Where does the taste for good flavor that every Peruvian has in their DNA come from? Chef Ignacio Barrios has a theory: "I think it’s due in the most part to people making an effort to cook delicious things at home." This is precisely the objective of the new venture of this globetrotting chef, who has returned home to share all the secrets of Inca cuisine... online.
Ignacio is co-founder of the first online Peruvian cooking school: Cocina Lab, a venture that transforms the traditional way of transmitting the secrets of Peruvian food, while challenging the senses. How to teach cooking without taste and smell? "To do this we have a lot of contact with our students, we have forums and we answer questions almost in real time," says the chef.
Nothing is impossible today, thanks to online education. The school has an efficient consultation system which can answer any food-related question.
Knowing how to teach is another of the pillars of this project, ensuring there are no obstacles for those who wish to learn the culinary art of Peru.
"We have top-quality teachers. This makes the classes not only entertaining, but also very educational," says the chef.
Cocina Lab has a dream team of teachers, including: James Berckemeyer, Ximena Llosa, Maca Bustamante, José del Castillo, Ignacio himself, among other culinary geniuses.
Cooking up the project
Ignacio Barrios began his career in London, where he worked in restaurants such as Wild Honey and Daylesford Organic. He then traveled to Madrid and worked for more than two years in the kitchens of Astrid y Gastón. Five years later he returned to Peru and founded his own cooking school. But there’s always something left to be done and soon he had a spark of innovation as he saw a new business niche: online teaching.
Cocina Lab is the result of this effort, talent, and a pinch of chance.
"It really was an opportunity that we saw in the market," explains the chef himself. "We had a meeting with Fernando, Lucas and Aurelio in which they explained how they had seen an opportunity in training culinary entrepreneurs. Rubén, my partner at Urban Kitchen, and I were sure that there was an opportunity to continue training professional chefs. So it was a natural alliance. They already had a start-up and we had the location and contacts. And so, from this one meeting, we all saw a clear opportunity."
Over time, the focus changed from being a school for professionals or entrepreneurs, to a school open to all cooking enthusiasts. "It is an e-learning concept called 'edutainment', in which education is mixed with entertainment," explains Ignacio.
Peru on a plate
One of the great sources of pride for all Peruvians is, without a doubt, the country’s cuisine, which is one of the most varied and delicious in the world. "[We have] our biodiversity, which must be taken care of," says the Peruvian chef. "Our past, that mix of cultures that makes Peru so interesting and diverse. And finally, our cuisine, which is the result of the two previous factors and which has led us to love it so much."
So, in the wake of the Day of the Farmer, Ignacio recommends to his students, as a tribute to the Peruvian farmer, a good Papa a la huancaína, a spicy Puca or an Ajiaco de papas.
Find out more about Peru’s potato here.
And, as the National Holidays draw near, the chef reveals what he considers to be the ultimate lunch for July 28. "It would have to be a buffet of regional cuisine with a classic Cebiche, a Tiradito de pejerreyes, a prawn Ocopa, Duck with rice, a Seco de chabelo, an Ají de gallina and some Juanes."
All of which are delicacies from the three regions of the country.
And for dessert? Ignacio goes for a Rice pudding, "but like my grandmother used to make, otherwise it's no good."
A guarantee of good taste
These and many more dishes are taught in Cocina Lab, whose platform is divided into three main areas: cooking, nutrition and well-being, and business. Within these categories, there are courses in healthy cooking, Peruvian cooking, Nikkei cooking, costs and supplies, Peruvian seafood cooking and much more.
"We are going to increase cocktail courses, for example, where pisco will take center stage," says Ignacio. All the courses offer a certificate upon completion. Users can purchase a one-off course and have it in their account permanently (like buying a movie) or they can purchase a membership and have access to the platform for a set time.
Homemade Peruvian flavors at an affordable price. There is no need to travel, except to the market. A great way to make the most of time. Mouth-watering!
Find out more about this Peruvian venture here.
- At the end of 2019, Cocina Lab won the Startup Peru contest organized by the Ministry of Production through the Innovate Peru Program.
- A quarter of Cocina Lab users are located abroad: Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, the United States, Japan and China, which contributes decisively to strengthening the Peru Brand.