Why cuisine is working as a social tool for change in Peru

Star chef Ferran Adrià has teamed up with a Peruvian colleague to make a documentary The film charts the stories of some of the 80,000 culinary students in the country

Ferran Adria (r) and Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio (l) during a press conference in Lima.
Ferran Adria (r) and Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio (l) during a press conference in Lima.ERNESTO BENAVIDES (AFP)

"Young people in Peru don't dream of being soccer players, they dream of being chefs." Those were the words of Ferran Adrià in 2011, when his friend and fellow chef Gastón Acurio introduced him to the gastronomic wonders of a country with more than 80,000 culinary students, and where cooking is an engine of economic and social progress.

That fascination led the two chefs to take a journey around the markets, kitchens and agricultural areas of Peru - the coast, the mountains and the Amazon were just a few of the stops on a gastro-tour that was all captured on video. The impact of the resulting documentary is sufficiently great for it to have been presented on Monday at the United Nations by its stars and narrators.

Perú sabe: la cocina como arma social (or, Peru knows: cuisine as a social weapon), written and directed by Jesús María Santos, lasts 71 minutes and has been produced by Media Networks and Tensacalma. It will be broadcast by Plus TV in Peru, by Univisión in the United States, and by Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) in Europe.

According to Adrià, the chef behind the world-famous elBulli restaurant, Peruvian cuisine "is an example for the rest of Latin America and the world," and is "a way of expressing culture." The content of the documentary is a "hymn to optimism, and offers hope in today's difficult world," Adrià told news agency Efe in New York on Monday.

Before its international launch at the UN, the documentary was screened in Lima, where Adrià and Acurio inaugurated a new course dedicated to waiting tables and service, at the Pachacútec culinary school. The academy was founded by Acurio, who has risen to almost rock-star status in Peru, and is often described as the country's answer to British chef and star of the small screen Jamie Oliver.

The Pachacútec school is for young, disadvantaged students, and some of them have had their stories documented in the film,

Optimism, tenacity, creativity and innovation are the key ingredients in the message that Adrià wants to get across to the young chefs in Latin America. The Spaniard also believes that Colombia will be the next place where cuisine will have a positive socio-economic influence, as has happened in Peru.

As is the case with Adrià, Acurio has signed a four-year strategic agreement with Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, which will see him working on social integration projects via gastronomy and technology.

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