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’.
In summer 2017, Zarate opened Rosaliné on the iconic corner of Melrose and La Cienega in West Hollywood, quickly rising through the ranks of prestigious L.A.-based restaurants. Topping numerous “best of” lists, Rosaliné has earned a spot on award-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s “101 Best Restaurants” list, Thrillist’s “Best New Restaurants in 2017,” and Eater’s “Most Beautiful Restaurants of 2017,” among others.
In 2018, Zarate reincarnated Once, introducing his signature, elevated Peruvian cuisine to the Las Vegas Strip at The Palazzo in Spring 2018. Describing his newest concept, Zarate says, “Once is the new wave of Peruvian cuisine that combines modern Japanese elements with traditional Peruvian staples that I experienced growing up in Lima. It will remind people about the extensive history, not only of Peru, but of the melting pot of cultures that has evolved Peruvian food over centuries.”
In February 2019, Zarate opened Pikoh in West Los Angeles. Inspired by the culinary melting pot of the city, the all-day neighborhood restaurant infuses homestyle American cuisine with Latin, Asian and other international flavors that are “local” to Los Angeles. Zarate’s menu is as eclectic as the city’s culinary footprint and a culmination of his years of collaboration across high-profile kitchens including Mo-Chica, Picca and Rosaliné.