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Gaston Acurio: Latin America's Best Restaurant to Close and Relocate

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Gaston Acurio: Latin America's Best Restaurant to Close and Relocate
Photo Astrid & Gaston

Nearly 20 years ago, Astrid & Gastón opened on a cozy street in the Miraflores neighborhood in Lima. It was the platform that gave Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio and his German wife Astrid Gutsche a chance to make their dreams come true.

Together, they created a new type of Peruvian haute cuisine that catapulted their restaurant to number one on the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list and number 14th on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.

Now, the pair has outgrown its current locale and will relocate their restaurant across town to a historic hacienda once owned by Lima aristocrats. But the location won't be the only thing that's different - the restaurant will reopen on February 16th under a new name: Astrid & Gastón Casa Moreyra.


Astrid & Gastón dish by jmoranmoya

Acurio made the big announcement in an nostalgic letter to fans. He wrote: "Astrid&Gastón has had the privilege of living intensely through this story. It has been part of an era that is now coming to an end to give way to a new one, which will present an enormous challenge: showing the world that we Peruvians are ready to write great stories."

"The Moreyra House is waiting for us. There, we have made the largest investment ever in a restaurant in Peru. We have restored it to the smallest detail and furnished it with the most advanced kitchens and equipment, so that the younger generation, the leaders now in charge, can do the work that the world is expecting from us. We have built a sort of Formula One to compete in this new race that our cuisine is about to begin."

Acurio's investment in the property is estimated at over $2 million. The new restaurant will feature a 60-seat gastro-bar, five different kitchens, event space, a test kitchen and a large garden, according to Nicholas Gill from New World Review.

"Whatever was lacking at the [old] location will be possible here. Every dream and idea the Acurio group has ever had can come to fruition here. Think of Wonka’s Chocolate factory but with a Peruvian food theme," Gill reports.

Casa Moreyra Hacienda via Peru Food/Blogspot

As a farewell to Lima, Acurio and his crew has put together a glorious tasting menu at Astrid & Gastón that recalls the history of the restaurant. Take a look at some of the amazing dishes they've created during that time.

Read Acurio's emotional letter to fans:

I met Astrid on an autumn morning in Paris. We both had left behind traditional careers to embrace our dream of becoming chefs. And there we were, face to face. Love at first sight. Paris did its thing. Fate had placed on my path a treasure that would change my life forever. Without hesitation, Astrid decided to leave everything to accompany the making of my dream in Peru. Our dream. Simple, genuine, deep, just like everyone else’s. In our case, a restaurant of our own.

That is how we arrived in Lima, one morning in October of 1993, determined to make it happen. But there were just a few small details to consider: my family was not waiting for us with a welcome committee with flowers and balloons. And it made sense. Their son had deceived them for years. They had been led to believe he would become a prominent politician, and Europe returned him as an humble cook. And the love of his life, whom they had not yet met, was carrying a beautiful girl in her womb, before we had even gotten a job, and, of course, before walking down the aisle together.

We were penniless, jobless and breathless. All we had was something that years later we would realize was the most important thing: love and our dream. And so it began. Within weeks we were both working, Astrid in the Cherry cake shop and I in the INAT institute, which would eventually become Le Cordon Bleu Peru. In the meantime, we were looking for a locale for our dream, and we talked about it with everyone, looking for someone who might help us fund it. We were also giving ourselves some time to understand the characteristics of a particular society at a unique moment in time.

A few months later, everything was aligned. We found the locale at 175 Cantuarias St., in the Miraflores district. We managed to convince friends and family to lend us the $45,000 needed to make it a reality. We personally designed and directed the refurbishments of the house and hired a whole generation of young people who, even then, already had in their blood the same passion which we had for our cooking.

Until finally we did it: on the afternoon of July 14, 1994, Astrid&Gastón opened its doors to the public. I still remember that ad in the newspaper and am overcome by bittersweet feelings: Astrid&Gastón, Haute Cuisine. Those were different times, and in Lima, just like everywhere else around the world, culinary aesthetics were dominated by France. Cooks were trained under the canons of French cuisine, and our mission was to return to our countries to repeat what had been taught to us. Also, that was what customers with a certain purchasing power were looking for as a standard of beauty. A French restaurant run by Peruvian chefs in Peru was our mission back then, because that is what the eyes of a chef were able to see at the time. Back then, fortunately.

Little by little, year by year, almost from day one, even when completely frenchified, our memories, our culture, the voices that surrounded us, were creating in our hearts the need to question and to try to understand what was our role as chefs in Peru. And we were not alone in this: a whole generation was simultaneously feeling the same thing.

Little by little, foie gras, tartares and Burgundies were giving way to cebiches, tacu tacus and saltados. Little by little, while preserving everything that was good about our education in Europe, our cuisine and everything we did was taking on a Peruvian shape and style.

Little by little, that haute cuisine became Peruvian haute cuisine, made with Peruvian ingredients, inspired by Peruvian culinary history and by the opportunities and contradictions of the period. The rest is history. One day, Peruvian cuisine became a movement that Astrid&Gastón embraced unconditionally, whose goal is to make our cuisine a powerful tool to promote Peru around the world and to generate pride and opportunities for Peruvians.

Today, 20 years later, just when we have received the award for Best Restaurant in Latin America; when we have just found out that seven of the top fifteen restaurants in Latin America are in Lima; when we proudly see that those seven restaurants tell Peruvian stories and that is the reason why they were awarded; when we see that all around us, we Peruvians celebrate our cuisine with pride and carry our products and their producers in our hearts; when we see that the world knows and dreams of our cuisine; when we see that our farmers and fishermen have begun to regain hope; then, we can say with confidence that Astrid&Gastón has had the privilege of living intensely through this story. It has been part of an era that is now coming to an end to give way to a new one, which will present an enormous challenge: showing the world that we Peruvians are ready to write great stories.

The Moreyra House is waiting for us. There, we have made the largest investment ever in a restaurant in Peru. We have restored it to the smallest detail and furnished it with the most advanced kitchens and equipment, so that the younger generation, the leaders now in charge, can do the work that the world is expecting from us. We have built a sort of Formula One to compete in this new race that our cuisine is about to begin. And there we will go on February 16th to begin this new adventure.

But we did not want to do so without paying homage and showing our gratitude to the house that gave us all and to the stories we lived there for the past 20 years. Because of that, we have decided to make one last tasting menu. The fourth and last voyage menu of Astrid&Gastón Cantuarias.

The first one was a trip through the Autumns of Peru; the second one was a trip back in time through the history of Peru; the third one was a trip through the history of the Italian immigration in Peru. This last one is a journey through 20 years of Astrid&Gastón in Cantuarias. Our trip. A trip which also tells, through dishes, different moments of what we lived during the last 20 years of the history of Peruvian cuisine.

With it, we want to pay a fitting tribute to all those moments that gave life to our lives. To relive them with dishes updated to our times, thanks to the genius of Diego Muñoz, Emilio Macías and their team. To recall those moments that were instrumental in creating the road that lies before us today. To remember, to taste, to be thankful, especially thankful for having let us become a part of your lives, for having given us so many moments that made our lives what they are today. This is “20 Years”, our trip, a journey of gratitude to life and to Peru.

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