Program Supports Peruvian Restaurant Owners

Written by Lauren TeegardenLauren y Brenna

Peru is increasingly known for its gastronomy, and as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Lima, I’ve had the good fortune of tasting many Peruvian dishes. The Farmer-to-Farmer program works with women entrepreneurs who have successfully completed the 10,000 Women program, which provides business training for women entrepreneurs. During my six months in Peru, I have mentored a dozen women business owners in both Lima and Trujillo, and along the way I have learned about Peru’s fantastic cuisine.

The primary areas of focus for Farmer-to-Farmer are food and textiles. I have enjoyed working with the food-oriented companies, and not just because I’m likely to be offered sweets! In Trujillo, I learned the importance of throwing a good fiesta. Business owner Carolina makes elaborate fondant cakes for birthdays, weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, and first communions. Her cakes sell for about $75 per kilo, which is a small fortune in Peru. That said, her business is booming, as trujillanos have a penchant for parties that include the entire extended family. Carolina is a sculptor, and she uses her artistic talent to create cakes that are works of art, with elaborately molded figurines. One of her cakes was even stolen during the middle of a wedding reception – it was a five-layer cake with a nautical theme, and when the bride and groom went to cut the cake, it had disappeared!

Lauren y BertaIn Lima, I mentor Berta, who has a bakery and also operates the cafeteria of a local university. If only my college cafeteria food had tasted like Berta’s! Berta prepares anticuchos (grilled skewers of beef heart), fettuccini a la huancaina (pasta with a chili cream sauce), lomo saltado (beef and tomato stir fry), and the best maracuyá (passion fruit) mousse in Peru. Berta strives to provide high-quality food at a reasonable price. Her clients have responded enthusiastically, and she is now looking for opportunities to expand to a nearby mall and other points of sale. Additionally, a Facebook page with mouth-watering dessert photos has helped increase sales. Who can resist a close-up of a piece of mil hojas de fresas (strawberry and cream pastry)?

I have also been mentoring Myrian, who manages a kosher market and café in Lima. Lima does not have a large Jewish population like Buenos Aires or São Paulo, but the market has a very loyal clientele and some delicious baked goods. Whether fresh-baked jalá bread or foods imported from Israel, I have found a new set of flavors served alongside typical Peruvian lentils or a chicken stir fry. Her kosher market is one of the most international places I’ve encountered in Lima, with visitors stopping by from the U.S. or other Latin American countries looking for kosher products.

Lauren and Berta2Working with restaurants and bakeries in Peru has been a treat – Peruvians know how to eat well! French fries seem to have become an ingredient (French fries are featured in soups, stir fries, and other dishes since the potato is so common here), and tropical fruit drinks appear on even the cheapest fixed-price lunch. Food is a booming industry that provides many opportunities for business growth. As earning power increases, people have more disposable income to eat in restaurants; with the economic growth, convenience is becoming an increasingly important factor in food purchases. And, more of us gringos are pausing to appreciate the gastronomic diversity that Peru offers.