Imagine walking through a local market with a chef who owns one of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” tasting different produce, and learning how to make one of his signature dishes. Now, imagine experiencing that in one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world: the Peruvian Amazon. While the idea may seem farfetched, the possibility is not. Aqua Amazon, a luxury boutique boat that cruises along the Peruvian Amazon River for three to seven nights at a time, is offering “Chef-Hosted Departures” with its consulting chef onboard, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Malabar in Lima. Here, Schiaffino tells us more about his exclusive, upcoming venture aboard the Aqua Amazon, and shares one of his recipes.
The Daily Meal: There’s been quite a trend towards improving culinary experiences onboard ships — why did you choose to get involved with Aqua Expeditions?
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino: When Francesco [Zugaro, founder and CEO of Aqua Expeditions] came to me, it was a good opportunity to continue researching and developing my own cuisine. It’s also a good opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with our guests.
What are the challenges involved with cooking somewhere as remote as the Amazon? Does this influence the menu?
It does a lot. The logistics and operation of the boats are quite challenging. We’ve been working very hard for nine years to get the right products and to organize the supply chain with the quality standards that we need. It’s a constant learning process.
Are the ingredients based on what’s available at the local markets? How far in advance can you plan the menu?
Ingredients are sourced from all over the Peruvian Amazon, north to south. Locally, we source from Belen market, but also from local villages and indigenous communities. The Amazon is totally seasonal. The seasons are very complex and they vary from one region to another. Climate change also influences the seasons and it makes produce vary from one year to another. Menus are planned and change once a year. There is a master menu and a percentage of its products changes depending on seasons, so we need to have a good knowledge of the seasons.
How often are the chefs able to get to the markets to pick up fresh produce?
We source twice a week for both boats. We also source from some villages along the navigation.
Can you tell us more about the Chef-Hosted Departures?
It’s so much fun! We have cooking shows, different demos like cocktail making, the secret of ceviche, and classic Amazonian cooking techniques. There’s also special tastings of local exotic fruits, cocoa and chocolate, pisco cocktails, and indigenous foods. We share videos, books, and a ton of information and knowledge. We also visit markets and, if it’s possible, we visit one of the villages [that] produce for us.
What’s your favorite Peruvian ingredient to cook with? Why?
Chile peppers. They are the soul of our food. I can’t imagine Peruvian food without chile.
Can you share one of your signature recipes that you’ll be making during the chef hosted departures?
When to go: The three-, four-, or seven-night departures take place from November 26 to December 3, 2016.
How to get there: LAN offers direct flights from New York to Lima, and direct flights from Lima to Iquitos, where guests will be collected from the airport by Aqua Expeditions.