Worldly Inspirations from Chef Natalia Sophia González Echeverría
In the world of culinary, there is no borders. At the JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta, a collaboration with The Commercial Office of Peru and The Embassy of Peru brings back the authenticity of Peruvian cuisine at Sailendra Restaurant for guests to enjoy and experience.
To bring the flavours of Peru to the people of Indonesia is special guest chef, Chef Natalia Sophia González Echeverría, widely known as Chef Natty. With more than 14 years of experience and many years travelling, Chef Natty has shared her innovations during culinary courses and workshops to several gastronomy institutions. As a special treat, Chef Natty sat down with Eat Vacation and talked about her history, her inspiration, and what gets her motivated to being who she is.
What is the authenticity of Peruvian dishes? What makes Peruvian food special?
Peruvian food is very traditional. All the recipes are very old and with each family, there is meaning to each dish that they make. For example, with the ceviche, some will eat it fresh and others will eat it the next day. Peruvian dishes are very flexible. You use the same recipe for entrée, appetizer, or something. It can be used for a snack because our food is for all time, winter and summer. Very authentic Peruvian food is in your town, in your home, and in your heart.
What interested you to becoming a chef?
My inspiration came from my grandma, my family, and I practiced because my mom was working and my papa was working and I am the older daughter and I cooked for my brothers, but my biggest inspiration is my love for my country. I love Peru so much. I miss my country. I am happy here but my inspiration for staying in the kitchen is because my grandma is a very special woman, my two grandmas. From Europe and Spain, I have a big mix in my blood, I have all the world in my blood, and I live in the world.
Where do you get inspiration to create your dishes?
My principle inspiration in creating is from my family. The heart of my family.
Where have you travelled to in your career?
I have lived in many places in Europe and in America. In America. When you are a chef, your dream is to stay a couple times in different places. You have more reach when you look for other flavours. For example, I love the Indonesian food because it is spicy, like my food, it is fresh, uses fresh ingredients – your mangos, your chilies, you rice – all your things, I love the smell the texture and the colour. When I live in many different hotels, I am a gypsy because I live in my luggage, but each place treats me like I am home with all the people and help I have. Indonesia feels like a special place. I feel like I am home here. When I work, I work for my five senses. My eyes, my ears, my smell. I listen. Just yesterday chef showed me the sambal, traditional sambal, and I liked it a lot.
When you go somewhere else, do the things around you inspire what you cook for them?
Yes. For me, it’s the things I see that inspire me, like colour, and what I smell and when people are friendly with me. The music, the texture, the colours, that is my inspiration.
Do you cook at home the same way you cook at work?
No. When I am cooking at home, I am cooking for me, in pyjamas without shoes. No other chef and no protocol and I fusion. In my meaning, for example I stay the last time in the apartment of a friend and I remember nasi goreng is similar to our chifa and I mix your food with chifa. For me, I use all the kitchens I have been to in the world and the experiences and I fuse them together.
What has been the most flavourful fusion you have ever made?
I think my best creation is I created a new recipe by mixing the jungle food with the coast food from Peru. The name of the book is “The Gods of the Jungle” and its only for chef of the jungle, but the creator wanted to introduce it to others and these five chefs in the coast make jungle food and it is very interesting because I changed the original recipe by using sajino beef. It is like pork, but it is not pork and the texture like banana. My best creation is tabule in three textures. Fry it, mash it, and dry it. And then put coriander, jungle minced, and the original sauce is cold, but I boil it. It is similar smell, but different texture, so more fancy. The beef, I cook it in a pan with big platter. It surprised me because it is very new for me and I think it is the best for the moment.
What is your favourite dish to make for friends and family?
With all your friends and family and you make a fire. This technique very interesting. You use a big wok and you put in ‘loin, marinate with different spices and soy sauce, and with everybody together you bring a pisco sour because it is a traditional drink and you make it with black quinoa. It’s amazing for soufflé or something and while we wait for the main dish, you make a fire in the kitchen. Lomos saltado, it is also an amazing dish, with French fry or Peruvian rice because our rice is good quality, with garlic and salt.
What do you wish people will know when they try these dishes?
In the beginning it was five dishes, now it is 15. I make four traditional dish and one very new because it is very familiar food. I hope people will come and try many different flavours, not just Peruvian, because the world is getting smaller. No more borders. I believe in this in my heart all the time the world is smaller and I have lived in Europe and America and in Asia and I do not like it when people say “This is mine. This is mine”. Come on. In the kitchen, all is love. The wife of my brother is black and she is very beautiful. The world is only one for everybody and not for racist in the kitchen, don’t be racist. The kitchen is the heart of your home.
What has been the biggest challenge as a chef that you had to overcome?
My first challenge was in Germany. I have a blue ribbon. My fifth blue ribbon for techniques. I mastered techniques. And now I teach this in the university. Pure kitchen techniques.
What do you do in your spare time, to relax?
I like to go to the spa and like every other woman, I like to go shopping.
If you were not a chef, what else did you dream you would be?
In the beginning, I say to my parents I want to be a paediatrician, but it is very difficult.