Food

Did Apega's first International Gastronomy Congress satisfy?

Jason Retz

A fact given by PromPeru at the convention was that 68% of the population thinks that we made it as a gastronomic powerhouse and 32% feels like we’ve done nothing.

Did Apega's first International Gastronomy Congress satisfy?

(Photo: Living in Peru/amaraphotos.com)

We needed this. We needed to finally discuss this “gastronomic boom” that everyone has talked so much about for the past 10 years. But it’s a boom, right? Aren’t booms supposed to be loud, short spectacles?

Personally I think the “boom” has ended and what we are experiencing is a steady growth. At this pace though, we will be no great influence, subjected to ethnic restaurateuring with little cultural base. But we can change this. That is what the convention was about: where is this “boom” headed, and where will we be, gastronomically, by 2021?

Well, to be frank, nothing straightforward was given. But a hefty description of where we are as of now alongside a model of how other countries (such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and Mexico) govern their gastronomic culture both inside and outside of their countries was demonstrated. Given this, we were able to realize where we stand and where to go.

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(Photo: Living in Peru/amaraphotos.com)

What’s the situation? We need to formalize the informal without losing its essence. We need a body of government to capacitate certain people who make up the mass of Peruvian chefs on food safety and health, such as those who work carretillas (food carts) and menus (cheap 2 or 3 course meals).

This same branch of government should regulate our cuisine while investing into the discovery and conservation of our gastronomic culture. There are places where for a small price people can be taught simple jobs such as bakery, pastry, and cooking skills, but we need more of these infrastructures. We finally have a name for ourselves in the outside world and Peruvian ceviche has a rapport to compete with Pad Thai.

But what should we be doing to ensure our success as a culinary hotspot? Observe the global trends.

Everybody wants to be healthy; they want to feel like they’re making good choices. Instead of promoting the papa a la huancaina, we should showcase the solterito de queso. Instead of an olluquito with charqui, order a pumpkin locro.

Vegetables are also the way to go. In a conversation with Frank Lindner from Food Inspiration he asked me, “What about a lomo salado with tofu?” Yes, I gave him a death stare and just laughingly replied, “No.”

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(Photo: Living in Peru/amaraphotos.com)

But when you think about it, you need around 13,000 m2 of land and 1,875 ltrs of water to produce just 1kl (2lbs) of meat. We’re draining ourselves, plus I don’t think anyone wants to see another one of those nasty PETA “animal holocaust” movies (way too sad man). But what if we just ate less meat? It wouldn’t be so hard, right?

We also have to worry about over-fishing, the black market of illegal pesticides in the country, and nothing less than a plethora of problems that a government body should watch over, in conjunction with other bodies of government.

In Mexico and Costa Rica there are structures with plans dedicated to the rescue of traditions, focused on national products and food education. In Costa Rica, cooking schools instruct chefs how to become better teachers. In Thailand they went really deep, they have something called the NFI (National Food Institute). It’s a center that dedicates itself to the scientific and cultural advancements of their gastronomy. They have taught the street vendors to refrigerate their meats, held them to taxation and given them a basic protocol. They offer quality badges for restaurants outside of Thailand with a gold, silver, and bronze leaf ranking. They’ve measured the amount of distinct chemical compounds in traditional dishes, not just nutritious ones, but palpable ones too, such as aromatic and flavor compounds respective to each dish. They train foreign chefs in a 3-step program on the history, techniques, and recipes of Thailand. They have an app for foreigners called Thai Street Food which helps you recognize different dishes/foodstuffs along with its pronunciation so if you’re not too good with languages, you just press the button and the vendor will know what you want. It’s really impressive when you see what other countries are doing, but you can’t help but recognize what you lack in your own.

So in short, we need to educate ourselves, and whatever we learn we have to share. It’s the only way we can really help people understand. A fact given by PromPeru at the convention was that 68% of the population thinks that we made it as a gastronomic powerhouse and 32% feels like we’ve done nothing. There’s an 88% that believes that gastronomic culture is important for tourism but it still needs work. One of our worst enemies right now could be to believe that Peru has made it, that we’re in the winners circle.

We have to desire advancement and we have to educate those who may not know what our reality is about. Only then would we have really ‘made it’.

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