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Just a two-hour drive away from Lima, the Pachacútec Culinary Institute is a project that lies close to chef Gaston Acurio’s heart
The surroundings initially felt like the set of a science-fiction film by Kubrick: emptiness, isolation and a quiet building in the desert. In front of the school, with view of the Pacific Ocean, a ship container has been transformed into library. But when a group of young students with super-white aprons and happy faces came out of the school, the unexpected scenery suddenly made sense.
A cooking school for underprivileged students, the Pachacútec Culinary Institute was opened in 2007 near the town with the same name, and the project came from Acurio’s desire to satisfy the growing interest of Peruvian youngsters interested in becoming chefs. The selection process begins with 600 applicants for 150 places in classes of four months in various subjects, as in a regular school. Only the best 30 are selected to join the full program, which is when the kitchen training begins. They have classes covering history of Peruvian cuisine, kitchen techniques, nutrition, and English language. They also learn from great masters of Peruvian cuisine, who are guest teachers at the school.
I tried some of the regional dishes prepared by the students, all of whom proudly explained the meaning of each dish and the technique used. It was clear that these future graduates see the importance of directing the knowledge being acquired to the development of their country’s cuisine after graduating. A very inspiring and emotional experience indeed.