Action Against Hunger is known around the world for combating severe malnutrition and food insecurity in developing countries. In Canada, our team’s goal is to make these issues more tangible to those who do not necessarily experience them. It’s only natural that we share our interests with chefs, including those who participate in our annual culinary fundraisers: Love Food Give Food and Love Food Fest. One of our biggest supporters is chef Matt Blondin.
Blondin is a renaissance man who wields the tools of his craft with versatility and distinction and navigates a vast repertoire of spices and flavours. Blondin recently visited Peru to check out Action Against Hunger’s team at work.
What was your impression of Action Against Hunger’s project in Yanapampa, Ayacucho?
“It’s incredible to see people who have lived a certain way and have access to limited resources open their village and allow us access into their families, living quarters and day to day activities. It’s always difficult to teach people new things, especially individuals with such deeply rooted practices, so you would think implementing systems in such a community would be near impossible. Action Against Hunger has managed to enter a village in a remote area of Peru with limited resources, language barriers, as well as some learning disabilities and effectively make the villagers understand how and why their children are sick, and proceeding in educating them in how to prevent it from happening. That is what makes this organization fantastic. The level of dedication, and determination that the workers have . . . On a good note, I was also blown away by the amount of chefs, and restaurants that participate with Action Against Hunger in helping stop malnutrition in their country. This is the largest collaborative effort from restaurants/chefs I’ve seen and its eye opening to see what a team of colleagues can do for a good humanitarian cause. ”
What were your first impressions of Lima and Peruvian food?
“The traditions, and history of the Peruvian people make for outstanding people, with remarkable ancestry. The city of Lima itself, while being very segregated, is beautiful in every sense. The lavish coastlines, the parks, markets, cultural centres, world class restaurants, and very, very, busy streets make it one of South America’s most sought-after destinations. The fact that it was 28 Celsius in February wasn’t bad either.
As for food, it was great to try authentic Peruvian cuisine on different levels. I’ve had it before in Toronto, or versions of it, but never in the capital city from chefs who live and breathe Peruvian cuisine. It was great to experience a spectrum of dining that stretched from very traditional (anticuchos in a subterranean grill house), and ceviches in seaside cevicherias to modern variations on classical Peruvian dishes at Astrid Y Gaston, and Central: two of South Americas best restaurants.”
Did your stay in Peru cause you to have any culinary epiphanies?
“I’ve always used a small amount of influence from South America in my dishes. I’ve been a big fan of the Tiradito for a long time, and have always loved ceviches. Myself, I’m not Peruvian, or South American in any way so although I like being influenced by the flavours, ingredients, and techniques of the country, I’ll leave the really traditional stuff to the professionals and experts who have been making this food delicious for centuries.”
What were the main things you learned from your visit to Ayacucho?
“That a simple way of life is all someone really needs to be happy. A lot of what surrounds us is manufactured happiness. I myself am guilty of losing grasp of what’s important in life, and what true happiness is. ”