The “treasure” of a chef engaged in civic activities for the rebirth of his country.
A pretty face and a contagious smile. When you look at him, Palmiro Ocampo does not hide his young age: 32 years old, to be exact. Yet, if you read his CV, you would be left speechless - Ocampo has an impressive wealth of experience despite being such a young professional. He is not only the chef in charge of the 1087 Bistro in Lima, Peru. He is also an activist, a university professor, a speaker and a good example to the gastronomic and humanitarian movement that is helping Peru out of a difficult situation.
Palmiro Ocampo è peruviano doc, nasce nella capitale Lima e a 16 anni è già cuoco. Inizia presto a viaggiare per il mondo per sublimare la sua professione: la tecnica la acquisisce in giro per l’Europa tra Celler de Can Roca, Evo, Mugaritz in Spagna e Paesi Baschi, Macelleria Cecchini in Italia, Atelier de Joel Rebuchon a Parigi, Noma e Geranium a Copenaghen; la tradizione la impara tornato a Lima, lavorando in uno dei ristoranti più famosi della città.
And yet: “Do you want to know who my real mentor is? My father”, Palmiro will tell you. “He comes from a small village in the Andes. He has taught me many things and, in particular, the medicinal and curative value of plants". But also Virgilio Martinez, founder of the new generation of Peruvian chefs that we mentioned here represents, for him, an example, and is today a colleague and a guide with whom he shares many ideas and social, culinary and environmental initiatives to guide Peru towards its rebirth.
Their work is big, with a network which boasts the participation of important chefs, such as Diego Muñoz (executive chef of Gaston Acurio) and Jaime Pesaque (chef of Mayta in Lima). “Before being chefs, we are human beings”. And so, the members of this network have developed a strong sensitivity to the problems of a country such as Peru. A land that is very rich culturally, but not economically.
“There cannot be fine dining in a country where poverty and hunger are the norm. It is a contradiction, an imbalance”. These reflections have helped Palmiro Ocampo to understand the importance of his role: teaching people how to make better use of food resources, even in a difficult situation, is the key to helping his country. And so he began teaching his innovative ideas in cooking schools, until he arrived at the prestigious Universidad de San Ignacio, one of the best in Peru, where today he teaches a cooking class to show young students how to reduce waste and maximize the yield of the ingredients. The reason? “If they start doing it now, it will be their philosophy of work in the future. I would say that it is a long-term investment”.
He was a student too and he saw with his own eyes the amount of waste produced every day in a kitchen, the same eyes that have seen the lack of resources that afflicts Peru. Perfect cuts and shapes, but at what price? This is the real motivation behind his decision to found Ccori Ccori, “treasure” in the native Quechuan language: a non-profit organisation committed to providing people with the right knowledge to optimise food resources, especially in those areas of the country where they are really scarce, promoting a cuisine based on the creative use of ingredients, using all edible parts.
Needless to say, Ocampo goes further: he applies this philosophy to fine dining, within the walls of his own restaurant. We could say it's a long shot in a context where raw materials must be carefully selected. Launched less than a year ago, the 1087 Bistro, a restaurant with the allure of a speakeasy with its intimate spaces and relaxed atmosphere, has on its menu skilfully prepared dishes, mostly using humble ingredients but without sacrificing taste. “I use all parts of the ingredients and every day I discover new and unusual flavours and textures”.
And he is the future: “I'm young, I know, but I think much about the future because it affects all of us as the planet on which we live is in danger. That's the reason I teach food recycling techniques: I want people to become sensitive to what goes on around them”. Did you think that was all? Of course not: Ocampo is also the man behind Mistura, one of the most important gastronomy conventions in South America, where every year they discuss issues of importance for the development of Peru and all of Latin America.
Because the chefs of today are much more than the mere cooks of the past: influential figures, able to carry out movements and revolutions, they reinvent cuisine as a powerful way to convey messages of awareness, which are now more important than ever. And Palmiro Ocampo knows this well.
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