I made the decision to come to Moscow without reflecting
What is the most important thing in the art of cooking? For a chef’s dish to be so good that, once you have tried it, you want to try it again and again. Ronaldo Carreras, 42, professional chef from Peru in Moscow, makes exactly these kind of delicious dishes.
Although senor Carreras has a degree in cooking (he graduated from a culinary institute in Lima, the capital of Peru, and afterwards continued his education at a cooking school in neighboring Chile), Ronaldo was essentially born a chef. In any case, he was drawn to this profession even in childhood, because of his mother Nelly, who was also an amazing cook.
Nor did she cook only at home, but also in her restaurant in Lima, which she owns to this day. “After school I often went to my mother in her restaurant, where I helped by washing dishes, skinning potatoes, and performing other tasks,” recalls Ronaldo. Of course, he also tried to cook. No matter how hard he tried, however, his mother always scolded him. In her opinion, he always either undersalted his dishes, overcooked them, or added too much spice. “Later, when I graduated from institute and became a certified chef,” says Ronaldo, “Mom explained to me why she always scolded me as a child. She said; ‘I wanted you to not get conceited, so that you always perfected your culinary art and became a truly amazing chef!”
His mother’s dream came true: Ronaldo really has become a high-class chef, having started to hone his mastery in various restaurants across Peru at 22 years of age. First he labored for one and a half years at his mother’s restaurant, afterwards leaving to work at the Manos Morenas restaurant, where he mastered practically everything. It was while working at this restaurant, located at Lima’s international airport, that on one amazing day Carreras received an offer that he could not refuse. A Peruvian businessman offered to head to the Russian capital with him to work as a chef in a Latin-American restaurant. Without taking much time to think, Ronaldo gathered his things and, in February 2007, ended up in Moscow.
For Carreras, there was no hesitation because he was always quick on his feet. However, he did not know much about Russia at that time. He had only seen Russians on television during the women’s volleyball match during the 1990 Olympic games, when Peru’s team played the USSR’s team, and when the Peruvian chess player Julio Ernesto Granda Zuñiga played against the Russian grandmaster at the time.
The Peruvian first encounter with Moscow was not a kind one: he was met with snow, minus-thirty-degree weather and unbelievable traffic. “I was really in shock!” Carreras confided. It was not just the weather that shocked him, however. Even more surprising were the groceries that Moscow offered. Almost all of them, including meat and fish, were frozen. Back home in Peru, he was used to working with fresh groceries.
Nonetheless, he was never struck with the desire to toss everything aside and leave Russia. Moreover, he even got his residency permit during his 11 years living in the country. You would need to look at a map of the Russian Federation in order to recite all the Russian cities where the Peruvian has worked as a chef. He has demonstrated his culinary art in Krasnodar, Arkhangelsk, Ryazan, Vladimir, in Aprelevka, near Moscow, and in Yakutia and even Chukotka! At each place he perfected his mastery, just as his mother asked of him. In Chukotka, for example, he began cooking seviche from red salmon, as well as all sorts of his own original dishes from deer meat, which unbelievably astounded the locals, who had never tried such delicacies. “My rule is that you always need to prepare your dishes using the materials you have at hand,” Ronaldo explains. According to him, now, unlike in 2007, one can buy high-quality domestic products. Ronaldo usually goes himself to gets his groceries either from farms around Moscow, or at the Dorogomilovsky market.
In Russia he also learned how to prepare and properly love traditional Russian meals and dishes from the Caucasus: meat solyanka, kharcho, and kholodets. At the same time, however, he admits that his best dishes are Peruvian. “The taste of Peruvian cuisine lives in my head,” says Carreras. “I am familiar with Peruvian cooking from my childhood. It is my history. Let’s say that I can, of course, learn how to make pilaf. But in order to master cooking pilaf, I am convinced that you would need to live at least a few years in a country where there is the centuries-old tradition of cooking pilaf.”
Speaking of Peruvian cooking, Ronaldo highlights its multifaceted nature. “Historically three cuisines have influenced Peruvian: Spanish, Native American, and African.” After World War II, it was enriched even more by Chinese and Japanese cuisines, owing to immigrants from these countries. According to Carreras, Peruvian cuisine today is becoming even more popular in the world. In Moscow ambassadors frequently invite him to prepare food for a variety of diplomatic receptions at their residences.
However, Moscow overall is lacking in its representation of Peruvian, and indeed Latin-American, cuisine. And this is despite the fact that there are many cafes and restaurants in the Russian capital, as there should be in a megapolis. Not surprisingly, Ronaldo hopes to open a proper Peruvian and Latin American restaurant. He is not afraid of competition, as he is sure that his restaurant will not be lost in our city. He has everything he needs for this: both knowledge and experience. But most importantly, he has passion for what he does. After all, the main secret ingredient in any dish that Carreras makes is love.