We asked Jhosef Arias: how he opened a restaurant group in Spain, at 31
“I own a dream,” says Jhosef Arias, at the beginning of the interview. We are in Bold Kitchen, an area for cooking workshops and events located in the basement of the Piscomar restaurant, which has recently opened this year.
This young and passionate chef with just 31 years old, is CEO of Piscomar, Callao24, Capón, Premium Catering Service and Bold Kitchen, which includes the hotel group of the same name, in Madrid.
Jhosef is Peruvian and arrived in Spain 10 years ago, with an informal employment contract that restricted him from extending his residence permit, and as the only option to settle in the country, he discovered an opportunity in entrepreneurship. It was not an easy road, but he put a lot of effort into achieving it. What is his recipe for success? And, what are his keys to undertake with Peruvian cuisine abroad? He himself tells us to inspire anyone who wants to start a project, and it is not only about gastronomy but an inspiring story that applies to every aspect of life.
By Fabiola Gálvez
How did you start cooking?
I started studying at the end of 2004, I was going to apply for a technical degree in electronics but something curious happened to me, when I did my vocational aptitude test, I talked about cooking all the time. I went to INTECI to ask and the tuition fee was 700 soles, it was too expensive. I got home and my mother asked me: “Do you really want to study gastronomy?” My mother used to sell picarones, anticuchos in the street and she said in fear, “cooking is hard, you have to be on your feet all day”. But I was very stubborn.
My parent’s income was not enough. And this is when my sister took a trip to Madrid and told me, I’m going to help you with your studies. Those were the 3 most interesting years of my life and today I can say that everything is possible, my priority was not my girlfriend, nor my friends, my priority was Jhosef, do you know why? Because my studies cost money. Also, Mrs. Lucía helped me a lot, I did my internship with her, and the next month, she hired me. I worked in the morning, from 10 to 4 in the afternoon and then took English classes, and attended culinary school at night, that was my life.
How did you get to Spain?
At that time, my parents were already living in Spain and I was the only one who stayed in Peru. I arrived with a contract with a telecommunications company, my mother bought it so I could get the papers. A month later, I started working on a fast-food chain called Foster’s Hollywood. But the contacts are very important and I was recommended to a hotel in Madrid called Plaza Santa Ana, part of the Meliá chain, I started as a kitchen assistant, and four months later, I became the sous-chef.
And what was the first question you asked yourself when you decided to start with Piscomar? What was the first thing that crossed your mind? How do I do it? Where do I start?
I told you that my mother bought a contract to bring me, but the company brought too many people, it was a scam, four people sued them and the police realized. As I came irregularly, my documents were automatically denied. It was a dilemma, I was detained for a day and a half, I lost my job at the hotel and that was where I started the undertaking. In my case, it was because I had no choice.
Fiorella, my son’s mother, is the one who supported me in the project, and I decided to start a business without formal documents, the old Piscomar. I knocked on many doors and that was where I realized how mature I was and also the friendship, because in the bad moments your “friends” are not there and it was very hard for me, I earned a lot of money but I didn’t save anything, however, the people who I least expect, helped me.
And do you know what? I dedicated myself to my business, it was all I had, although I have fallen many times with the project. That was in 2013, due to ignorance, because we are cooks and we believe we are businesspeople.
Why, you are a chef and you cook, a restaurant is also a business?
It is a business, it is about numbers, manage the costs, it is not only cooking delicious food and putting it on a plate, but you also have to know about the supplier, how you are going to pay, how you collaborate with them, how to store.
Nowadays, I know something about marketing, advertising, photography, it is a must to manage the numbers because it’s your business.
KEYS OF YOUR ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Just one click
“Tell me the name of a Thai restaurant,” Jhosef asked me.
“I do not remember,” I answered.
“Then, what do you do?”
“I look for it on the internet.”
Sure, you look for it on Google. From there the service begins, work starts there, that you have good photography, that appears in the search engine results, that you do a good advertisment, the service is so wide! It has taken me 7 years to understand.
For me, it’s a huge world and I’m still learning. I continue to be very surprised by the digital world.
And at the beginning, you have been in charge of not only cooking but other duties?
In the beginning, I was in charge of it, but there is something I have to say, everyone has a job. Today, there are many areas in a company but we are delegating responsibilities. Recently, we have hired a person for SEO and SEM, for the website, and we are measuring everything, from a phone call, how many people are visiting the website, how many have left, why they leave, who clicks.
Do Peruvians have very discriminating palate?
It is correct to be a demanding customer, except when you demand quantity instead of quality. I can’t understand that, to lose quality over quantity. They don’t realize that the fish is deep-frozen, of poor quality, or that they don’t wear gloves, or that they sneeze, cross-contamination. That was very hard because people came and said that “we are playing with the food like little kids”, and I replied: “Gentleman, but you’ve just tried the appetizer, you’re still missing the main course and the dessert.”
Learning to listen
“In Peru, have you seen ceviche in a chifa’s menu?” Jhosef told me
“Of course not,” I answered.
Never. But, as I learned, we put niguiris and maquis on the menu, and people said: “And the ceviche?” And I wonder, what do I do? And I had to add it, a ceviche called intruso [intruder], with a Nikkei touch.
Let’s talk about Peruvian food
For 2 years now, we are lucky to have fresh products. Every week it arrives by plane, we work with an importer that brings 90% of Peruvian product: ají limo, rocoto, olluco, avocado.
The Peruvian lime, because of a logistic issue, has not been viable to bring it, it costs € 12 per kilo, more expensive than fish. The other products, we bring them from the Mediterranean, but curiously we import frozen prawns from Argentina, Chile, and Peru because the seafood of the Pacific are incredible.
We are authentic, and if a ceviche has to be spicy, it has to be spicy.
The fish for ceviche?
We use corvina, salmon and tuna. The sea bream and sea bass are very grateful, but you have to know how to work them.
The pisco sour?
We work with a company called 1615, to make a majestic cocktail.
When does a restaurant start to be profitable?
On the one hand, pay for your recipes. People today do not cost, if you ask a chef how many grams this ceviche carries, how much onion, how much tiger milk, and knows the answer, is that this business will be prosperous, if they do not know, danger!
On the other hand, make optimal cooking. For billing of costs and product. For example: the whole sea bass costs 9.60 euros per kilo, but the sea bass decreases 60%. So we are talking about 17 euros a kilo, and what do you do with the shrinkage … We, the skin we do not throw it away, we dehydrate it and make a crispy twist, the bones at the bottom, same with the onion peel, if you you wash it well and pour it into a broth becomes a bottom. For your team, nothing is thrown away.
Any advice you can give our readers to start with a restaurant business?
The biggest advice would be: follow your dreams. You can go crazy, but do things right, that everything that comes out of your mouth has to be true, your values have to be clear. Work 24 hours for 7 days a week, and it is not a job, if at some point you feel it heavy, get worried, and leave it. You should know that cooking is beautiful but not for everyone because then you hear comments that people say that we are exploited by many hours, and it is true, for someone who does not like it. And another thing, prepare yourself because emotional intelligence is very important, it is not about cooking delicious, but also about being a good person with yourself. Everyone is the owner of his life, take a chance!
Next year, Jhosef and his team promise to continue surprising us with a new project. Thank you very much, chef, for inspiring us, that your dreams go further. The sky is the limit.
Here, we leave the recipe of the ceviche “Tastes like Peru”, the very one that Jhosef and his team prepare in Piscomar.
The Jhosef Arias Group consists of 3 restaurants: PISCOMAR, CALLAO24, and CAPÓN, in addition to the Premium catering service, and BOLD KITCHEN.
Piscomar. It is the first project of chef Jhosef Arias, currently located in the area of La Latina, is dedicated to fish and seafood. His concept represents a Peruvian cevichería. The atmosphere is modern and very spacious, a long bar and a terrace. Inside Piscomar, there is a new space for events called Bold Kitchen, recently opened. In Madrid, the Piscomar restaurant is already one of the favorites.
Callao24. It is a tribute in life to his mother, directed by his sister, but in the kitchen, his mother is in charge. The specialty of the house is Creole cuisine and pork rinds. It is located in the area of Puente de Vallecas. On weekends, it is better to book.
Capón. A restaurant that occupied the place where the old Piscomar was located. It is dedicated to Chifa and Nikkei cuisine, and at the request of customers, a ceviche with an Asian touch called “intruso” [intruder] is served. Continue having the usual public in the area.
Get your appetite? Then visit Jhosef in one of his locations in Madrid: https://grupojhosefarias.com/
If you want to be part of the Jhosef Arias Group, contact them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org