Born: Apurímac, Peru
Education: Cenfotur culinary school, Lima
Profession: Executive chef at La Rosa Náutica
Currently reading: Francis Mallmann’s Tierra de Fuegos
Last film: Something about super heroes with my children
Gadget: My knife set
Welcoming the chance to work in Bogotá training cooks for eight months, when opportunity knocked a second time for Julio Marín Camposano to work abroad, he seized it with both hands. The Peruvian chef moved to Buenos Aires to open the Argentine branch of one of Peru’s most renowned restaurants three years ago.
Julio says: “I had been in charge of the kitchen at La Rosa Náutica in Lima eight years, when the owners said they wanted to open a restaurant in Bogotá. So I lived in Colombia for about eight months in order to train the cooks, which was a great experience.
“So when the chance to come to Buenos Aires opened up three years ago and I was asked if I wanted to be in charge, I obviously agreed to the challenge so I moved here to train another new team. It wasn’t too hard to adapt as I had been in Colombia for eight months – sincerely, I have to say that everything has been quite simple for me.
“I was very much into the idea of getting to know Argentina, and trying the beef of course! But given that the restaurant was trying to expand and become more international, the proposal was to spread the word about Peruvian cuisine. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right raw materials, though, so I go to Central Market to get what I need.
“I go there myself as I don’t have a specific fruit and vegetable provider. There might be a specific Peruvian product such as chirimoya (apple custard) that you can’t get very easily. Maybe you can only get them at a certain time of year. It was difficult to set up a good Peruvian menu, with fresh fish, fresh prawns, products like that as it was hard to find good quality providers. But I now have specific providers for everything: the salmon comes from Chile, while my sole and prawns are from Mar del Plata. So now I’ve got an almost Peruvian kitchen here in Buenos Aires.”
New home alone
Arriving almost three years ago in 2011, Julio was excited to get started although the move took place without his family by his side. He says: “I was in Argentina for two years on my own and it was very difficult to be away from my children, a boy and a girl who are now aged 11 and four. Luckily the kids have been able to adapt quickly since they arrived in February last year, picking up the rhythm of the language, and they have lots of friends.
“The restaurant is in Puerto Madero and the company rented an apartment in Belgrano in the beginning. I had to hire bar staff, salon staff, cooks, everyone and there were about 12 people, all of us living together in the same apartment. I had a lot of work at the beginning, and teaching Argentine cooks isn’t as easy as teaching Peruvian ones as they have different skills. I had to hire students and people who weren’t used to working, so I had to train them up little by little.”
“Now I live on Corrientes Avenue in Almagro with my family. When I was in Peru, I lived at my parents’ house but now I live in an apartment. I enjoy being in Almagro and there’s a big Peruvian community in Buenos Aires, especially in that neighbourhood. I feel quite at home here because although I can cook Peruvian food, I can go out and eat a traditional Peruvian dish – you can still get the Peruvian heat.”
Kitchens in sync
Given his passion for gastronomy, Julio spends a lot of time in the kitchen, even when he’s relaxing. He says: “I take advantage of my free time to spend it with my family, and I’ve got some friends who have been here for 15 years – they ask me to cook every now and then. They know I love doing it – cooking is my passion – and I always make a ceviche which always works well for when family or friends want to dine together.
“I also like going out to other restaurants and trying out what they cook. There are some restaurants that aren’t quite so traditional and I’m thinking about trying to unify the various strands of Peruvian cuisine in Buenos Aires. I know lots of people who are great cooks and I also get to meet lots of people – within the kitchen scene, we all know each other.
“As a Peruvian I’m also grateful to (chef) Gastón Acurio, for putting Peru’s cuisine on the map. I worked for Gastón years ago and in a few weeks he’ll be opening a new restaurant in Buenos Aires so I’ll have a bit of competition! I’m not worried, obviously, but if you’re well positioned professionally then you have to face new challenges. I’ll go and meet the new chef there, of course.
“I enjoy playing football as well. We compete against other restaurants, so I get together to play with my cooks or our salon will play against our kitchen. I supported Argentina in the World Cup of course, and I even put a television in the kitchen so we could watch the games – everything happens in the kitchen!”
One of the main differences that Julio notices between Peru and Argentina is the weather. He says: “The climate is very strong here and it can get really cold here; and when it’s hot it gets really hot. Night times can be suffocating too! That’s the main difference.”
And given his passion for food, Julio says his most Argentine characteristic is making a barbecue. “The meat here is excellent and I never get any bad meat. But then again, it’s not hard for a cook to prepare an asado because we’re always 100 percent dedicated to the job of cooking!”
And while Julio is now fortunate enough to have his family around him – his sister, whom he trained to cook, also works at La Rosa Náutica – it’s the cuisine of his motherland that he misses the most.
He adds: “I always miss Peru’s food – it’s different there and even though I make it here, of course, there is always something different that I get the urge for. But besides actual dishes, what I miss is getting together to eat with friends and family. The traditional beef heart anticuchos are what I really enjoy, eating them freshly cooked in the street – only the ones you buy on the street, though!”
Buenos Aires Herald, January 3, 2015