How can anyone not love the food at Maido, one of Peru’s leading restaurants?
There are many who say Mitsaharu Tsumura is the best chef in the world, and after eating lunch at Maido in Lima, Peru last week and chatting to him, I can see why.
But I think he’s not only a brilliant chef, he’s also a philosopher, and doesn’t take his success lightly. In Peru, he is nothing short of a rock star, and he flies around the world to global acclaim. And all of that at just 35 years of age.
There is a waiting list 6 months long for patrons to pay US$179 for a degustation meal.
“When I was in my twenties, I sat down and asked myself what made me happy. There are many ways of being happy in your life, everyone is happy in different ways,” Mitsuharu reflects.
“I recognised the happiest moments of every day for me were making other people happy. It nourishes me, my soul, my brain , my heart. If you have that philosophy, it’s how to become successful.”
For Mitsuharu, his restaurant and his approach is not just about the food, although there is huge attention to detail in every dish. For every patron, he has a member of staff, so there are 58 seats and 69 staff.
“We try our best not just regarding food – it’s a whole experience when people come here. The way the host receives you, the way the waitress takes care of you and communicates.”
For him, the dishes are a creative process focusing on taste. “I feel I am taking dishes grandma made & taking them to a creative world,” he says.
The food is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian – a popular style in Peru generally know as Nikkei. But every dish here sparkles with flavour, style and taste.
I loved the Patagonian tooth fish with roasted almonds – stunning and a taste sensation, as well as the more traditional sushi style rolls that arrived with a Peruvian sauce, but the black dim sum inspired dumpling served on a piece of granite-like stone blew me away in one explosive mouthful.
“The key is never losing flavour,” he says. We do crazy stuff, so that when you put something in your mouth it will explode. Other chefs focus on presentation, but nothing is more important than flavour, that pleasure from your mouth to your brain.”
It wasn’t easy for Mitsuharu as after learning the ropes in Peru, he then went to Japan to learn all about sushi, where for the first six months all he did was clean kitchens.
“I almost gave up and left, but then I thought ‘where will I go?”
He stayed, learnt everything he could in two years and returned to Peru and was snapped up by The Sheraton group who kept promoting him until at 27, he was head of F&B.
In a life moment, he was offered a further promotion, but quit to open Maido. He was just 28 years of age.
“It was a risk but my Dad supported me,” he says.
He chose a Japanese word for the name; “The name is from Osaka, and means “welcome to customers who come regularly.”
And they keep coming regularly, and more will be coming to the W in Santiago when he opens there next month. Absolutely brilliant.