Young chef competition to drive Peruvian super food usage in the UK
Peru 2017 Young Chef of the Year competitors perform for judges in the kitchen.

Young chef competition to drive Peruvian super food usage in the UK

Gill McShane

Chef Virgilio Martínez, owner of Central Restaurante in Peru

A competition for UK-based young chefs and student chefs to win training at some of the most highly regarded Peruvian restaurants in Lima, Peru, and in London has been launched by the Peru Trade & Investment Office in the UK

With the popularity of Peruvian cuisine continuing to rise among consumers and the increasing availability of Peruvian ingredients in the UK, both the competition organisers and the UK restaurant industry are eager to foster and influence the next generation of chefs.

The Super Foods Peru Young Chef of the Year 2018 competition is designed to encourage young chefs up to age 25 who are based in the UK to learn about the quality, diversity and availability of Peruvian food in the hope that it will influence their cooking and sourcing decisions in the future.

The initiative has the backing of Central restaurant in Peru, London-based Peruvian restaurant groups Señor Ceviche and LIMA , the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, PromPerú and British Airways.

“As part of our role to promote Peruvian agro-industry exports to the UK market and seizing on the culinary recognition that Peru has obtained, we feel it is the right time to promote Peruvian gastronomy and ingredients directly to the new era of British young chefs under the ‘Super Foods Peru’ brand,” Jaime Cárdenas, director of the Peru Trade & Investment Office in the UK, tells PBUK.

Señor Ceviche executive head chef Mark Morrans also believes the competition can play a role in helping to bridge the current skills gap in the UK hospitality industry.

“This competition is a good opportunity to get more student chefs interested in Peruvian food and also food in general, and to provide some mentoring,” he comments to PBUK.

“There’s a massive shortage of chefs in England, and it’s difficult to find people, especially in London. The big message I want to get across to young chefs is that it’s possible for them to explore and specialise in different cuisines. I’m South African and I’ve never been to Peru, yet I’m the executive chef of two Peruvian restaurants.” 

Morrans, who used to work at one of the Nobu (Japanese-Peruvian) restaurants in London, says Peruvian dining is very popular with the eating-out crowd in London because of the diversity it offers.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing cuisines in the world; it’s up there with Japanese and Mexican food,” he explains. “People really like Peruvian food because of how interesting it is. It’s a blend of so many different influences that all work together very well, including Japanese and Spanish cuisines, married with traditional Peruvian ingredients.” 

Cárdenas points out that Peru has been recognised by the World Travel Awards as the top culinary destination in the world for the past six years, while three Peruvian restaurants ranked among The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017.

“Peruvian chefs like Virgilio Martinez, Mitsuharu Tsumura and Gaston Acurio have been recognised as some of the most talented in the world, which has made Peru not just a destination to eat and try new food but also a place to learn from the best culinary minds,” he explains.

“Added to that, fruits and vegetables currently represent 91 per cent of Peru’s total agro-industry exports to the UK market. Peru’s constant innovation in its agro-industries, together with our favoured climates and geographical location, allows us to grow these products for most of the calendar year, which has consolidated Peru as a great and competitive supply partner in this sector.”

Influencing a generation

The new competition will showcase six categories of Peruvian super foods from fruit to fish by challenging entrants to create a Peru-inspired, three-course meal for two people using Peruvian super foods in each course. 

The winner will fly out to Peru to join world-renowned chef, Virgilio Martínez, at his restaurant, Central, for a 10-day apprenticeship, while two runners-up will be offered work placements with London-based Peruvian restaurant groups LIMA and Señor Ceviche.

Ultimately, the organisers hope both the winner and runners-up will have the opportunity to introduce Peruvian dishes and Peruvian products into their work in the UK. 

“In the long term, we would like to make the young chefs [involved in the competition] ambassadors of Peruvian gastronomy in Great Britain,” Cárdenas explains.

“Following their incredible experience working next to top chefs, we hope these young chefs will learn how to apply to modern British cuisine and their own new creations a range of Peruvian ingredients like lúcuma, blueberries, avocados, passionfruit, purple corn and custard apple.

“Hopefully, in the future some of them will create dishes inspired by Peruvian cuisines in their workplaces as a consequence of this experience.”

Morrans at Señor Ceviche is eager to impart onto the next generation of talent entering the kitchen as much of his own knowledge of Peruvian cuisine and its unique cooking style as possible.

“One of the runners-up will get to do some work experience in the kitchen with me,” he notes. “They’ll learn as much as they are willing to learn – we won’t hold back on our training in Peruvian food, ingredients and techniques. In particular, I’d really like to teach others how to make ceviche properly, so it tastes the same every single time.” 

Much to learn

The competition was piloted last year under the banner Young Chef of the Year – Peru, and its winner Farah Smith says she experienced an “unforgettable” experience working at Central in Peru, and visiting Peru’s vibrant food markets. 

During her apprenticeship, Smith says she learnt an “incredible amount” about Peruvian ingredients, and the huge variety of fruits, vegetables and grains available from the South American country.

“Going to Peru is a trip all chefs should consider,” Smith suggests. “I was overwhelmed with how Peruvian gastronomy is growing and developing so rapidly – it’s no wonder Peruvian food is a hit in London. I came across ingredients I had never heard of, let alone cooked with.” 

“Peruvian cooking is so much more in depth. It’s so interesting, and that’s one of the reasons why I got into it.”
— Mark Morrans, Señor Ceviche executive chef

Señor Ceviche executive chef Morrans has been impressed by the Peruvian way of cooking too.

“It really is a completely different schooling, and I think it’s important [as a chef] to continue learning,” he remarks. “For example, in a lot of Western cooking styles you mainly use either a green or a red chilli. In Peruvian cooking, you can use a variety of chillies that are for flavour, rather than just heat. 

“Peruvian cooking is so much more in depth. It’s so interesting, and that’s one of the reasons why I got into it.”

Peruvian cuisine is one of the most varied in the world, claims Cárdenas at the Peru Trade & Investment Office in the UK. 

“It’s a reflection of Peru’s three main geographical zones – the coast, the Andean highlands and the jungle, and an incorporation of influences from different times and cultures,” he points out.

“Each region and town in the country has its own cuisine and culinary treasures, depending on the geography and climate that provide different ingredients native to each area. 

“We encourage all entrants to explore Peruvian super foods, cooking traditions and techniques to help inspire their creations and demonstrate an understanding of Peruvian flavours.” 

Entry requirements

To take part in the Super Foods Peru Young Chef of the Year 2018 competition, entrants must first create a three-course meal for two people using Peruvian super foods in each course. Details of the ingredients, the method and a colour photograph for each dish must be provided.

“Students will need to research the vast ingredients Peru has to offer, to help to inspire their dishes, and also to develop their knowledge of the cuisine,” Cárdenas adds. 

Each course must feature any of the super foods from the following six categories: super fruits, super herbs, super roots, super vegetables, super grains and super fish. 

Entrants must use a different super food in each course. Since some of these ingredients can be difficult to source fresh, there is the option to use their dried, liquid, frozen or powdered forms.

The fruits featured in the super fruits category are: blueberries, table grapes, mango, pomegranate, sweet passionfruit, soursop, cherimoya, lúcuma, tangerine, avocado, camu camu and golden berries (physalis).

The super vegetables include: asparagus and artichoke. Herbs: muña and Cat’s claw, while super roots are sweet potato, yuca, yacon, maca and mesquite.

The Peru Trade & Investment Office in the UK has created two websites with further information:



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