Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine
Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine | Foto: Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine

Chef Victoriano López: Peru in Every Bite

Por: Edward Rueda

25, May, 2022 en Business Concept

Chef Victoriano López: Peru in Every Bite

For more than two decades, Chef Victoriano López has been a champion of Peruvian cuisine. His work at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana and Jaranita Peruvian Rotisserie takes the colorful plates of his home, melding the traditions with technique and creativity, and shares them with the world.

Interview by Kaye Cloutman

Words by Timothy Diao

Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine
Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine

Lifting the veil behind the world of a chef has become an interesting shift in the industry. The kitchen, which was once a place of guarded recipes and techniques, has now opened its doors to the world. Chefs are on social media talking about their favorite produce farmers or on TV shows showcasing the recipes for their signature dishes. We could thank technology and the changes in media consumption and self-branding, or we could also credit it to creatives and craftspeople simply finding their voice to proudly share their inner workings and thought processes to the world.

The latter is how you would describe Chef Victoriano López’s YouTube Channel, La Cocina de Victoriano. At the height of the global pandemic in 2020, Chef Victoriano and his two daughters began posting cooking videos where he walked the audience through recipes for various Peruvian dishes. He starts the videos with a warm greeting and a little shimmy, explaining what recipe he’s preparing and swiftly jumping into the cooking. It’s easy enough to follow—even if you’re a novice cook or don’t speak Spanish fluently. Whether it’s his charisma and gusto in front of the camera or the colorful Peruvian food he prepares, La Cocina de Victoriano drew in an audience of over 188,000 subscribers and 2.9 million views for their most popular video (a Cebiche Classico recipe, of course.)

The variety of recipes for traditional Peruvian dishes showcase the diverse ingredients that the country produces. Peru is a melting pot of cuisines with cooking methods influenced by the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and more. The dishes in his videos may look rustic and homey, but he moves with confidence and authority—slicing vegetables and aromatics with precise technique, firing up a wok and cooking beef tips to tender perfection, and explaining every step without missing a beat—that is honed by experience.

Chef Victoriano’s upbringing in the Ancash region of Peru influenced his craft and he’s proud to bring more than two decades of culinary experience and love for Peruvian cuisine to La Mar and Jaranita in San Francisco.

Chef Victoriano has been working in the kitchen since the early 90s. Initially, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life when he moved from his hometown of Huaraz to Lima, Peru. Serendipitously, his first job led him to his lifelong passion. “My first job was cooking for 2000 people in a mining camp, where I had to chop 200 kilos of onions for ceviche by hand. I think that is where I discovered my passion for cooking,” shares Chef Victoriano.

His stint as a cebichero led him to work as a cook, learning classic techniques and dishes. In 1995 he joined Chef Gastón Acurio at his Astrid & Gastón restaurant as a kitchen assistant. “Ever since, I have been working with the Acurio Restaurantes Group. I never went to culinary school to learn how to cook,” he shares. “Everything I am now is thanks to the opportunity of being part of Astrid and Gastón Acurio’s team. As I always say, they have been and will be my culinary school.”

From Lima to San Francisco, Chef Victoriano is now the Corporate Executive Chef of Acurio Restaurantes’ La Mar Cebicheria Peruana and Executive Chef of Jaranita Peruvian Rotisserie. He joined the vibrant seaside restaurant in 2015, where he curates Peruvian classics and favorites made with his unique touch and love for sea-to-table cooking. With branches in Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Miami, Florida; and San Francisco, California, La Mar has catapulted itself into the fifteenth spot in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. He opened Jaranita at the end of January 2021, bringing succulent rotisserie chicken roasted over a custom-built grill to the Marina District in San Francisco, amongst other Peruvian dishes.

Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine
Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine

Highlighting the rich Peruvian food culture has always been at the heart of Gastón Arcurio and Arcurio Restaurantes group. He and his wife, Astrid Gutsche, started with Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru. Influenced by their studies at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, the restaurant began with a menu of classic French dishes. However, as time went by, they slowly worked with what Peruvian culture has to offer: diverse ingredients, varied techniques, and familiar recipes elevated to a level of world recognition. The group now operates with a portfolio of over forty-five restaurants, nine different brands, and across eleven countries, but what ties all of these ventures together is Peruvian cuisine at its core.

After over two decades of working with the Arcurio Restaurantes group, Chef Victoriano shares the passion for championing Peruvian gastronomy and its beautiful dishes with the world.

“As a chef, my specialty is Peruvian cuisine. I like working with fish and seafood. I never stop doing something different. And La Mar Cebicheria Peruana is just that, a symphony of the sea and mountains.”

He elaborates on his love for the cuisine and his drive to propel it to global recognition.

“Just like me, many Peruvian chefs are working so that our culture reaches far through our food. To ensure we achieve that, I keep La Mar Cabicheria Peruana and Jaranita SF (a Peruvian rotisserie venture under the Arcurio Restaurantes group) competitive. I have a team of chefs who think almost the same or even better than me. They guarantee the taste, quality, service, and more.”

Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine
Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine

Driven by Dedication

“One of the advantages of running a restaurant is the freedom to create new dishes and showcase your own experience as a leader,” explains Chef Victoriano of the perks of his role at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Creating newness in a storied dish can be intimidating. “The most difficult part of creating a dish is imagining what ingredients you want to use or how to build a delicious dish that represents Peruvian cuisine and its indigenous flavors,” he elaborates.

Chef Victoriano and his team keep in mind that improvement and change are vital to growing in this very competitive industry. “We work with new techniques and more artistic presentations for the dishes on our menu while maintaining and respecting the original flavors of the traditional dishes.”

As a Corporate Executive Chef, Chef Victoriano loves “eating, creating new dishes, flavors, and textures, and having the freshest, seasonal produce in the kitchen.” But most of all, he enjoys it when customers tell him that their food and experience at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana was amazing and that his team is motivated to give each service their all. “It’s very rewarding for everyone, and it makes the whole team happy—not just me,” he continues. “We work hard to please a lot of people in our restaurants. We are a team of more than 100 employees (45 in the kitchen and the rest are the front-of-the-house staff). We also serve an average of 700 people a day. Keeping our team inspired is complicated but not impossible, and we do everything we can to keep them motivated and guarantee a good service from all of us.”

Beyond perfecting every plate served at the restaurant, Chef Victoriano also sees his responsibility in ensuring the business is profitable and meets its set projections.

Aside from his creative, culinary, and corporate duties, Chef Victoriano also recognizes the personal sacrifices he made through the years.

Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine
Chef Victoriano López, Peru in Every Bite for MESA & BAR Magazine

“Being a cook is not easy as many think, but you love your job and try to organize yourself in the best way possible. I have faced many challenges in my career. I have worked overtime and sacrificed being with my family or going on vacations and holidays. But in the end, there is always a reward,” Chef Victoriano shares.

As a husband and father, Chef Victoriano sees his children’s achievements as motivation for his work. “Seeing that my children are studying at university and becoming professionals is my greatest joy. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to university, but my children did, and it’s because of my sacrifice and dedication as a cook.”

When asked what advice he’d like to share with aspiring chefs, Chef Victoriano responds with an honest and practical answer. “If they have discovered their passion for cooking, young cooks should, as much as they can, continue learning because growing one’s knowledge in cooking has no limits. In addition, being a cook is not like any profession, being an effective chef requires discipline, organization, honesty, passion, imagination and creativity, and most of all, valuing equality and diversity of backgrounds. It’s not just about cooking well. It’s also knowing how to cost food, manage work, and understand how a restaurant works.”

Whether it’s in front of the camera or developing the menu for La Mar Cebicheria Peruana and Jaranita Peruvian Rotisserie, or commanding its buzzing kitchen, Chef Victoriano López is the same person: joyously in love with the kitchen, a meticulous and hardworking leader, and a true champion Peruvian gastronomy.