Gastón Acurio: "Cooking is combined with moral principles"

March 2009 -

If Peru's top chef Gastón Acurio has anything to say about it, the international success of Peru's cuisine will have a positive effect on other sectors in his country: "If, for example, a Madrilenian can appreciate the quality of the Peruvian dishes available around the corner, he will start to expect the same quality from other products from Peru. Peruvians need to adopt this culture of quality in which excellence is the standard."

Gastón Acurio is one of Latin America's most famous and internationally successful chefs. During the gastronomic fair Madrid Fusión in January 2009, he was applauded for his achievements in protecting the biodiversity of Peru and Latin America.


Gastón Acurio. Photo: Gabriela Hengeveld

"The protection of our biodiversity must go hand in hand with eliminating discrimination and exploitation: daily reality in Peruvian society." Because education is determinant in that respect, Acurio opened a culinary school, the Instituto de Cocina Pachacutec, in the slums of Ventanilla in the northern part of Peru's capital Lima. "A total of 200,000 people live there, more than 50% of who are minors. There is a water shortage and electricity was installed only recently.

In our programme, cooking is combined with learning the moral principles that are fundamental in the development of a democratic society. Although the monthly registration fee is 60 sol (approximately 15 euros), we provide loans for students who cannot afford that amount. Loans are issued under the condition that if the student gets a job after completing the programme, the loan will be repaid. Many of the students want to continue their studies abroad, but consider it their duty to return to Peru after that. They know that chefs are now role models in our country."

According to Acurio, twenty-first century chefs must combine their culinary skills with ethics. "Gastronomy and hunger simply do not go together. It is immoral to enjoy good food and lavish meals when you know that the fisherman who caught your divinely-cooked seafood lives in a shabby hut and must survive on next to nothing. I am certain that modern international chefs will be recognised for their moral convictions, and there is much to be learned from their Peruvian colleagues", says Acurio.