South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
When Gastón Acurio opened the doors of La Mar, his Madison Square Park restaurant, in New York this week, the Peruvian chef moved a step closer to achieving a global goal.
Mr Acurio now has 33 restaurants spread across Latin America, Europe and the US, making him a veritable mini “multilatina”.
While the cordon bleu-trained chef’s interests represent a fraction of Latin American multinationals such as Alicorp of Peru, América Móvil of Mexico and Embraer of Brazil, his expansion has been no less aggressive.
“Our mission is to bring fine Peruvian cuisine to the world, and New York is our biggest battle,” Mr Acurio says. “There’s a valuable market for Japanese cuisine, French, Chinese – we want that for Peru.”
Mr Acurio has used his home city of Lima as a testing ground for new concepts, launching everything from Peruvian fast-food outlets serving yellow potato chips to Chinese-Peruvian fusion.
The food revolution he has sparked at home has turned Lima into Latin America’s leading gastronomic destination and has created a thriving industry of cooking schools.
Manhattan’s La Mar has some big shoes to fill, moving into the space formerly occupied by Danny Meyer’s Tabla.
“He has the best location in New York,” says Mr Acurio. “All of our colleagues there said, ‘How did you get this place? There were a hundred people interested, why did they choose you?’ I said, ‘The world is changing – the landlords were looking for something new’.”
Peruvians will recognise Manhattan’s upscale cevicheria as a blend of Mr Acurio’s popular Lima eatery of the same name and his five-star Astrid y Gastón, which has been known to serve confit of guinea pig.
Mr Acurio’s right-hand man, Victoriano Lopez, is the executive chef, and will focus on trademark ceviches (seafood dishes) and reinterpretations of classic Limeño dishes, such as sliced potatoes with yellow chilli sauce.
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