The head chef of new Peruvian restaurant Chakana in Moseley, and formally head chef at Michelin-starred Lima London, Robert Ortiz, reveals how a school cooking competition gave him a taste for creating great food
Tell us about your cooking
My style of cooking is simple, fresh, light and healthy. I love to mix Peruvian ingredients with local ones – this makes sense in so many ways, and I’ve found great produce from all around the British Isles.
How did you become a chef?
I’ve loved to be in the kitchen ever since I was very young. My key early moments were probably a school competition and then being introduced to international cuisine when I moved to the capital, Lima. The biggest influences were my grandmother and my mother. I spent most of my evenings helping them prepare food at home. I still remember the wonderful aromas of their cooking.
What do you eat when at home?
I love roast chicken with potatoes and lots of vegetables – mostly comfort food.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why?
I don’t believe there is one best chef. The ones I admire are those who bring inspiration to chefs, are conserving nature in as many ways as they can and are teaching the next generation. I’m getting to know the Birmingham food scene – perhaps ask me again in six months’ time!
Is the customer always right?
Absolutely. We have to be focused on their needs above all.
Share a cooking tip
Boil your potatoes for a couple of minutes before baking them. They will caramelise and crumble slightly better.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I used to love to eat root vegetables like yam potatoes and fresh river fish.
Food heaven and food hell?
Food heaven is slow-cooked octopus with achiote and quinoa. I don’t like dried fish with nuts…
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Fried Amazonian ants.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
In another life I’d be a vet or an archaeologist.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Try everything! The menu is made up of elements that are designed to work in combination.