Gregor Zimmermann inherited his talent and the calling for cookery: His parents had their own restaurant and passed their passion for haute cuisine on to their son. The starting gun for his professional career, however, was fired when he started his professional training at the Bellevue Palace in 1988. Today, he leads the hotel’s team of about 30 chefs and oversees 2 000 banquets and events every year. After several inspiring years of working elsewhere, he returned to Berne 12 years ago. His work has earned him numerous major awards, including three world championship titles with the Swiss national team at competitions in Chicago, Singapore, and Basel.
Now a world-celebrated ceviche king Gastón Acurio met Astrid Gutsche, a young German pastry chef, at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in the early 1990s. Together, they returned to Acurio’s native Lima. In Peru, the couple set out to modernise the then fairly unknown local cuisine, to open it up for international influences and to put it on the world’s gastronomic map.
Soon, they found a 300-year-old colonial mansion where they opened their famous “Astrid y Gastón” in Lima. To this day, Casa Moreyra is considered a culinary stronghold in a setting that can feel more like a forgotten paradise than a Latin American capital.
96 climate zones, 50 types of chillies, 3000 potatoes cultivars – and ceviche and pisco sour, of course: The culinary delights of the region between the Pacific and the Andes draw on seemingly inexhaustible sources. Today, «Astrid y Gastón » ranks among the world’s most prestigious gourmet labels with more than restaurants on both American continents, including San Francisco and Buenos Aires, as well as in London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, and now Geneva.
The heart of the “Astrid y Gastón” art of cookery still resides at the Casa Moreyra in Lima, and it provides the DNA for all restaurants abroad. It is where the chefs receive their training before they travel to one of the international spin offs. Guests will also recognise the restaurants by their characteristic interior design: Light and friendly, modern and functional, and with hints to the Latin America we know from movies. Guests will find ceviche, of course, tiradito (raw fish, cut in Sashimi-like style, prepared à la minute and served with a sauce, anticucho skewers, and lomo saltado (a wok dish with beef).
«My dishes are straight forward, unfussy. I try to allow as much room as possible for the taste of meat, fish, spices, and all other ingredients to unfold,” Gaston Acurio explains his work. He uses local Peruvian ingredients: “Limes are not always available in Geneva, and we buy chillies in Peru,” says César Bellido, the talented 29-year-old “Yakumanka” head chef. He, too, completed the traditional “Acurio training” in Lima before starting his job at the luxurious outpost at Geneva’s Mandarin Oriental.
«Yakumanka» means «water and pan» in the language of the Incas. A pot filled with water is a wonderful metaphor for a good life.
Yakumanka, Quai Turrettini 1, 1201 Genève
Tel. 022 909 00 00, www.yakumanka.ch