The Rise of Nikkei Cuisine
We’re off to Peru, to Lima to be precise. Here, in the mid-1990s, an absolutely astounding development began, which can be traced back to the Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio. After breaking off his law studies, he trained as a cook in Europe. It was during this period that he fell in love with his later wife Astrid, a German girl who had grown up in France. In 1984, he returned with her to Lima, to open a French restaurant there with her – the cuisine that Gaston was familiar with. However, it proved difficult to procure supplies of the necessary products, so at their restaurant Astrid y Gaston they began to pay attention to native ingredients and Peruvian cuisine. What emerged was a mixture of native and European cuisine in a world format. Many chefs followed this pioneering approach of creating a new Andean cuisine, and articles on the Cucina Novoandina quickly started to appear in magazines all over the world. Other chefs from Lima also attained world fame – such as Virgilio Martinez, with his biotope cooking at the Central. Peru is a land of immigration. People moved there from Spain, Italy and Germany, and also from Asia. They all brought their native cooking styles with them and gave these a Peruvian flavour and a new identity. It’s precisely this multifaceted aspect that distinguishes the Cocina Novoandina.
The third great exponent of this genre in Peru is the Nikkei. In this case, this has nothing to do with the Japanese stock exchange index, but with people who emigrated from Japan. Emigrants from the Land of the Rising Sun are called “Nikkei”. Mitsuharu Tsumura, universally called Micha, is the son of such emigrants and was born in Lima. Eating and drinking play a major role for Japanese people, so Micha grew up in an environment where eating was a central component of life. Ultimately, a small nudge from his father was enough to enable his interest in cooking to become his profession. With a great deal of dedication and hard work, the young Tsumura passed his school-leaving exams and applied to a cooking school. This took him to the USA to study at the Johnson and Wales University on Rhode Island. After graduating, he returned to his Peruvian homeland with the idea of… (more in magazine)