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Gaston Acurio: "I'm Coming Back to The Kitchen"

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Gaston Acurio: "I'm Coming Back to The Kitchen"

In a shock announcement, famed chef Gaston Acurio says he is stepping out of retirement to retake the reigns at his flagship Astrid y Gastón restaurant in Lima, Peru.

Along with the with the news that head chef Diego Muñoz is set to leave the kitchen on January 30th to follow personal projects, we can exclusively reveal that Gaston Acurio will be the replacment as he gets ready to step back into the kitchen after retiring back in 2014.

Speaking with Acurio in Lima, we can reveal that he will take the helm once again at the kitchen in February as he once again takes over the command of creativity and a team of 40 young Peruvian chefs.

It’s huge news that one of Peru’s biggest chefs is entering the kitchen once again, but he’s quick to point out that it has nothing to do with awards or competing - that accolades, honours or titles are not the motivation. That tasty, sustainable food will actually be what sits at the heart of the restaurant’s new and evolved philosophy. 

Here's more from Acurio on the news: 

Can you tell us what’s happening?
“Diego will stay in the kitchen until the end of January and the next month I will return to the kitchen to lead a young team of 40 chefs. To lead our philosophy of cooking which is based on sustainability, flavour and the a Peruvian global style I have been trying to promote for the past 20 years.

“We will work with farmers, producers, fishermen and all the teams that I need to build the full community for the restaurant.

“I’ve been working for a long time to promote Peruvian cuisine around the world and that challenged me to a lot of different jobs, new projects, opening doors to products, education, young Peruvian chefs in restaurants around the world.”

What will change?
“Sustainable fish, more vegetables and grains. We need to run the restaurant 24 hours a day. Now I have the time to return to the kitchen, not to compete but just to cook and be close to the people that go to Astrid y Gaston and to the role of being a chef, of cooking delicious food and still promoting the principles we’ve been working on for the past 10 years.

We have lots of new ideas for new proposals, ingredients, dishes and menus. I want to make people who come to the restaurant everyday happy with colourful, generous, tasty, original and creative food that is really connected to the product.”

What Are Your Plans?
“I have three kitchens inside the restaurant with a team of 40 young chefs and we will try to offer up a new proposal every two or three months.

I had a dream that one day I was going to cook once again but in a small restaurant with just four tables but I talked with my wife Astrid and we said “we have this amazing space, we have the time to do it - why not?”

Are You Excited?
“I feel like a young kid now, a chef but with this experience, patience, no pressure or need to prove anything to anybody other than our customers. To represent the producers, suppliers and all the people who make up the community of our restaurant.

“This sort of calm takes out all the anxiety of cooking - we just want to cook beautifully, find amazing flavours and make people happy.

“It’s going to be amazing - I’ve been cleaning my knives everyday - I’m going to cook everyday, to do the things I did when I was in the kitchen at the start, I want to arrive first and leave last - 8 in the morning to 1 in the night.”

Why are you coming out of retirement?
“I’m coming back to the kitchen to get back into the craft of cooking. Chefs can now make a lot of contributions to the challenges of the future - everybody eats and almost everybody cooks. Food waste, sustainability - this type of work is going to be very important.

“I want to celebrate cooking every day but first of all ‘delicious’ food with a respect to everything because this is what we are trained for.

“We want to have fun and to push amazing food but all with a lot of responsibility.”

How will this actually look at the restaurant?
“For example, we’re already running out of fish in the oceans but at the same time we’re producing the most ceviche in the world, something that uses a lot of fish but Ceviche is a concept - an opportunity of citric, spiciness and freshness - if we could have everyday a different vegetarian ceviche - fresh, completely different every day because one time we use apricot, one day we use artichoke. Using this dish we make a dialogue with the soil and nature, a concept that was created in Peru a long time ago - we want people to ask us more for a vegetarian ceviche over a fish ceviche because they love it more. With just this one dish we can touch environment, economy, sustainability, history, culture, people and still create a delicious plate. This is the idea - the overall concept.

“We will ask a lot of questions: What happens if we buy this? What happens if we cooks this? What happens to the people, the environment? You will start to find a lot of these elements around the dishes we’re going to do.”

What other plans do you have for your return to the kitchen?
“When I started my restaurant we used to have an amazing bread experience but now we have to do a better one than the memory that people have of our original offering. How do we make it better? Do we do more? Less? Or do we use all our knowledge of fermentation and ingredients to create a bread that no one has ever tasted before.

“We will have a candy seller experience at the end of a meal to allow us to push the wonderful diverse cocoa experiences we have here in Peru.

“In the middle of all this you will find two proposals - a proposal that will present Peruvian traditions in terms of protection - I mean a menu that shows the best ceviche you can eat, the best saltado - around eight dishes that will change every month - we have a high variety of all these classic plates, we’re conscious that many people who come to Lima want to taste a true bite of Peru. Then we will have the creative menu that I hope we will change at least four or five times a year, following the seasons of this diverse country, our memories, our travels and all our experiences in life from all over the world.”

Will Astrid also return?
“Astrid will work as a pastry chef but Astrid was with me 20 years ago, she talked with every customer, helped people to be happy - she has this magic developed in her soul that allows her to look at a table and see if something is going on. That comes with 20 years in a restaurant working lunch and dinner every day. The only thing she wants and I agree is that we should be happy.

“We want to remember the first days when we were in our restaurant - where we didn’t have a big or small place, people who came to our place came back again and asked for what they ate because they must taste it again.

“We don’t want any pressure.”

Anything else?
“We’re going to have an amazing bar where you can enjoy amazing cocktails and lots of easy, fun dining and we’re going to run a small farmer’s market in the restaurant grounds every Saturday - so people can see that this big, beautiful restaurant is still connected with what is going on”.

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