Published August 2021
Francesca Ferreyros’ origin is a fusion, just like her gastronomy. Born to a Peruvian-Colombian father and a Peruvian-American mother, Francesca is an American by birth, and she is also proud of her Latin roots. She loves her origin, defends, and values it every day of her life.
For this special “Flavors of South America,” we had the opportunity to talk with this incredible chef, owner of the Baan restaurant (@baan.peru) in Lima. She told us about gastronomy related to her love for the family and what it means to her.
Her parents lived in Peru; however, a few years before Francesca was born, a tough time began in the country. This situation led them to decide to live in the United States for some time, which is why their daughter was born in North American lands. However, they always wanted to go back to Peru, so they returned when Francesca was still a little girl.
How did your history with gastronomy begin?
My dad is a great cook, and so is my maternal grandmother, and my mom loves cooking, so I always found myself in the kitchen. I consider it a space of peace and relaxation; whenever I have problems or am in a bad mood, I love going to the kitchen because I relax, get distracted, and my mind clears a little.
My dad is a foodie, and he is someone who loves cooking and eating. When he is going to cook, he buys the ingredients he likes in his favorite place so he does not just go to a supermarket to buy everything. He also used to make me try everything, and I appreciate it now because I developed an educated palate.
My maternal grandmother also worked a lot in the kitchen. She sold cookies, desserts, cakes ... She cooked everything! She loved cooking, she had many dinners at her house, and I loved cooking with her and helping her. Most of my memories come from the kitchen.
I was lucky because my older brother was a partner in a restaurant in Peru, and I used to work there every summer. I loved the experience, and at the same time, I noticed that there were not many female references in the kitchen. It was a very masculine world, and it was not easy to picture myself in that professional field. In Europe, there were women professionally dedicated to gastronomy, but there was no global connection that social networks give you nowadays. When I left school, I studied Education; I love children, and there are many educators in my family, so I did it. However, the idea that cooking would always be in my life as a hobby was constantly in my mind. A year after entering university, I dropped out and started working in the kitchen to be 100% sure that this was my vocation, and it was! At that moment, I decided to study cooking in Lima at Le Cordon Bleu. After that, I lived in the US for several years and then in Europe. Afterward, I went to Thailand, where I stayed for three years.
Why was Asia the region chosen due to its gastronomy?
It was something that just happened. I grew up getting the Asian influence because my paternal grandfather was Ambassador to Asia; he was in Japan, Korea, and China. Besides, Peru has many Chinese and Japanese influences, which was the origin of chifa and the Nikkei cuisine. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by these cuisines; for me, there must be chifa every week, and I strongly associate it with a family day. I had never thought about going to Thailand, but I received a job offer. There, I was surprised by the connection I found with the Peruvian Amazon because the textiles, the cooking techniques, the culture, and even the physical features were very similar. I noticed that in the Thai Amazon, the inputs they use are very similar to the Peruvian ones. For example, lemons, although there are differences compared to the Peruvian Amazon. This lemon is the only one I have found abroad similar to the Peruvian one because the lemon from Peru is very special. That is why ceviche is so delicious, and it is not easy to reproduce it in other countries.
When I arrived in Peru, I looked for the flavors that I missed from Thailand, and suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps there would be ingredients to discover in the jungle that was not 100% explored. I spoke with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, who is famous for his knowledge of the Amazon, and I started traveling with him to the jungle and meeting communities. At that moment, I began to realize even more that there was a connection with the Amazon of Southeast Asia, and the concept was born: merging these two cultures because it is neither Amazonian nor 100% Asian. It is something well interpreted by me, and it was an inspiration in Asian flavors with Peruvian ingredients.
What is the most important thing in your kitchen between technique and ingredients?
The food must be delicious. The technique is fun, and it is something you learn to be a perfectionist. But looking for flavor is also technical. And the same happens with the ingredients because maybe I like strawberries, but they will not be nice if it is not the strawberry season. The important thing is that what you eat must be delicious, considering the importance of textures.
If you had to define yourself in one of your dishes, what would it be and why?
It would be a garnish that fascinates me, and it is like a crunchy salad; it is an explosion of everything in your mouth. There are textures, and it is spicy (and for me, spiciness is a must), herbs that explode with the crunchy garlic, and grapefruit. That is what I love about Thai cuisine: all the flavors in one bite. It is a dish that surprises people.
What do you like the most about Latin American cuisine?
I like its variety. We are very similar but also the cuisine characterizes each city more than the country. You can travel to Brazil, and you can feel yourself in totally different places, but you are in the same territory. Also, I like the historical connection of Latin gastronomy.
What motivated you to participate in the Flavors project?
For me, there is nothing more beautiful than the Latin American union: we are one. For example, I lived in Miami for many years, and it is a city that fascinates me. I always say that if I leave Peru, I would go to Miami because it is the city where all of Latin America meets, and I have a very Latin personality. I have lived in Europe and Asia, but I always missed the Latin brotherhood. It is a privilege to be part of a continent so united and so proud of its roots and part of a campaign that represents gastronomy, which is the most important thing for the Peruvian people. I feel proud of being from Latin America and Peruvian.
Why did you choose the Crunchy ceviche dish for the project? What is its differential?
It was difficult for me to think of a dish because I wanted to represent Peru, but I did not want to do anything typical. Living in other countries has taught me that eating food from your country abroad is never the same because you do not find the same ingredients. Thus, I wanted it to be something that could remind you of Peruvian influences, but also fun, something new. Of course, there is nothing more iconic than ceviche in Peru, but my dish is a very BAAN-style ceviche: I prepare it with coconut milk and tempura fried fish. It is a crunchy dish, so it has those textures that are important in a meal. Your nationality does not matter. If you prepare that dish, you will be surprised because it looks similar to ceviche, but it has nothing to do with it. Coconut milk is widely used in the Caribbean but not in Peru, so this is a way of integrating both cultures.