As in its days of glory when it was the capital of a great Empire, Cuzco is a crossroads and a center of the arts. People arrive from all over the world and meet its people and culture. This leads Cuzco to have a somewhat different gastronomy than the rest of Peru as the international influences mix with its strong local traditions.
Among other things, Cuzco claims various institutes of gastronomy that not only train Cuzqueños in professions such as chef, bar tender, and so on, but also contribute to the development of Cuzco’s cuisine as the crossing of many cuisines. To this end they bring the ideas of novo-Andean cuisine –which recognizes how Peru has been enriched by both european and Asian traditions, it own diversity, and the contemporary development of haute cuisine–to fruition in the context of Cuzco traditions.
The Instituto Latino Americano began in Cuzco eight years ago and has grown to be an award winning place of training and innovation. It originally opened in a building next to the Garcialso Stadium, where the main Cuzco soccer team, Cienciano, plays. Both football and formal gastronomy are international trends that have found a strong place in Cuzco.
Now the Institute has moved to a large, multi-story building across from the Wanchaq market, a major source of fresh ingredients for Cuzco.
Recently, the Instituto Latino Americano, inaugurated what is planned to be the first of a whole series of gastronomic festivals. They plan on offering them monthly, beginning this last 21st of January, in the Plaza Túpac Amaru in suburban Wanchaq, just outside of Cuzco’s colonial core and near the University of San Antonio Abad.
The institute trains its students in entrepreneurship and the festival is a way of giving them practical training. They also receive the public in their building on Av. Huayruropata 1209, where they maintain a restaurant called “El Mestizo”. Students can apply there the knowledge they learn in classes as well as become ever more competitive in the demanding field of gastronomy in Cuzco.
The first festival drew large numbers of people continuously throughout the day. Not only did they serve dishes of traditional Cuzqueño food as well as international and national offerings–such as ceviche, solterito de cuchicara, lechón, Mexican tacos, and Lima-style causa,among others, as well as deserts, and cocktails. They also held dance competitions, and various stage performance and games.
As a result, it is not surprising the festival was popular. It will likely continue to draw crowds. As a result, it will become ever more a place which will contribute to the culinary taste of the people of Cuzco and not just to training of people to staff its restaurants. This development of taste is an important part of the proposal of novo-Andean cuisine and the boom of gastronomy. It is not to replace traditional food but to develop it and bring ever more refinement to it through the application of techniques from haute cuisine.
In this way the people of Cuzco can be proud of their fine cuisine, with a great variety of dishes, as well as of their fine chefs trained in institutes like the Latino Americano. Cuzco will continue to develop its quality as a center for the culinary arts.