Posted on September 02 2014
When I planned my trip to Peru I searched for culinary programs and the Instituto de Cocina Pachacútec really caught my attention. They are a culinary program that subsidizes 80% of the tuition for young Peruvian students. When I communicated with the coordinator regarding my trip to Peru I knew this would be a volunteer project and I was happy to accept.
The Pachacútec school has four cohorts of 22 students each. Each cohort has a 1,000 applicants but the program can only fund 22 per cohort. (FYI, any of you can probably fund a cohort). The program is partly supported by the Gaston Acurio culinary enterprise. Chefs from his restaurants volunteer to teach the students. The cohort that I taught was near the end of their program and did not get the opportunity to have a chocolate section … making my visit even more important. Pachacútec is in the desert; an hour drive northwest of Lima. There is sand everywhere and I was lucky enough to miss the sand storms.
Given the culinary global fame that Peru has acquired in the last few years it strikes me that there is not more support for programs like this one. Restaurants need the trained staff and Le Cordon Bleu (also in Peru) is not feasible for most Peruvians.
I can tell these students have worked very hard to be here. Physically, some of these students take a combination of public transportation for 2 hours to get here. One girl was sitting outside looking through the window and I asked if she was from another class and they said she arrived late and no one is allowed in class if late. I will always put my money on students that have come from poor or difficult upbringings because they have more fight in them. And most of the time they are exposed to a culinary world that most of us do not see.
The students were very excited for the class, none of them had ever tasted American chocolate. We did a tasting and they were so good at pin pointing flavor profiles in the different bars. At 18-20yrs old I would have never been able to taste the flavor profiles they found. At some point I was left out of the discussion because some bars reminded them of fruits that I had never tasted. Which makes sense. In America we say raisin, pineapple, honey, grapefruit, orange, caramel, etc. So boring. There are flavors in Peru, in the sierra that have more similar profiles to these bars than what we describe, we just don’t have the capacity to say.
It is always inspiring to engage with young students who come from “disadvantaged” communities because in the end they seem to have the biggest advantage.
A student suggested I make a Suspiro Limeño with chocolate, Lima’s most famous and ubiquitous dessert. In his honor, here is the recipe.