Ciro Watanabe, one of Latin America's leading chefs, has passed away unexpectedly in Lima, Peru.
The much-loved Peruvian chef of Japanese ancestry was one of the leading lights of Nikkei cuisine, and was in the process of building a gastronomic presence across South America, from Peru and Colombia, to Chile and Argentina. The chef, who had achieved so much in his all too short life, will be sorely missed, while his legacy will live on.
For years, Watanabe was the face and the driving force behind the expansion of his Osaka Peru chain of restaurants. Known as OSK Peru, they were the leading exemplar of Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese culinary traditions, and had branches in Buenos Aires, Quito and Bogotá.
However, it was Watanabe’s flagship Osaka in Santiago, Chile, that displayed his incredible talent. The restaurant, where he served as executive chef, was regularly placed on Latin America’s 50 Best restaurants list.
Ciro Watanabe, universally loved for his warmth and generosity, and admired for his irrepressible creativity, was also known to the public as co-host of Chile’s Top Chef television show, and was actively involved in initiatives to promote healthy eating in the country’s public schools.
The gastronomic community across South America expressed its shock and sadness at the unexpected passing of Watanabe on social media. Renzo Garibaldi, a colleague, business partner and friend of Watanabe, expressed the massive shock echoed across the community of Latin American chefs. “Ciro was much more than a chef and a friend. He was, and is, a brother. The heart and the smile of our community as chefs.”
Garibaldi, who was partners with Watanabe at the DonDoh restaurant in Lima, reiterated the impact and room-changing personality of the chef. “He represented the love we have as a community for cooking, friendship and family. He will always be remembered and, even now, he will still bring us together like he always did. I'm not ready to say goodbye to my brother, as I believe no one is, so I would just like to say that he is still with us and that we will make him proud. And promise him I will keep his smile alive on my face like he would have wanted."
Chef Thomas Troisgros wrote: “Go in peace brother! You will be sorely missed, your contagious laugh, your wonderful food and creations. Ah! And the crazy ideas! Always with open arms welcoming everyone with the best mood in the world! You're awesome, guaranteed fun always! How we laugh while having a cold.”
Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido, number one on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, posted: “Joy, friendship, good times. See you forever Ciro!!! You will always be with us and your joy too. We will miss you very much a hug to heaven.”
It is understood that Watanabe’s untimely death was due to complications related to stomach surgery.
“He has died of bleeding after an operation on his stomach. It is a great loss,” an anonymous source close to the family told AFP.
Gaston Acurio posted: "We are all very sad. We are going to miss you dear Ciro."
Rodolfo Guzman: "Today is a sad day, goodbye friend, we will always remember you."
Virglio Martinez: "Bye great friend."