Born in Lima, Peru, ‘the godfather of Peruvian cuisine’ Ricardo Zarate is synonymous with indigenous South American foods. Immaculately executed and fused with his underlying passion, drive and kitchen ingenuity, Zarate’s cuisine has earned him widespread critical acclaim and praise from media and consumers alike.
The second youngest of 13 siblings, Zarate grew up in a shoebox-shaped cement house with a tin roof, typical to Lima in the 1970s and ‘80s. From a large family, Zarate frequently helped in the family kitchen, learning technique from his mother and grandmother, whom he credits as his biggest influences.
By age 17, Zarate yearned to be in the kitchen full time, enrolling in his hometown culinary school, Instituto de las Américas, and going on to form what would become the foundations of his Peruvian influence.
Upon graduating, Zarate headed to London to practice his craft in a new culture, working for 12 years at notable restaurants including One Aldwych and Zuma. It was here that his passion for new foods and ingredients grew. Zarate began to draw inspiration from Japanese, Chinese and European flavors, still prominent in his cooking today.
In 2009 Zarate headed to Los Angeles, opening Mo-chica, Downtown at Mercado la Paloma. Housed in a cultural center designed to showcase local creativity to the broader community, the restaurant was soon followed by pop-up restaurant, Test Kitchen, where Zarate offered consumers a new dining experience weekly from a rotating roster of high profile guest chefs.
With Zarate’s cuisine beginning to shape a large following, in 2011 Zarate introduced the modern Peruvian cantina, Picca. A critical success, it was recognized as one of the GQ ‘best new restaurants’ and a Conde Nast Traveler ‘Hot Table’, all within one year of opening. It was also in this year that Zarate was named the prestigious honor of Food & Wine ‘Best New Chef’.
In April 2013, Zarate opened Paiche, a Japanese izakaya-style Peruvian seafood restaurant located in Marina Del Rey, consequently named one of Esquire’s ‘Best New Restaurants’. In the same year, Zarate also expanded to Santa Barbara, opening Blue Tavern, a quintessential Californian fare driven restaurant, seen through the eyes of a native Peruvian leader.
In 2014, Zarate sought a new project, splitting from his partners at all restaurants, and pursuing authorship of his first cookbook ‘The Fire of Peru’. In the summer of 2015, in the lead up to the book’s launch, Zarate opened the pop-up Once, based at Santino’s in Santa Monica. Soon after, ‘The Fire of Peru’ debuted in October, aiming to guide consumers to try the food of Zarate’s country. With a wealth of flavors and dishes to explore, Zarate accredits the book to the ‘Peruvian home cooks’, including his mother, ‘who we should all be thankful for’.
Zarate's latest project, Rosaliné, will open in spring of 2017 with classic Peruvian dishes alongside ‘street-food’ fare updated with a California sensibility; Zarate will include small bites, placing an emphasis on grilled vegetables and dishes highlighting both land and sea. The streamlined menu will use a traditional Josper oven with open charcoal grill; infusing ingredients with smoky, rich, earthy flavors and spices, prominent in South American cuisine.
Excited to bring back his love of Peruvian food to the Los Angeles dining scene, Chef Zarate says, “With people from many different cultural backgrounds, a true mezcla, the energy in Los Angeles you can feel in the air. I’m ready to explore the next phase of Peruvian dining. Taking it back to its roots, this restaurant comes from the Peruvian home cooks, the creators and history of my food, the people who are my inspiration daily.”