The Ambassador - Bringing Novoandina Cuisine to America
Mixtura's Chef Emmanuel Piqueras is at the forefront of Novoandina Cuisine, which is the fusion of modern techniques and presentation with the indigenous flavors and ingredients of Peru.
Restaurant Hospitality magazine named Chef Emmanuel Piqueras, 34, one of the industry’s “rising stars” in December 2005, the same month Mixtura opened.
Piqueras prefers to think of himself as a cook, rather than a chef. “I’m no prima donna. I am an authentic cook,” Piqueras says. “When you see me working in the kitchen, I am there as part of a team. I’m not above mopping the floor.”
Piqueras made a big splash serving novo-Andean fare in Portland, OR. He was founding chef at Andina Restaurant there in 2003, and his two-year tenure saw Andina chosen as the Portland Oregonian’s 2005 Restaurant of the Year. RESTAURANT HOSPITALITY named him a Rising Star that same year. What diners in both Portland and Seattle have embraced is a cuisine that is different from just about anyone else’s. Piqueras takes traditional Peruvian ingredients and applies modern styles and creativity to them. The finished products appear on imaginative plate presentations that feature Technicolor hues.
Mixtura's menu shows his range. Refined versions of home-style Peruvian dishes like arroz con pato (rice cooked with duck, beer, cilantro, and peppers) stand alongside more fanciful creations. In one such invention, grilled, marinated marlin is served with a side of gnocchi made from starchy yuca rather than potato and seasoned with the slightly fruity Peruvian yellow chile aji amarillo.
Chef Piqueras grew up in Lima, Peru, with the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains as his playgrounds. His childhood memories include surfing, which he still loves to do, and cooking a vast variety of Peruvian foods. Peru’s climate in South America makes it possible to grow a range of crops, including red potatoes and quinoa, a staple grain of the Incas. Exotic peppers, wild mushrooms and spices are found in the Andes. Fish, octopus and shellfish from the ocean are abundant.
“Peru has so much to offer on its own. The food was also influenced by the Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and Japanese,” he said. “Our food is a fusion or mixture of flavors, and that’s why we called it Mixtura.”
Piqueras began his career by spending four years working at Restaurant Pantagruel in Lima. His boss there was chef Don Cucho de la Rosa, the person who invented novo-Andean cuisine. Next came a trip to Spain to work at the three-Michelin-star Arzak in San Sebastian. Now Piqueras uses his skills, both classical and contemporary, to elevate Peruvian ingredients into novo-Andean cuisine.