Wandering Chef: Warren Schwartz in Peru
Warren Schwartz, chef of L.A.’s Westside Tavern, recently took his family to Peru for vacation. After eating his way across the country, he says his best memories took place in the coastal town of Máncora in northern Peru. Here, he shares his favorite moments.
“From cuy [guinea pig] to ceviche, we had a pretty memorable eating experience. Peru, for the most part, is a very poor country. I am always struck by how the poorest of cultures sometimes get it so right and experience pure food at its finest. Our favorite meals were humble and were eaten in the tiny fishing town of Máncora in northeast Peru. My wife Rosa and I went fishing one day on a little boat of questionable seaworthiness. Ernest Hemingway is rumored to have enjoyed visiting and fishing in this area and I like to think that our fishing experience was very Old Man and the Sea-style. We didn’t use a fishing pole. We just wrapped the fishing line around our fingers. We brought our catch back to shore where an old fisherman filleted it for us and turned it into amazing ceviche.
We stayed at Hotelier Arte y Cocina. The tiny, hut-like dining room (above) was animated by the hotel owner, Javier. Javier is a proud Peruvian who made it his personal mission to convince all of his guests that his small little hotel is simply the best in class. Not through pretension, exclusivity, or starched white napkins, but through genuine humble hospitality. The food at his restaurant was great. Rosa and I sat down one evening just as Javier was butchering a yellowfin tuna for that night’s meal. He prepared the belly for us by simply searing it and adding soy sauce and local peppers. He makes a fantastic passion fruit pisco sour. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately added it to our cocktail list at Westside Tavern. I also recreated a dish inspired by the hotel’s mixto ceviche—a mix of octopus, shrimp and snapper.”