Melding kitchen ingenuity and immaculate technique with his distinct Peruvian flair, Chef Ricardo Zarate serves as an ambassador of Peruvian cuisine in the U.S. and has earned praise from critics across the country for inventive dishes that highlight the country’s multicultural influences, including Japanese flavors. The 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef” made waves with his modern Peruvian food at his Los Angeles restaurants Picca and Mo-chica, and he opened his highly anticipated third establishment, Paichẽ, in April 2013. “I feel privileged that I’ve been able to introduce Americans to Peruvian food,” he says. “I’ve found what excites guests the most about my food are the flavor profiles: spicy and sour, savory and sweet, new and familiar—all at the same time.”
Zarate’s cooking philosophy blends his upbringing with experience from his professional résumé. As one of 13 siblings, he first found his calling at the stove in his family’s kitchen in Lima, Peru, next to his mother and grandmother, from whom he learned many of his cooking techniques. He went on to attend his hometown’s top culinary school, Instituto de las Américas, after which he headed to London to practice his craft. Zarate worked in the city for 12 years with various positions at top restaurants and hotels, including One Aldwych, Gordon Ramsey Pengelly’s, and noted Japanese restaurant Zuma. It was at the latter that Zarate perfected his style of integrating French and Japanese techniques and products with the flavors from his native country.
In 2009, Zarate headed to Los Angeles where he opened Mo-Chica in Downtown at Mercado la Paloma, a cultural center designed to showcase local creativity to the broader community. A year later, he launched his pop-up restaurant, Test Kitchen, which offered guests a new dining experience weekly from a rotating roster of high-profile guest chefs.
In 2011, Zarate introduced the Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Picca, a natural progression from his days in the West End. Critics and journalists nationwide took note of the compelling and creative cuisine at Picca, recognizing the restaurant as one of GQ’s “Best New Restaurants” and a Condé Nast Traveler “Hot Table,” all within its first year of operation.
Zarate moved Mo-chica to its current location in the heart of downtown in summer 2012. At the new Mo-chica, Zarate explores his roots by giving his signature, modern twists to many of the country’s traditional recipes for elevated Peruvian comfort food.
In spring 2013, Zarate opened his third concept Paichẽ, a Peruvian izakaya located in the Marina del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles where he explores the deft interplay between the culinary culture of his homeland and the ingredients and techniques found in the Japanese kitchens wherein he honed his craft.