JUAN ANDRES GARCIA

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"I love eating ceviche, I enjoy making it."

Fotografía de INTERVIEWS WITH OUR CHEFS

 

What made you want to become a chef?

I got my taste for pots, pans and new flavours from home. Particularly, from my grandmother's kitchen - her domain, where nobody else was allowed while she cooked. 

Well, I was the exception, but that took some time to achieve, a full-on process (me at 6 or 7 years old). Once this process of obtaining my grandmother's trust (just observing her) had been achieved, she finally let me cook. Little by little this desire to keep on learning beyond just what I learnt from my grandmother led to me deciding to study a degree.

 

What is your first memory of a dish that made you dream?

Undoubtedly El Ceviche. The first time I tried it was thanks to my dad. It delighted my palate, the mixture of acidic lemon, fresh fish, spice, sweet potato, crunchy corn. It is still my favourite dish.

 

Who has influenced you in your cooking style or philosophy?

Peruvian cuisine is in my blood, it was the first thing I wanted to learn. The first 6 years of my career, I worked in El Señorio de Sulco, a restaurant specialising in traditional Peruvian cuisine, run by Isabel Alvarez and Flavio Solórzano. They taught me my cooking style, and how to value, recognise, respect and prepare it.

 

What inspires you? or Where does your inspiration come from?

What normally inspires me to create new dishes is the raw materials and their particularities. I delight in trying things I don't know and seeing how they react in the preparations I make.

That’s the basis for creating my menu, which I renew every 5 months.

 

What is your favourite culinary method or technique?

I love a live flame, which is why I choose the griddle, grill or barrel grill. 

 

What is your favourite ingredient?

Quinoa, for sure.


What is your favourite cooking utensil?

A knife and tongs.

 

What material do you prefer for your pans and saucepans?

Stainless steel and cast iron.

 

What would you like to change about the cooking schools?

That learning is focused first and foremost on one's own culture, before later learning about what comes from further afield.

And secondly, thanks to this gastronomic boom, many schools opened their doors in the face of student demand, but unfortunately, all they are doing is cheating their pupils charging much less at the cost of having no teaching criteria. This needs to stop. Every country needs cooks who represent their cuisine, who are genuinely ready to start work in renowned restaurants and, above all, to set up on their own. Equally, I have to applaud those schools which work conscientiously.

 

Your advice for young chefs?

Like any other career, it is plagued with difficulties. But you have to be PERSISTENT. In my case, I won the recoto de oro in the Best Young Chef competition at the Mistura (Peru fair in 2012), but to achieve this, I had participated 3 times: first, I came in among the 5 finalists; in the next one, I came second because I made a mistake; and the third time, I won. In other words, if I hadn't kept going, I think everything I have achieved to date would not have been possible.

 

What do you look for when you hire someone for your restaurant?

The key is that they are very keen to learn and teach. That way the philosophy of my kitchen is maintained. I have loads to teach them, but equally a lot to learn from each member of my team. Next comes experience as a cook. 

What I mean to say is that you can be the most experienced chef in the world but have zero desire to learn or teach, so I won't hire you. But a newly graduated cook may come along and be very keen to learn and teach and they will absolutely be welcome.

 

How do you motivate your team?

In cooking, all proposals or creations of new tastes or dishes are welcome from anybody in the team. This means research is ongoing and everyone is always motivated to achieve new things.

 

What would you like to change in the catering industry?

Honesty is a value that everyone should have. In catering, we need to be honest with our customers, what we serve and offer them. Many people don't take this into account, and it is a pity that these poor habits continue to spread. 

 

What do you do when you have difficult guests?

I try to change the awkwardness into something else. If that doesn't work, depending on the situation, I'll wait for the customer to calm down so we can have a conversation in order to understand the problem.

 

Where do you like to get away to relax?

Any time I get home after a good long day, a beer relaxes me. 

 

What pushes you to keep on going?

Recognition makes you feel good, but you don't work for that. In my case, no, that only comes when you make the effort. It helps me know I am learning more things, that I can be better  that motivates me every day. 

 

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?

I love eating ceviche, I enjoy making it, I think I've made it in 100 different ways and prepared it 5,000 times. I can say I know this dish like the back of my hand. It makes me proud of myself.

 

What is your favourite restaurant?

One belonging to a good friend in Lima, Don Fernando, North Peruvian cuisine and Virgilio Martínez Central for sure. Here in Chile: 99 restorant.


Which current chef do you most admire and why?

Virgilio Martínez because he is trying to show our gastronomy from a different perspective. This has confused many, but it's very easy to understand. 

 

How do you think restaurants should be classified? 

We all have something different for everyone. I don't feel distinctions should be made for that.

Everyone has their own favourite restaurant