Culinary Recycling Comes to Mistura : New Worlder

Lima-born chef Palmiro Ocampo, 33, is an accomplished guy. He spent time in kitchens in Europe and Latin America, including gastronomic leaders Noma and El Celler de Can Roca, before opening Hana & Sumi and, more recently, 1087 Bistro in Lima. Having represented Peru in culinary competitions around the world, he also teaches a “gastronomía de vanguardia” course at Le Cordon Bleu Perú. Now, the chef at the helm of this year’s Mistura Food Festival in Lima is using his appointment as Grand Marshall of the country’s largest food event to promote an idea he calls culinary recycling.

Stunned when he was tapped to be this year’s Gastronomic Director by Apega, the Peruvian gastronomic association that is responsible for Mistura (September 2-11), Ocampo quickly realized that holding the top job gave him the chance to spread the word about his latest obsessions: culinary recycling, using entire ingredients and reducing food waste.

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Ocampo began thinking about those issues, in part, because of the waste he witnessed as a Cordon Bleu student. As a reaction, in 2015, he and his wife started an organization called Q’upa, meaning “trash” in the Andean Quechua language, with the goal of reducing food waste by showing chefs and home cooks how to use more of each ingredient. By rethinking the viability of ingredients destined for the garbage bin, (think: plantain peels), Ocampo began promoting what he calls “culinary recycling.” In 2016, the name of the organization was changed to CCori (pronounced Kjori) which means “gold” or “treasure” in Quechua. The organization’s name change from “trash” to “treasure” is no accident, as that linguistic magic trick mimics what Ocampo is doing in his kitchens.

CCori is a non-profit organization with the mission, in Ocampo’s words, “of spreading consciousness about food waste and hunger in the world and creating techniques that use the whole ingredient so with the same ingredient you can make more edible food.”

This is an important task in Peru where, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, half a million Peruvian children are malnourished and more than 300 millones de soles (nearly 90 million dollars) worth of food is discarded each year by Peruvian supermarkets. This year, the Peruvian government passed legislation allowing food donation to the country’s first food banks, but current laws make it complicated and fiscally unattractive for supermarkets and other sources to do so.

CCori works to teach home cooks in poor communities, which are most at risk for malnutrition and food shortage, how to use more of each ingredient to maximize food volume. On the other hand, Ocampo uses his 1087 Bistro, opened in the San Isidro district of Lima in April of 2016, to reach the upper classes.

“At 1087 Bistro, we teach how fine dining could be an instrument for change in the world by making recycled dishes that look even more beautiful than the regular ones of the menu,” explains Ocampo. For example, the recycled dish of the day might include those aforementioned plantain skins. When soaked in ice water, boiled, and then fried, the result is a crunchy, jungle version of potato straws.

With the aim of “building an army of culinary students who can use cuisine as a social instrument,” CCori is  designing a culinary recycling course for San Ignacio de Loyola University, and during Mistura, Ocampo is presenting a master class about the principles of the organization. Young Chef candidates at the festival will receive extra points if they use whole ingredients and recycled food.

But it’s Peruvian children that Ocampo really has his eye on and to reach them Ocampo has inaugurated the Little Mistureros program as part of Mistura 2016. Children between the ages of 7 and 12, who were chosen from state and private schools, will be taken on a market tour lead by Peruvian superstar chefs including Virgilio Martínez, Diego Muñoz, and Jaime Pesaque. Following the market tour, the Little Mistureros will take part in a culinary recycling class and a composting class before enjoying a meal made using entire ingredients. Ocampo believes if he can educate them, they will influence their parents and continue reducing food waste into their own adulthood. An accomplished guy, indeed.