An Interview with Chef Karime Lopez Moreno Tagle of Lima’s Central Restaurante
The petite and charming Karime Lopez Moreno Tagle, the creative chef at Central Restaurante in Lima that placed fourth on the 2015 Restaurant Magazine's World's 50 Best Restaurants list and first on this year’s Latin American 50 Best Restaurants list, was in the kitchen for the Gelinaz shuffle last week assisting guest chef Carlo Mirarchi from Blanca in New York. The Gelinaz! Shuffle, a food event in which 37 chefs exchanged kitchens and lives while traveling to undisclosed locations around the world was the first of its kind since the inception of Gelinaz in 2005. Founded by Andrea Petrini and Fulvio Pierangelini, they refer to it as a collective culinary entity comprising a select group of cutting edge chefs who constantly push forward the boundaries of cuisine while exchanging knowledge and culture. Past events in Ghent, Lima, and New York have left guests with memories of the organized chaos and unforgettable tastes like Massimo Bottura's octopus dessert served at Huacca Pucllana, the adobe pyramid complex in Lima, in the early hours of the morning in 2013. Chef Tagle is certainly a Gelinaz veteran since, along with Pia Leone from Central, she presented an octopus dessert that night/morning with octopus skin, herbs, and Peruvian sweet potatoes, one of the more palatable dishes of the event.
On July 9, the cast of participating chefs ranged from Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Alex Atala, and Massimo Bottura to 'indie chefs' just breaking out on the international culinary scene. The event which was sold out instantly to excited diners set social media on fire around the world with conjecture about the identity of the guest chefs by foodies and the nights attendees, who were clueless about the identity of the guest chef until the very last moment. Thirty seven well known chefs from France, Spain, the US, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Canada, Turkey, and Slovenia, set out on journeys just days before the event taking them in to new kitchens and cultures. While Virgilio Martinez of Central left for Henne Kirkeby Kro in Denmark, chef Carlo Mirarchi left New York for Central in Lima, leaving his kitchen to guest chef Alex Atala of D.O.M in Sao Paolo. [related]
Chef Tagle, originally from Mexico, began her career in 2007 at Enrique Olvera's famed Pujol in Mexico City, and her tenure included a stage at the famed Noma restaurant in Denmark. Post Pujol and after training at the prestigious Ryugin in Tokyo with chef Seiji Yamamoto, she joined chef Virgilio Martinez Véliz in Peru. Originally starting as head chef at his now-closed Senzo restaurant in Cusco, Peru, she moved two years ago to the flagship, Central. Currently, she heads the R&D at Central under the Mater Initiativa while working the daily service and traveling around the world with Véliz to cooking events and congresses. Tagle had just returned a few days prior to the Gelinaz event from cooking a Central influenced Peruvian dinner at chef Daniel Canzian’s restaurant in Milan, Italy. So presumably she was in the Italian-Peruvian groove ready with the rest of the kitchen team for the Italian chef to arrive from New York.
The Daily Meal: When did you find out who was the guest chef coming to Central?
Chef Tagle: More or less a month before, but only I knew since I had to arrange the ingredients and it was hard to keep it a secret. I was excited that Carlo was coming even though I didn't know him from before, but I had heard that he had a real sense of humor.
How does your team react to a new chef in the kitchen?
We got a chance to see him cook and observe how he managed his products. Opportunities like these open your mind to new flavors and techniques so it was a good learning experience. We were a little apprehensive before he arrived but he was so easygoing and put us all at ease.
You had just returned from cooking in Milan the same week, so was that helpful in your Italian experience with chef Mirarchi?
Yes, that dinner at Daniel Canzian's restaurant was fun and it was my first trip to Milan. I was amazed at the food and products. It was exciting to see how differently they think about gastronomy and how they cook. It's a really a big part of their daily lives.
So when did you start working on the menu for the Gelinaz shuffle?
We started a month before because first I checked with him about ingredients he would like to use. He is very natural, and when he arrived he tried all our fruits and seafood. He was amazed with our potatoes and luckily this is the harvest season so he had a lot of choices. He actually based one of his dishes on our potatoes.
Did he visit the markets?
Yes, we went to two of our biggest markets and then we took him to the local cevicheria so he could begin to familiarize himself with the flavors of our cuisine.
Did he experience the Central menu as well?
Yes he did, and we wanted him to see how we work here and he could see how our menus were structured and the ingredients we use. Essentially he got a look at our organization and style here.
Since your kitchen has a strong presence of women, how did he react to that?
That is true and it was interesting for all of us. He is a very easygoing person and he is very open to new ideas and products so it worked out. I was amazed at his palate, which is very refined and he is very knowledgeable. He knows a lot about bitters and how to manage that taste and we learned a lot about that from him.