Asian tastes.

“At the end of the day, our task as Peruvian chefs is not to invent a rare recipe for caviar… but to promote our culture, to generate opportunities in a country that has so much inequality,” Acurio said.

“Coming here has changed my life,” said Dalia Godoy, a student at Pachacutec. “We don’t just learn how to cook, we learn all sorts of other things, and values, because here we do it all.”

Young people, who once dreamed of becoming football stars, are now setting their sights on turning into famous chefs, and some 500 people apply to the institute every year.

Yovani Palomino prepares food in the kitchen of her house in the shantytown of Ventanilla

But headmaster Rocio Heredia says the institute is not looking for the next generation of television chefs like Acurio. “The goal is to find a youngster who was raised in a household with absent parents, who had to cook to feed his siblings.”

In addition to teaching how to prepare traditional Andean and Amazon dishes, the school also seeks to instill values in the students, which partly reflects the funding it gets from a Catholic trust.

“The message is comprehensive: that the food begins with the planted seed, the small farmer without which we in the kitchen are nothing. That we need to protect and know our products, to pass on what we have learned,” Bruno Donaire, a student, said as a teacher inspected his potato cake stuffed with crab and avocado.

The students have also benefited from Acurio’s contacts in the industry: last month the famed Catalan chef Ferran Adria, of El Bulli, paid a visit.

Adria was in Peru for a documentary on the growing international popularity of Peruvian cuisine, which he called an “amazing phenomenon” that had an impact on the psyche of the country.

Acurio believes that around these bubbling pots, “Peru has regained her emotional independence… At last we believe in something that is ours and of which we are proud.”

Source: Google- AFP. Images: various chosen by me.

Reading this article has been an emotional experience, the pictures of Ventanilla bring back memories of the many times I have passed this slum ( called pueblo jovenes in Peru, or young towns) in the bus on my way south. While I have never been to Ventanilla, I have lived with one of these slums as a close neighbour for many months, my local bar was a part of one; and the residents my friends and drinking pals when I lived in Playa El Chaco.

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