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Best New Chefs

Ricardo Zarate

2011 Best New Chef Award Profile
Ricardo Zarate

video Video Best New Chef Ricardo Zarate.

video Video Ricardo Zarate describes what it means to be named a Best New Chef.

Born 1973; Lima, Peru.

Education Instituto de las Américas, Lima, Peru.

Experience Axis at One Aldwych, Mju and Zuma, London; Sai Sai, Los Angeles; Wabi-Sabi, Venice, CA.

How he got into the food business Cooking for his 12 brothers and sisters. "I enjoyed every part of it. I remember posting a menu on the fridge when I was about 12, so my family could see it. I was very proud of it. The menu was based on traditional Peruvian dishes, like chanfaina (an organ meat stew, often made with beef lung and potatoes) and of course lomo saltado (marinated steak and potatoes). I used to go to my friends' houses so I could learn new recipes from their moms."

Why he went to London "For many years, I dreamed about leaving Peru to go to Europe to learn how to cook. When I was 19, I went to study English and cooking. My first job was as a dishwasher at Benihana. After six months I became the hibachi chef. After two years, I decided to go from one restaurant to another so I could learn as much as possible."

Ingredient Obsession Ají amarillo (a spicy yellow Peruvian chile). "Ají amarillo is for Peruvians what jalapeños are for Mexicans. We use it all the time. I just started serving uni with ají amarillo butter."

Pet peeve "I hate a dirty, messy kitchen. Everything has to be overly clean before, during and after I cook. One time in London, a nighttime prep guy started a fire while using the fryer. Everything was black and dirty. He spent seven hours cleaning it, because he knew I would freak out when I came in. The kitchen looked new by the time he was done."

Favorite childhood dish A dessert called chufla (a soupy rice pudding with chocolate). "I was proud of cooking it for everybody. I would feel like a chef every time I cooked it for my family."

Favorite kitchen tool His Japanese knives. "I love sashimi hocho knives, specifically yanagi ba–style knives" (the thin, long knife used for sashimi).

Favorite cocktail Chilcano De Anís, a drink he had at Malabar in Lima. It's a mix of pisco with anise syrup, fresh ginger and lime.

After-hours hangouts Pho 21 for pho in Koreatown. "For some reason, Koreans make really good pho."

What he'd be if he weren't a chef History teacher.

Chef hero Mark Gregory, chef at Axis at One Aldwych.

Favorite cookbook El Arte de La Cocina Peruana, by Tony Custer. It's also available in English as The Art of Peruvian Cuisine.

Restaurants
Mo-Chica
3655 S. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA, United States
(213) 747-2141
Picca
9575 W. Pio Blvd. Los Angeles, CA, United States
(310) 277-0133
5 recipes by Ricardo Zarate

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