Gastón Acurio is a name the foodie cognoscenti will recognize. Though not quite a popular brand name like Mario Batali or Bobby Flay or Alain Ducasse, the Peruvian chef has created destination restaurants in the otherwise gray city of Lima that gourmands flock to whenever they can, eschewing the tourist havens of Machu Picchu and Cuzco. Hailed as the “next superchef” by some magazines, Acurio now has his eyes set on global conquest. His goal: to make Peruvian cuisine as familiar around the world as Mexican, Chinese and Thai.
He established a bridgehead outside Latin America in September, opening La Mar in San Francisco, which specializes in seafood and Peru’s signature creation, ceviche. But that is just the beginning. He sees New York City as the real launching pad for rapid expansion. “If we make it in New York, we will be ready to green-light all of our brands,” he says. “But first we need to pass the test there.” Acurio has scouts checking out the city, looking for the right location for the right price. He hopes to firm up a deal shortly.
Peruvian authorities, businesspeople and even Acurio’s competitors in Peru are cheering him on, hoping to cash in on an eventual boom in Peruvian food.