Gastón Acurio is a chef, writer, businessman and promoter of the Peruvian culinary arts. In 2005, he was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by America Economía Magazine – the most prominent and influential business magazine in South America. With 33 restaurants in 12 countries, the Acurio Organization is leading the Peruvian culinary revolution.
During the late 1980s, Acurio attended law school. However, his passion for food proved stronger, so he left law school to begin studying culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. During his time in Paris, Acurio met his German-born wife Astrid. In 1994, they opened the restaurant Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru, establishing it as one of the first restaurants of Peruvian haute cuisine in the world. The restaurant originally was very French-orientated due to Acurio’s classical French training, however he soon found himself experimenting with Peruvian ingredients and taking inspiration from local traditions. In 2012, Astrid & Gastón was included at number 35 in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and in 2013, climbed to number 14.
In 2009, Acurio received the international award of “Prince Claus of Holland” in the category “Collective Memories and Journalism” for his significant contribution in the field of culture and development. That same year, within the framework of Madrid Fusión, he was honored by the panel for defending the biodiversity of Peru and Latin America. He also served as keynote speaker for the Madrid Fusión 2011 conference.
Lima, Peru has become the gastronomical capital of South America, and host of Mistura, the greatest culinary festival in the region. Acurio led the festival’s organization for three years as president of APEGA (the Peruvian Gastronomy Society). Currently, he is still involved in the organization as a member of the board. His philanthropy work extends to being the primary supporter of the culinary instruction institution, Pachacutec School of Cuisine, located in one of the poorest areas in Lima. Pachacutec provides underprivileged youth across the region a place to study their craft under industry-leading professionals as they pursue their culinary careers.
Acurio has authored and published 20 national best-sellers in Peru. His latest publication 500 Años de Fusión (500 Years of Fusion) was voted the best cookbook worldwide at the 2008 Gourmand “World Cookbook Awards.”
As executive chef of Tanta in Chicago, Giancarlo Valera upholds the simple and traditional food philosophy of using the freshest ingredients available and maintaining the utmost respect for food in order to transform ingredients into a sight to behold. Collaborating with acclaimed South American Chef Gastón Acurio, Valera strives to take diners on a voyage through Peru and its food and is committed to bringing the authentic flavors of his country to Chicagoans.
Valera was born and raised in Callao, a city within the Lima Metropolitan Area, where Peru’s very first port stands. As a child, Valera spent much of his time at the beach and around the sea and fondly remembers meals full of fresh fish, seafood and traditional Peruvian cebiche. These memories have fed his present-day culinary ideology.
After moving to the United States, Valera found his footing in some of Florida’s most prominent kitchens including Hakkasan Miami inside the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and the Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, before landing at La Mar by Gaston Acurio. At La Mar by Gaston Acurio, located within the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Miami’s Brickell Key, Valera spent years training under Executive Chef Diego Oka and Peruvian food ambassador Gaston Acurio, where he discovered his culinary passions.