My Chef Spotlight series has taken a bit of a backseat while I made my move from Miami to Cusco, Peru.
But now, its back!
I’m excited to have a new interview which luckily comes from one of my favorite (albeit a bit touristy) restaurants in Cusco. This restaurant and I have a special history together. It was one of the first places I ate at when I first visited Cusco in 2007. The views of the Plaza de Armas and the surrounding mountains alone makes it worth a visit. Watching the sun set up on that balcony while writing in my journal and the kindness of the staff has kept me coming back year after year.
I proudly introduce to you:
Executive Chef Eva Mango
My interview with Chef Mango was done in Spanish, but I’ve translated it for you all.
1. Where are you from, originally?
I was born and raised right here in Cusco. I now have two beautiful daughters aged 12 & 18 years old.
2. From what age did you start working in the kitchen?
I read a cook book when I was young that really inspired me, Cooking with Irma. When I was 12 years old I cooked in my family’s kitchen, but I was not really that into it at that age. I cooked just to eat!
3. What inspired you then, to become a Chef?
My father and brothers are all cooks. I went to work in a restaurant when I was young. My first dish was squash with meat-a dish I thought the Chef would hate, but he loved it and said it was great. From then on I stayed working in that restaurant.
4. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Ceviche, Aji de gallina, and Lomo Alpaca with yellow sauce.
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would really like to open my own restaurant. My daughters are growing up and working in a kitchen is a demanding job, so I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with them. If I had my own restaurant they could come visit me anytime and maybe even help me out in the kitchen!
6. In your opinion, what is the flavor of Cusco?
The main flavor is of comida criolla (Spanish-influenced dishes), Cuy, and something called Aji Panacca. It has garlic, cumin, red wine, coca-cola, white vinegar, oil, and water. This is boiled with meat until the meat is tender and falls apart.
I was invited into the kitchen to watch and observe the chefs. I got a taste of some chocolate garnishes(yum).
Luckily for me, Chef Mango was also willing to share some of her delicious recipes with us. One of my favorite dishes in Peru is the Palta a la Reina (Avocado with chicken) and she graciously shows us how to prepare it here.
Palta a la Reina
-Boiled chicken breast
-A potato that can withstand boiling and not fall apart, like a russet
-Boiled diced carrots
-salt & pepper
What to do:
Dice the chicken, carrots, and boiled cold potato. Add the peas, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise. Take one palta (avocado) half and lay some lettuce leaves on the plate. Place your avocado on top of that. Take the chicken & potato mixture and pile it all on top of the palta. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top, and garnish with olives. Listo! Ready to eat.
Another dish I did not have the chance to photograph is Quinotto. Its a Peruvian take on Risotto. Chef Mango has laid out the recipe here for us to try it at home.
-Red Pepper, diced
-1 tablespoon pallilo (tumeric) for color
What to do:
Saute the onion, pepper, tumeric and butter in a pot.
Add your cooked quinoa and: some mushrooms(chopped), grated mozzarella, and evaporated milk (half a can). Add some salt and pepper to taste.
We’ve reached the end of this Chef Spotlight interview. Mil Gracias to the amazing people over at Papillion Restaurant for letting me into their kitchen.
I have some other fantastic recipes from Chef Mango that I will be posting very soon.
The Deets on Papillion Restaurant in Cusco, Peru:
This restaurant is located in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. A great place to people watch, it’s on the 2nd floor above the MacDonald’s.
The views from the balcony on a clear day or night are pretty amazing. The food is not cheap by peruvian standards, but its good. And, it has a bathroom with toilet paper. I know.
If you’re in Cusco please give this restaurant a try! Tell them Mica sent you.
Papillion Restaurant (Papillion means butterfly in spanish)
Plaza de Armas
Portal de Carnes No.260 2nd floor
Telephone: +51 84 256 610