Born and brought in Peru, Chef Gonzalo Alberto graduated from the D’gallia Culinary Institue in Lima, his hometown, in the year 2002.
Beginning his professional career soon after as an apprentice in recognized Peruvian-Japanese restaurants, Chef Gonzalo developed delicate techniques and skills with seafood during the early stages of his career. Since then, his repertoire has grown to include influences from his time working in different parts of Peru, USA, Brazil and the Middle East.
In 2004, Chef Gonzalo joined JW Marriott, one of the best hotels in Lima, where he worked with some of the best chefs learning how to combine traditional Peruvian recipes with contemporary techniques. In 2006, he had his first international experience working in the exotic island of Margarita in the Venezuelan Caribbean sea where he worked for a year as a Chef de Partie.
Following this experience, he moved to the Peruvian Highlands in 2007, and started work as a Sr. Chef de Partie. at the Aranwa Luxury Hotel located in the Valley of Urubamba, known as the “Sacred Valley of The Incas”. Being just one hour away from the magnificent citadel of Machu Pichu, the jewel of Peru’s ancient culture, Chef Gonzalo had the opportunity to experience and master authenticity in Peruvian cuisine.
In 2009, he began a new journey around the world, expending two months in Costa Rica at the “Golfo de Papagayo” Four Seasons Hotel, followed by the rest of the year in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as team leader in the Kitchen of Suri Cevicheria-Bar. In 2010, his culinary journey took him to The Atlanta Marriott Marquis in the USA where he stayed for a year working as the Sr. Chef de Partie.
His adventure in the Middle East began in the year 2011 starting off as Culinary Supervisor at the Renaissance Marriott in Doha,Qatar, where he worked for two years learning about Arabian, Indian and Asian cooking techniques. In 2014, Chef Gonzalo was recruited to lead the kitchen team of Ceviche Dubai and develop the concept of the restaurant, after which he dedicated his time studying restaurant management at the Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy in order to prepare for his new role as partner and Head Chef for Ceviche – Dubai.
Dr. Nasrine Abushakra had the opportunity to visit with the Head Chef of Ceviche-Dubai, Chef Gonzalo Alberto, to discuss his professional journey and personal aspirations.
Tell us about your personal experience of being an Head Chef here in the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates.
It is an amazing change to be able to serve food to such a diverse group of people from different countries every day, which is what makes UAE such a special place. The people here have a global culture, which is also reflected in the food.
If you go to eat ethnic food here in Dubai you can be sure that the person who’s cooking for you belongs to the theme of the restaurant’s home country – that would never happen in a regular city, and that is why I love this city.
Why did you decide to work here in the Middle East?
When I was in culinary school my plan was to work in all five continents. I haven’t reached that goal yet, but I have managed to experience 6 countries already – South America, Central America, North America, Dubai and Qatar. I came to the Middle East 4 years ago and Qatar was my first destination.
Coming from the other side of the world (literally), the Middle East is quite unknown in my place. This prompted me to discover the region. During my time in Doha I learned that the true gem of the MEA region is Dubai and I had to commit to continue my career here.
For those not familiar with Ceviche, what region is your culinary style modeled after?
Ceviche brings to Dubai the flavors of the Pacific Coast of Peru. Peruvian food is now-a- days a global trend, and Dubai is not an exception. Our menu is a selection of the most traditional Peruvian dishes and we want to give our customers the closest experience to the eateries of Peruvian cities.
What has been your impression of the local food scene over the years here in the Middle East?
I don’t think there is any other place where the culinary movement grows so fast. It is really fantastic to see so many famous chefs from different parts of the world choose the Middle East to expand their careers and businesses, and at the same time to see many new brands developing new small concepts.
When you manage to find a little time to step away from Ceviche, what are some of your favorite spots to dine or socialize?
As a Latino I am a big fan of Salsa and Bachata so I like to go to Malecon at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort – it’s the perfect place to be close to the Latin American Fiesta.
What is your favorite restaurant, besides the one you work at?
I love Betawi – it’s this hidden little Shop in Karama with true, honest and delicious Indonesian flavors. Just fantastic!
If you had not pursued a Chef career or the life of a rogue restaurateur, what do you think you would have been?
When I finished school I had only two options in mind for a career – one was culinary and the other was art. I would’ve been an artist or handicraft artisan as from childhood I loved making things with my own hands. Once I retire from cooking (maybe never), I would like to study Arts.
What three ingredients MUST you have in your kitchen?
That is easy – Fresh Coriander, Garlic and Aji Amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili). I use fresh coriander in almost everything, but I have learned here that for some people Coriander is a no no. Because of this, I sometimes (just sometimes) reduce the quantities I use. I always say: “You either love coriander or hate coriander, but there is no middle point”
Are you launching any new projects in the near future that you’d like to share with us?
As of now, our goal is to concentrate on Ceviche since we have just launched the restaurant. However, if an opportunity comes up, I am open to different ideas. Right now I am just enjoying cooking at Ceviche, meeting new people and looking after the day to day activities of the restaurant.