Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio visited Chicago this past weekend, appearing at the local tendril of his culinary empire, Tanta (118 W. Grand Ave., 312-222-9700). He and Tanta’s chef de cuisine, Jesús Delgado, conference-called with Dish to talk about the restaurant’s success and future plans.
What brings you to Chicago?
Gastón Acurio: Two reasons. [One is a] world tour with other chefs from Peru [Hector Solis, Virgilio Martínez, and Mitsuharu Tsumura]. The four of us are doing seviches. We arrive in a city and invite our local chefs to join with us and prepare with us tiger milk seviche. And we have a conversation. We are on a tour of 25 cities all over the world—Miami, San Sebastián, Singapore, London. [The second reason is] the anniversary of Tanta [which opened August 12, 2013].
Are there any dishes that have been surprisingly successful in Chicago?
Gastón Acurio: Aeropuerto chicken. [It’s a] very, very humble dish in Peru. When they received the news in Peru that aeropuerto was a popular dish here, they did not believe it.
Gastón Acurio: Octopus anticucho. Also Japanese Peruvian style food. Very popular here in Chicago.
How do you prepare Peruvian food for a Chicago audience?
Jesús Delgado: We create with local ingredients but always with Peruvian flavor. We cook with a lot of fresh chiles. We bring everything from Peru and sometimes use amarillo, yellow chile. The heat for the seviche, we need that flavor.
We’ve heard you’re looking to get into fast food. Will we see a fast-food place in Chicago?
Gastón Acurio: I hope one day, of course. We need to develop the first location. That will be in Peru. What we used to think about fast food is changing. [Now it’s] great food, great atmosphere, great prices, and not so fast as before. Fine dining means you do concepts for only rich people who can afford it. Why not do things that everybody can afford and enjoy?
What kind of fast food?
Gastón Acurio: I am a sandwich guy, actually. We have a Peruvian different type of roasted pork and turkey sandwiches. Chicharrón sandwiches. We put on our Peruvian sauces. My dream is to have a Peruvian sandwich restaurant in Chicago.