Kevin Giurfa, head chef of Ceviche 103 in Barcelona
Kevin Giurfa, head chef of Ceviche 103 in Barcelona: “My dad did not want me to be a chef so he sent me to Pachacútec Culinary School.”
By Fabiola Gálvez
When Kevin Giurfa told me his story about how he entered the world of cooking, it reminded me of Gastón Acurio story, when his father did not approve of him being a chef. But in this case, Giurfa’s father tried to discourage him and sent him to study in Pachacútec Culinary School, a modest school in a suburb of Lima, which was casually founded by Acurio.
His talent has taken him far and he has worked at the prestigious kitchens of Central, Astrid & Gastón, La Mar and La Red in Lima. Now, he lives in Barcelona and is in command of Ceviche 103, one of the Peruvian restaurants that stand out from this city. His menu is traditional dishes with modern techniques such as mellow rice with cilantro, duck breast, and foam, ceviche with tiger’s milk of smoked ají amarillo with palo santo, or pachamanca baked with banana leaves. And now they just introduced a new menu including Peruvian veggie dishes.
The Arco Fair will take place from February 27th to March 3th, with Peru as the guest of honor. Ceviche 103, Nikkei 103 and Rikos, restaurants of the same corporate group, will be the only Peruvian restaurants participating in this edition and of course, the chef revealed what is coming in Madrid.
How did you enter the world of cooking? Was it vocational, a need or a coincidence?
I liked it since I was a child, my parents were always at work, and they gave me the recipe of how to make a dish. My family served in the Navy, as I was the only son, I was expected to be a sailor, so when I told my dad “I’m going to be a cook” he cried out to heaven, but I applied to the school, I graduated first in my class, and then I started working for “Astrid & Gastón”, and from that moment my dad showed interest in my work.
What is the Pachacútec Culinary school like?
It is an institution that supports the dreams of many people who cannot afford their studies because it is expensive in Lima. In my case, it was not because I could not afford it, but because they did not want me to be a chef, to discourage me, they sent me to study to Pachacútec. It’s a different reality, but I was particularly happy with the school because you clean, do your shopping. If you have to paint, you paint. It helps you to train and to open doors because It’s sponsored by Gastón Acurio and that helps a lot.
Did Gastón visit the school? What did he say to students?
He always attended each inauguration and closing of the cycle and introduced himself and told us how it works. For example, from all the restaurants he has, Tanta, La Mar, Astrid & Gastón, he would send the chefs as teachers, if they agreed to teach. We had free classes, they taught something very practical, and not much theory.
Gastón always tells us his story of how he started. His father thought he was paying a Law School in Paris, and on the contrary, he paid for culinary arts school. How he opened “Astrid & Gastón” with borrowed money from his relatives. Now, he has an empire which took 8 years without a vacation until it paid off.
How was the experience of working in “Astrid & Gastón”?
A & G is a monster, the house Moreyra is a mansion that was built exclusively to be a kitchen, it only conserves the original facade. For example, on the first floor, there are conservation chambers, the fish and chicken workrooms, and the food production kitchen. There are three kitchens upstairs. The first is for the tasting menu, the second is for bar and dishes to share menu, and the third is a tasting menu for the terrace.
In total there are three kitchens plus a kitchen production work, each with a head chef and an executive chef. The food production kitchen is where they make the ají amarillo paste, the rocoto paste, the bases, the broths.
There was also a pastry shop, a bakery, another space for cocktails, where they made their carved ice, and an agronomist hired to work in the vegetable garden. You learn a lot from working there.
After this great experience, how do you get to Barcelona?
I contacted a chef here, I met him in Mistura, and he asked me to be his head chef. I spent some time in his restaurant, but it did not work. After that, I came to this company, and little by little I entered as a kitchen assistant, then I went the second chef and now, I am the head chef of Ceviche 103 and La Turuleca.
What do you think of Barcelona? Do you find similarities with Lima when cooking?
It is a beautiful city. For cooking, let’s say that the Peruvian supplies are not entirely good because It is not like in Lima, where you can buy in any little shop and you know it will be a good product. However, here you need a lot of suppliers to choose one product from each one, the same goes for fish. So, if you want to have a good product, there is a big effort in the logistics to select a supplier. We have also a Peruvian supplier from Andalusia, it provides us ají amarillo, ají limo, rocoto, huacatay. All is fresh, because before we worked with frozen product and it is not the same.
Define the type of cuisine you do in Ceviche 103. Is it classic, fusion and modern touches?
We cook Peruvian food and modernist cuisine. We cook under vacuum, at low temperature, foams. So, if you want to eat rice with duck, you will have mellow rice with cilantro, duck magret, and foam. We also use superfoods, quinoa, olluco, oca, sometimes also mango, passion fruit, for the tiraditos and we always make a varied menu. For example, I was in Madrid Fusión and made a smoked tiradito, in which we used the smoking technique for ají amarillo with palo santo, and tiger’s milk with a base of smoked ají Amarillo.
I am curious about how does smoked ají amarillo with palo santo taste like?
You eat a spoon of that tiradito, and if you’ve been to a procession of “El señor de los Milagros”, that memory will come to your mind. It is a tiger’s milk with personality, but at the same time it is very fresh, and it brings back memories, you eat Peru in every bite.
A few months ago, you were at the fair “Crisol de culturas y sabores” organized by the Peruvian embassy in the Czech Republic, but they do not have Peruvian restaurants there
Yes, there are no Peruvian restaurants. The idea was to see the market there. In Prague there are very few Peruvians, I think there are only 150. We made the event in the hotel and then another menu open to the local public, and they fell in love with chupe de camarones, because they eat many soups, or the lomo saltado, the mellow rice with duck. Even the executive chef of the hotel was delighted, he tried the stir fry and asked me for the recipe. It was a good experience.
We saw you at Madrid Fusión. Soon you will be at ARCO, one of the most important art fairs in the country, and this year Peru is the guest. And there is gastronomy. What will you present to us there?
Peruvian food is well positioned in Madrid. What we want is to represent the brand of Ceviche 103 and Nikkei 103, and show that our work is constant and make known the Peruvian food, our products, and the most important is we always do something new and we do not stay in a classic ceviche.
When do you visit Peru?
I travel with my wife and daughter in December to spend holidays with my family, and to visit restaurants. My friends told me about many good Nikkei restaurants in Miraflores which have became a gastronomic sensation in Lima.
What has become a gastronomic sensation in Barcelona?
Vegan Food. On the corner of the street, there is a vegan Poké bowl and in this area, there are also many good vegan restaurants.
In the new menu, we included a vegan ceviche. It has avocado cream, tiger’s milk made from tofu and almond milk. Nothing of animal origin. Everything is fruits, vegetables, a salad of black quinoa and we want to offer a veggie chaufita, so our customers can try something Peruvian.
What is your plan for your future as a chef?
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