COYA was born from the spirit of adventure. In 2012 our Culinary Chef Sanjay Dwivedi took a year-long gastro tour of Latin America on a hunt for the most exciting flavours in international contemporary cuisine. He found what he was looking for in Peru.
– Sanjay Dwivedi, Culinary Director, COYA
In the footsteps of intrepid explorers and backpackers, Sanjay travelled across Peru, from the highest altitudes of the Andean Mountains to the Amazonian rainforest and the coastal plains. Peru is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with 25,000 plant species, 1,800 species of birds, and 500 species of fish and mammals. ‘When I went to Peru I was like a kid in a sweet shop,” says Sanjay. “I was so impressed. They have so many different foods – fruits, veggies, ceviches. I was hooked.”
Wherever he went, Sanjay sought out the country’s unique ingredients and spending time in the kitchens of acclaimed restaurants and local eateries alike. For a time he worked alongside celebrated Peruvian chef and ambassador, Gaston Acurio, at his restaurant Astrid Y Gaston in La Mar, Lima, learning and developing his own style.
Sanjay discovered that the potato is originally from Peru, and there are over 3,000 different varieties. Proud Peruvians use the phrase “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” (I am more Peruvian than the potato). There are also more than 55 varieties of corn.
When he returned to London, Sanjay spent 11 months in the kitchen developing the first menu for COYA. ‘The journey we took was amazing,” he says. “I changed the menu 25 times before we launched!” “Peruvian food is the original fusion food” he continues. “It takes in flavours from Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and African cuisines. Ceviche is the new sushi. It’s very healthy, fresh and delicious.”
Sanjay continues to make regular trips to Peru, discovering new ingredients and techniques on each visit that inspire his new creations.
– You may hear this saying from Peru’s proudest citizens, which means “I am more Peruvian than the potato”