In Argentine Patagonia, where the world ends, the entrepreneurship of a Peruvian takes off. Joao Baez -22 years old, from Trujillo, chef by profession- slowly builds a gastronomic empire that Argentines enjoy, admire and recognize. This is the story of a young compatriot who, at the point of ceviches, lomos saltados and papas a la huancaína, is conquering the extreme south of the planet.
“Here, in San Martín de los Andes, there was no one offering Peruvian food. And Peruvian food is a boom in Buenos Aires. So I saw an opportunity, I came alone, with my knife and my clothes”, says Joao Baez through the telephone line, almost two thousand five hundred kilometers away.
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That’s when he foundedEstate‘ (in 2019), a company that offers Peruvian food preparation at home, but also does it for luxurious hotels and massive events. Little by little, in San Martín de los Andes, one of the most preferred tourist spots by Argentines, its name has become known and its seasoning is already a benchmark when it comes to a different proposal.
Entrepreneurship has allowed Joao Baez to sustain himself during the years of the pandemic, the Argentine economic crisis and take academic courses.
The purpose of Joao Baez – a resident of the Liberación Social neighborhood of Trujillo, who learned to cook in the family huarique and later perfected his techniques with studies in gastronomy schools-, it is clear: “My thing is not to compete with Argentine food, but rather to accompany it. That is, if they have the roast, well, what I’m looking for is to be able to accompany that dish, perhaps, with a potato la huancaína”.
Arriving south of Argentina, had to fight it with 12 or 16 hour jobs and low wages. His goal was to start his business. Soon he succeeded and started his own proposal ‘Raíces’, his venture with which he offers the service of a chef at home and food by delivery, and which is breaking it in the south of Argentina.
Joe, where are you from?
I am from Trujillo. At the age of 16 I studied at a cooking school. At the age of 18 I came to Argentina. I settled in Buenos Aires for a year. Then I came to San Martín de los Andes, in Patagonia.
How did you get to the end of the world?
I came here on vacation for a week. And I loved it, I told myself that this was paradise. It happens that when I come, I find work. I stabilized. Here the people are very good.
Did you move alone?
Yes, at 19 years old.
With many doubts and fear?
There is always fear. But I also had the security of what I do. I am passionate about cooking and I was sure that if I worked hard it would allow me to live. I have worked as a waiter, kitchen assistant…
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What did you carry in your suitcase?
Only my knife, which I have had since I was 15 years old, a Peruvian food recipe book, and my clothes.
And with that you fought her…
Clear. That gave me confidence. He told me, “something new is missing here”. And when they asked me where I was from and I answered that I was from Peru, they mentioned the ceviche, the papa a la huancaína. Then I understood that they were looking for something new. Here you eat regional, autochthonous, there is not much different proposal. At six months I began to go to houses, to businesses, offering Peruvian food. The most complicated is the raw material.
THE OPPORTUNITY IN PATAGONIA
Is it true that there are no Peruvian restaurants over there?
No, there is not. For the same reason, the raw material is very difficult to obtain. They supply me from Buenos Aires.
What is your star dish?
It’s the spicy seafood. People love that a lot.
A yellow chili paste, with milk, cookie, bell pepper, coriander. It is accompanied with garlic rice.
What fish do you make ceviche with?
I do it with rooster, which is very similar to tollo. They bring it fresh from the south.
In these two years what have been your achievements?
There are seven or eight Peruvians living here. Here I am Peru, they call me that, that’s what they call me. The achievement, for me, is having reached people, families, who had never tried our gastronomy. Here it became popular. Many traveled to Buenos Aires to try Peruvian food. Here they made ceviche, but with glazed sweet potatoes, did you see? I offer the traditional.
When I add a sliced boiled sweet potato to the ceviche, people are surprised. They did not know the traditional. Another achievement is that we are working for people from abroad, for a four-star hotel. We present ‘The Peruvian Night’, in a mountain resort, which is something exclusive.
Was it easy to start? How much did you fight?
When I arrived I started to work and they paid me little. It’s part of getting to a place and knowing that nothing is easy. The truth is not being an easy road, a lot of dedication is required. I worked 12 to 16 hours. For me, working 16 hours cooking was not a bad time. It was a nice experience.
You are 22 years old, what are your goals?
Now, currently, I study Digital Marketing. My goal is to continue growing in this and to be able to train myself more, you see? I would love to go on a cruise and go to work in Ushuaia, which is known here as the city of the end of the world. It is the southernmost part of the world. That place calls me a lot, I hope to go there and show our stews.
PERUVIAN FOOD IN SAN MARTÍN DE LOS ANDES
What is ‘Roots’?
We work through virtuality. It is a service that is provided for families. I go with all the products, with all the tools. It is a home kitchen. I carry everything and prepare at home. It is something that was not here. It is something different. People love it because there is personalized service and you form a bond. A week we can get to cook 100 people. And we also sell takeaway.
What has your entrepreneurship allowed you?
Today, it gives me the solvency to depend absolutely on this, to be able to travel and study. Now I work independently, I don’t work in a restaurant, everything independently.
Argentines are very regionalist, it must have been difficult for them to accept your proposals…
Yes, there is a lot of Italian influence here, a lot of pasta is consumed. They also eat a lot of sushi. And now they have one more proposal and they like it. We do not seek to replace the roast, but to accompany it. It’s what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to compete. I don’t want people to stop eating asado, that’s not the idea, because that’s theirs, it’s to accompany their dishes.
Joao, I hope the company continues to grow…
Look, the marker is not to make twine, the twine comes by itself. It is important, but here it goes on the other hand, that the Peruvian cuisine reach all corners…
And the Argentine accent stuck to you…
What if. I miss Peru a lot. What happens is that there are not many Peruvians here. One way or another, the hint sticks to me, did you see? Ha ha ha.
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