More than a chef devoted to Peruvian cuisine, Gastón Acurio is a watershed for the projection of the culture of his country in the world. It would be no exaggeration to say that if ceviche has become a world-famous recipe, he surely had an important part in it. Acurio has made Peruvian cuisine the country's proudest export and has helped train some of Peru's best chefs, including Virgilio Martínez, Pía Leon and Mitsuharu Tsumura.
He opened his first restaurant in 1994, and began remaking gritty Lima into one of the most important culinary capitals of South America. Today, he runs a food empire of more than 40 restaurants, including three in the United States, with plans to open a new place in Washington, D.C.
Son of a well-known politician, Acurio, who was born in 1967, learned the importance of the political game from the cradle, and he put this knowledge to use to show the world the Peruvian cuisine. Having studied law (expecting to follow his father’s footsteps), he then decided to change his path and graduated in cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where he met his future wife Astrid Gutsche. He also worked at some of the top restaurants in France including the famed three Michelin-starred Tour d’Argent. In 1994, he returned to Peru to start his prominent career in Lima, with the opening of Astrid y Gastón - which first served French-focused cuisine before finally embracing the traditional Peruvian dishes.
The ceviche, typical dish of his Andean country, spread through the gastronomic world mainly with his help. When he was an intern in kitchens through Europe, the recipe was seen as ethnic, exotic. Today, it is present even in fine-dining restaurants of the world, being executed in famous restaurants, such as the Atelier of Joël Robuchon
His achievements include food festivals, cookbooks and restaurants spanning a range of themes and price points, making them accessible to a broader clientele - something Acurio is focusing on more and more. A significant milestone for his career (and for Peruvian cuisine itself) came in 2008 when Mistura, a food festival and homage to the diversity of Peruvian food, was launched. The main focus was to congregate people around the local food, gathering more than 400,000 visitors eating from traditional food stands from all over Peru, as well as visiting exhibitions on conventional agriculture, and cookery demos.
For example, Panchita is specialized in Peruvian anticuchos (local grilled beef heart on skewers), while Madam Tusan is Acurio's take on the Chinese-Peruvian cuisine known as "chifa". But his original, high-end bistro, Astrid y Gastón, is his most important restaurant, the jewel of the crown that made Acurio one of the most important and influential chefs of world-wide gastronomy scene, making him appear in the 50 Best List both in the world and Latin America.
Recently, Acurio came back from retirement to lead the kitchen of his flagship restaurant, taking over from departing head chef Diego Muñoz, preparing himself his iconic signature dishes, such as “Tiradito of Love” and “Summer Garden Cebiche”, among other recipes.
The dishes that define Acurio’s cuisine are many and varied as his restaurants, but they all share one theme, that is, the diversity of Peruvian cuisine. His creations are seen as a reflection of the recent history of the country’s food culture, mixing the ancient Peruvian food culture to other influences, from the Peruvian-Chinese dim sum menu served in Madam Tusan, to Nikkei style deep fried fish at La Mar and “Peking duck style guinea pig” at Astrid y Gastón.
Acurio is also a winner of the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award, first in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2013, and then also elected by the voters of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018.