Occupation: Owner and administrator
Where: Inka Heritage, 602 S. Park St.
Why you should go: Peruvian food's exploding on the world culinary scene, and finally ' hallelujah! ' it's here.
What's your personal Inca heritage?
My grandfather was born in the Andes, the cradle of Inca civilization. I don't know if he was Inca ' most Peruvians probably have a little Inca blood. But I'm from Loreto, in the Amazon rainforest. My family was in cattle ranching there.
I named my restaurant Inka Heritage because I use quintessentially Inca ingredients, like potatoes. But Peruvian cuisine today is a post-conquest mix ' Inca with Spanish, Japanese and Chinese influences. According to Wikipedia, Peruvian's the fourth-highest culinary art, after French, Chinese and Indian. I'm proud of my decision to open a Peruvian restaurant in Madison.
I was one of the lucky ones, I won the visa lottery in 2000. So I came to Miami, with all my papers in order, just to see what the States were like. To improve my English, I got a job as a busboy in a Japanese restaurant, Nobu. Nobu Matsuhisa co-owns the place with Robert DeNiro ' they have branches in the Bahamas, France, Dallas and New York. Matsuhisa lived in Peru for several years ' he likes to combine Peruvian ingredients with Japanese cuisine.
I ended up managing the inventory at Nobu. I'd majored in business administration in college, and the American system of running restaurants fascinated me. I started thinking about opening my own place in Miami. But my wife had family in Madison, so we heard what a great place it is to raise kids. When our first daughter was born we decided to move here.
Do you cook?
No, I have three chefs. Maritza Paz and SofÃa Delgado are Peruvians. I knew Maritza when I was a little boy in Peru ' she and her family were my neighbors in Loreto. I hadn't seen her in years. We found each other in a Peruvian restaurant in Miami ' I went there to eat, and she was the chef! So I asked her to come to Madison to work with me. I wanted three sets of hands in the kitchen, so she brought along two fellow cooks, SofÃa and JesÃs Eliseo MÃndez, who's from Guatemala.
What should I order?
Start with the sushi-grade sea bass ceviche. You can find ceviche all over Latin America, but we made a national dish of it. We perk up the lime juice, salt and cilantro marinade with South American rocoto chile and a touch of ginger ' the Japanese influence.
Want another appetizer? Papas Ã la HuancaÃna are wonderful. Slices of boiled potato with a crema of cheese, milk and aji amarillo ' a condiment made from hot yellow peppers.
Next, try my favorite, the jalea de pescado. It's fried seafood ' fish, octopus, shrimp, mussels, calamar ' served with yuca. I include tartar sauce on the side for Americans, but also some aji de la casa made from huacatay, an aromatic herb like mint, cooked with salt, cumin and vinegar. Peruvians who come in to eat say the jalea transports them back to Peru.
Dessert? Go for lucuma mousse, made with the Incas' fruit. And wash everything down with chicha morada, the famous purple corn drink the Incas used to lower blood pressure. Or have a Peruvian beer instead.