Peruvian chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s exceptional talents in the kitchen have not only earned him celebrity status as a judge on Masterchef Peru, but have also gained his restaurant, Maido, the title of the second best restaurant in the whole of Latin America.
The restaurant, based in Lima, serves Tsumara’s take on Nikkei – a hybrid of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. It is widely regarded as the best restaurant in Lima and in Peru as a whole. The restaurant celebrates its 7th year in business this year and has grown from just 18 employees when it started to an extensive team of 65 people, all working together to provide the best gourmet experience.
We asked Tsumura about how his career as a chef and consequent success materialized. He explained that while at first he never considered it as a career, he had always loved cooking from a young age, and thinks it’s something he inherited from his grandmother who was also an excellent cook.
“When I was a child I used to love helping in the kitchen whenever I could, for me it was really enjoyable and it became my main hobby. As I grew older I continued to love cooking and I became really good at it – it was my talent”
Although it soon became clear that he had natural skills when it came to cooking, Tsumaru explained that it never crossed his mind that it could lead to a career, until his father made the suggestion.
“I used to always cook for friends and family as often as I could, entertaining with barbecues, Peruvian food, Japanese food, and all sorts. One day my father asked me if I had thought about cooking being more than just a hobby and persuaded me that I could make a career out of it”
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From then on Tsumaru dedicated his time to becoming a chef, and spent four years studying the culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. During this time he decided that he wanted to go back to his Japanese roots and open up his own restaurant, so he went to Osaka in Japan to learn the special Nikkei cooking techniques that would help him achieve his dream. Shortly after returning, he opened Maido, which was to become the source of great success, not only as a restaurant, but earning himself such high status among the chef community that he has appeared as a judge on Masterchef Peru.
The chef explained that for anyone wanting to follow the same career path, it’s really important to know what you are getting yourself into. Many people see celebrity chefs on TV and think it is a really easy way to earn fame and fortune, but this is not the case.
“You have to choose a career as a chef because it’s what you love to do, not because you think it’s an easy path to follow. If you don’t have a true passion for cooking, you won’t get very far, because a career in this business can be tough”
“I almost gave up myself once. When I was in Japan perfecting my skills, it got so hard at one point I felt like walking away. If I didn’t have the drive and passion to carry on, I wouldn’t have reached this point in my career”
As well as choosing to be a chef for the right reasons, Tsumaru explained that it’s also important to gain as much experience as possible in order to prepare yourself for the career. Start cooking and experimenting at home as much as possible, and when you’re old enough start working in a kitchen to gain work experience.
Every chef has a hero, and for Tsumaru his inspirations have come from such a variety of places that he finds it impossible to choose just one. However, he credits French Chef Michel Bras as one of them, a master when it comes to culinary creativity, and also Japanese Yoshihiro Murata, who is known for his modern twists on traditional kaiseki cuisine.
When it comes to his favorite food however, he doesn’t stray from his home country.
“I love North Peruvian cooking, for me it’s some of the best. Dishes like Arroz con Pato, Ceviche, and Majado de Yuca are some personal favorites”
Latin American cuisine differs from country to country – each place has characteristics that make it unique. For Peru, it is the multicultural influences which make it stand out from the rest. Not only from Europe and Africa, but mainly Asia, notably in dishes such as Lomo Saltado and Pulpo a la Parilla.
“The strong Asian influence is really what makes Peruvian cuisine differ from other Latin American industries. Every house in Peru has soy sauce in the cupboard!”
Tsumaru’s restaurant Maido perfectly represents this influence, serving the best Nikkei food in the country. To find out more visit http://www.maido.pe/en/index.php, and be sure to see Tsumaru’s and other expert recommendations in Latin America in TheBesty app.