To kick off a month-long agritourism theme on The Travel Word, we bring you an interview of chef Brisa Deneumostier by Sara Linares of Responsible Travel Peru in Lima, Peru. Her philosophies of mindful cooking and conscientious eating connect Lima’s thriving gastronomy scene to a growing sustainable agriculture movement.
Sara Linares: How would you define Lima gastronomy?
Brisa Deneumostier: As the country’s capital, Lima offers a variety of Peruvian cuisine. Our gastronomy is so varied for two main reasons. The first one is because of Peru’s natural resources. Peru is one of the world’s five most biodiverse countries. Therefore, we have a great, natural, diverse pantry of ingredients from the Peruvian Pacific Coast, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest.
The second reason is the influence of different cultures that have combined with our traditional cuisine. It has been influenced for over 500 years, mainly by the Spanish, Moorish, African, Chinese, Japanese, French and Italian, which gave birth to our three main traditional Peruvian cuisines: Criolla (Peru’s Creole cuisine), Chifa and Nikkei.
These cuisines are constantly evolving because of creative Peruvian chefs recognised by worldwide critics. High-end restaurants offer the finest expressions of our cuisines, but we also have great traditional street food and traditional restaurants called huariques, which specialise in certain items or regional cuisines from the Amazon and the northern and southern coasts of Lima.
The French newspaper Le Monde named Lima as ‘Gastronomic Capital of the Americas.’ The city is a great window to experiencing and tasting a nice bite of the diversity that one finds within Peru.
SL: How about responsible gastronomy? How is sustainable agriculture defined in the Lima’s food scene?
BD: Responsible gastronomy is starting to be addressed with more eagerness. Restaurateurs are making responsible changes in buying and in some cases purchasing directly from producers. Schools are growing vegetable gardens. Some universities and cooking schools are starting to emphasise the importance of a sustainable gastronomy, which is linked to sustainable fishing, sustainable agriculture and therefore a healthy and balanced environment.
The Lima city council has created an assisted program of “urban ecological vegetable gardens” located in 18 different districts of the city. The idea is that these gardens will help to feed and will be tended by the local community, but the remaining produce will be sold to restaurants. The first organic farmer’s market – Bioferia de Miraflores – started 12 years ago, but still there are citizens from Lima who don’t know of its existence or may have never gone.
SL: Why is sustainable agriculture and fishing important to Lima and to Peru?
BD: Sustainable gastronomy, based on responsible agriculture and fishing, is very important for Peru’s environment, since it lays the basis for a more responsible lifestyle in general. We should all have the possibility to live in a healthy environment, where our children can live long and happy lives and enjoy the beauty that Peru’s nature offers.
And sustainable agriculture leads to the continued growth and understanding of the great healthy resources in Peru. We have 4,400 known medicinal and edible plants, of which 2,500 are endemic, and there are thousands more that are unknown. We are also the first country to cultivate potato, tuber, corn and chilli varieties, we have 36 different nutritious Andean grains and the fourth largest forested area in the world. Additionally, we are the number one spot in the world for fish, with over 2,000 varieties and ten percent of the world’s entire fish population. All this points to the importance of Peru’s biodiversity for the world.
If anything affects our environment negatively, then it will affect our health balance as well. Everything is interconnected.
SL: Where does food in Lima come from? What’s the situation nowadays for farms in Lima?
BD: Some of Lima’s local food comes from local farms, local fishermen and local producers in our city, but a lot comes from farms in different parts of Peru. Since we have more than 30 microclimates on our coast and in the Andes and the Amazon Rainforest, we count on an array of seasonal products from different regions of Peru that make their way to the giant marketplace of Lima (which counts for almost half of Peru’s population).
SL: Where do you like to shop for your ingredients?
BD: I like to experience the organic farmer’s markets and organic farms located 40-60 minutes south of Lima. I like to taste organic Peruvian coffee in boutique coffee shops, which search for the best coffee beans in the country and then roast the beans themselves. You can pamper yourself with the finest chocolates in town, made with the finest organic cacao of Peru.
SL: Are sustainable practices a popular trend in Lima’s restaurants? How do you implement sustainable practices?
BD: It started as a trend a couple of years ago. Sustainable practices are not the easiest thing to do, but it is not impossible to carry out and some are already doing it. There are people and companies who offer assistance and even certifications for this. I am constantly researching and training myself. I read. I take courses. For example, I took an introductory permaculture course last year.
What I consider the most important is my daily practice of mindfulness through mindful breathing, meditation, yoga, kungfu or outdoors sports. Mindfully creating and mindfully harvesting, that’s my anchor. The transformation of raising our consciousness toward more responsible and sustainable practices starts with taking responsibility for my own day-to-day actions.
SL: Tell us about your collaboration with Responsible Travel Peru.
BD: I’m a freelance chef and my intention is to show and share a lifestyle that encourages well-being for oneself and for all living beings with whom we coexist on earth. I am a culinary guide with an eco-conscious approach and I offer one-day experiences in Lima and four- to 12-day experiences in the Andes and the Rainforest, all based on a philosophy of responsible gastronomy. That’s how I started my alliance with Responsible Travel Peru.
The experience you will have with me is to connect with yourself so you are more open to the essence of the culinary experience. We do that by visiting and sharing with organic farmers 45 minutes south of Lima, in the Pachacamac Valley. The goal is to feel our land, its nature, its people and its products. We harvest in a mindful and grateful way, applying my Peruvian and foreign mystical practice. Afterward, growing from those connections, we cook what we have harvested, along with some other seasonal Peruvian crops that I introduce to you.
We can also incorporate a yoga class, a gentle trek in the valley, a mindful pottery class, a visit to the archeological site of Pachacamac or to an artist studio in Barranco, the Bohemian district.
Besides being a culinary guide, I’m an eco-minded culinary teacher and coach for adults and children. I’m also a private chef and the hostess of a soon-to-be-launched Peruvian cooking and lifestyle show called Perú Organico.
SL: What advice or tips would you give to responsible travellers in Lima?
BD: Be mindful in every moment you experience. There is a life experience in each breath you take. Don’t skip Lima. It has a lot to offer. Sustainable and delicious gastronomy, arts, sports, adventure, nightlife and much more! Don’t stick to what your guidebook says.