Jesus Delgado, executive chef of Tanta in Chicago, maintains a simple and traditional food philosophy, letting the flavors of his ingredients shine. Collaborating with well-known South American Chef Gastón Acurio, Delgado focuses on iconic Peruvian flavors, particularly in cebiches and other seafood-centric plates, created with fresh fish delivered daily at the restaurant. Delgado also crafts lamb, beef, and poultry dishes which highlight the multiculturalism and biodiversity of his native country. “I hope that every one of Tanta’s guests has a one-of-a-kind experience,” he says. “Peruvian cuisine is so inviting andintriguing, with influences from the Pacific Ocean through the Amazon and up to the Andes. At Tanta, our guests can explore all that Peru has to offer, without needing a passport.”
Delgado studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Lima before attending the University of San Martin De Porres, where he earned a degree in hospitality and tourism in 2002. Upon graduation, Delgado was associated with several Chinese- and Japanese-influenced restaurants in Lima before landing at Acurio’s La Mar Cebicheria in 2007 as a line cook. By 2011, Delgado had worked his way up to cebiche chef at La Mar. “I learned from my time working under Chef Acurio that simplicity is the best philosophy,” Delgado says. “When you keep that in mind, you can bring together flavors across food cultures that appeal to everyone.”
Symrise: We’re pleased that you’re participating in Sabor in America and are eager to hear about your heritage and how it has influenced your cuisine. Can you share something about your background with us?
Chef Delgado: I was born and raised in Peru and I believe that the biggest influence in my life comes from my Chinese heritage. I grew up watching my grandfather and father in the family’s small market in Lima. They were incredible cooks and they used a lot of Chinese ingredients such as soy sauce, Chinese vegetables, and oyster sauce. There’s definitely an Asian influence. The Peruvian cuisine served at Tanta includes Japanese sashimi, Peruvian style, so you also see this bicultural influence in our line of tiraditos, a kind of cebiche, and in the distinctive ways we have created many of our entrees.
S: How strongly do you feel connected to your country or heritage?
CD: I feel a very strong connection with my Peruvian roots. My family still lives in Peru, including my two sons, and they are probably the biggest reason I still connect so much with the country. I do have important memories from my boyhood and these, along with my early exposure to Peru’s distinct melting pot culture and cuisine, really drove me to become a chef. I want to do my part to share Peru’s cuisine here at Tanta where am able to highlight the multiculturalism and biodiversity of my homeland.
S: How do you think Latinos are influencing
the American food scene today?
CD: I think that as Latinos, we demonstrate what is special about our culture through our food. The fact that people are becoming more and more open about trying new foods and drinks and exploring other cultures makes it even easier to share our food, its ingredients and the styles used in preparing meals that are new to them.
S: What do you see as some new and trending Latino ingredients and flavors that are popping up in mainstream US cuisine?
CD: Well, it’s clear that Latino type grains such as quinoa/kiwicha have caught on as well. We serve a quinoa polenta with our braised lamb specialty at Tanta that is very popular. Then there are the potato varieties we use – purple and yellow – a departure from what is more familiar. Peruvian cuisine features potatoes in many delicious and novel recipes. Hispanic chilies have become commonplace – now you see all kinds of chilies like aji amarillo, rocotto and aji limo. Chilies are widely accepted by mainstream consumers. I think the tastes of beef heart, pork belly, tripe stew and fried guinea pig may be a turn-off as of now. But when US travelers visit Peru and are adventurous enough to try these foods – well,
who knows? You might find these on menus in the US restaurants some day.
Check back next week for Part 2 of our interview with Chef Delgado!
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