This Sunday, June 11, Peruvian-born celebrity chef Gaston Acurio will host the Cebiche Gang, an event that brings together some of Miami's most talented toques to benefit Acurio's culinary school, Pachacútec Culinary Institute, for underprivileged students in Pachacútec, Peru.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the Mandarin Oriental Miami's Brickell Beach will host Acurio protégé Diego Oka of La Mar by Gaston Acurio, Brad Kilgore of Alter, Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House and Glass & Vine, and Phuket “Cake” Thongsodchaveondee of Cake Thai. Each chef will present his own unique ceviche creation, along with Peruvian-style barbecue. Pastry chef Antonio Bachour will offer his beautiful creations for dessert.
Since opening his first restaurant in 1994, Acurio has put Peruvian cuisine on the map, but giving back remains a driving force and definition of his success.
Opened in 2007 as a cooking school for underprivileged students, the Pachacútec Culinary Institute was founded by Acurio to satisfy Peruvian youth's growing interest in the culinary arts. The school provides classes covering the history of Peruvian cuisine, kitchen techniques, nutrition, and English language. They also learn from great masters of Peruvian cuisine, who are guest teachers at the school.
"Today more than 300 low-income youths have left Pachacútec and have a career and a safe path for their lives inside the kitchen," Acurio says. "I hope to be able to open more schools wherever they are needed. These initiatives help us give back everything that life gave us."
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Acurio credits Oka, who oversees La Mar, with gathering Miami's biggest culinary heavyweights to participate in this charity event.
"Diego Oka is a great cook and, above all, a great person," Acurio says. "I told him about my idea to host an event to raise funds, and he suggested inviting his friends from other restaurants to participate. The idea was to activate the local gastronomic community to join us as a collective for the benefit of those in need."
Acurio says the event is also a good way for Miami's chefs to collaborate and communicate. "Sometimes, as chefs, we isolate ourselves, and we come to believe that we are in a race of competition with other chefs. The reality is that the kitchen is not that. The kitchen is to share, to celebrate, to bring well-being."