FOURty Seconds with Diego Muñoz

25 Mar 2016
4 min read
FOUR speaks to legendary chef, Diego Muñoz about where he finds inspiration, his time spent as Astrid&Gaston and what guests can expect at the Wachau Gourmet Festival…

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

I remember when I was a kid Ihada lot of friends from different cultures, Chinese, Japanese, German, Swiss and I was really interested every time I had to chance to eat at their tables and experience different foods.I was alwayslooking forward to eatthere and see what others where eating. The most fun was when my mother use to take us to the Surquillo Market. Itwas an amazing experience with so many things to see, smell, and even just to hear my mum talking to the market vendors with all her questions and informationwas amazing…I loved it!

What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

My travels, I left Peru when I was 21 and started my journey.I’ve been in a lot of places in a lot of different situations, working in great kitchens, more humble kitchens, eating with different people, eating at greatrestaurants, seeingdifferent producers, products,and all the first 21 years experience in Perutravelling a lot as well, always curious for food I think had set my best references and inspirations. Since the beginning of my career I had been looking up for great chefs and I am lucky I had cook with a lot of the ones I admire.I still hope thatI have the chance to cook with more and more, but not only them as well traditional cooks.

Describe your culinary style…

That is a question that has always been hard to answer, especially because I am always changing andevolving my way of cooking.I think my style of cooking is getting more and more simple, but sometimes I think thisis harder that being elaborate as you have to keep it surprising. Especially now that I don’t have a resident restaurant and have not keep an evolving line of it is harder to say what is or what is going to be my style this year. Since I’ve been back to Peru in 2012 my cooking turn to be inspired by all what Peru means to me, biodiversity and multiculturality are the two pillars of it.

What can guests at the Wachau Gourmet Festival expect this year?

We (me and Emilio Macias who is travelling with me) are bringing a lot of things inspired byour previous job at Astrid&Gaston. We also want to be influenced by Wachau itself so we willprepare a menu that adapts to what’s currently in season there, and what we can find with thelocal produce.

What would you say will be the main focus/concept of yourappearanceat the festival?

For me is a completely different scenario than travellinglikelast year for example, when I was leading the Astrid&Gaston house. Now I can really become absorbed in the place I cook asI don’t have the tension of what is going on back at the restaurant, while I am away. So I think starting with this I will explore more and put more of the local influence on the plates. The Wachau festival experience will be the first time I cook out of Astrid&Gaston as a freelance chef. The concept of appearing at this festival like every other presentation I do is to represent the peruvian gastronomy culture outside Peru, as every other trip I do.

What made you choose this approach?

Gastronomy in Peru is definitely a weapon for good change.Peru is a country that has had tostruggle a lot but gastronomy is allowing for all eyes to be on the country, thanks to the work of the great Chefs that represent it. With this growing, proud, and economic evolution, the country move forward throughtheir farmers, fishermen, qualityrestaurants and culture in general. That is why I am always so concerned and proud to represent my culture.

Can you let us in on any highlights from what you will be cooking at Wachau?

Definitelywill be some traditional Peruvian dishes but made our way, and of course one ceviche course.

What are your most indispensable ingredients?

I always like to cook with fresh seafood and vegetables.

What kind of experience do you aim to give guests?

To take them for a little while to Peru or at least to get their attention there for the future, and of course to have a great experience enjoying the food.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

To cook at ElBulli for me was really important, and to be given theresponsibility and confidence to develop and run a project like Casa Moreyra was a really bigdeal.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

I started when I was 21 years old, after 3 years at university for Industrial Engineering, some chefs are already running a station at that age, I would had love to start cooking at 15 for example, I would say to myself to follow my instincts no matter what.

What’s next for you/Whats projects do you have lined up?

I’mopening a small Peruvian Bistro that I am overlooking in Brickell Miami called 1111, will be launching a sandwich bar franchise in Lima called Avenida Peru, looking over on next year to open a restaurant with Emilio in Lima.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Enjoy junk food with the kids (8 and 10)on Mondaynights, “boys night out” the rest of the week is a no no.

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

Narisawa, Etxebarri, Faviken, Jiro.

Find out more about the culinary career of DiegoMuñoz