Jose Duarte of Taranta

Jose Duarte of Taranta; photo by Joel Veak

A Chef Is Born in Lima, Peru

José Duarte of Taranta

My first gourmet epiphany was with tiradito de lenguado at [renowned Chinese-Peruvian chef] Javier Wong’s home in Lima. I was seven or eight years old when my uncles took me there. [Wong] came up to us and asked, “Do you want ceviche or tiradito?” I said tiradito. He picked this 10-, 15-pound flounder out of a cooler and showed it to us: “You like this one, right?” He put it on the table, pulled out his knife, and fileted it, then right away cooked it in a wok with fermented soybean. It almost didn’t taste like fish, because it was so fresh, made in just two or three minutes. I was mesmerized, trying to figure out how he did it. I thought, “Wow, I wish I could do this.” I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Years later, I got to meet him. I said, “You were one of the most influential people in my career.” I think he was very moved.

by Louisa Kasdon and Ruth Tobias
February 22 to March 7, 2011 Issue of Stuff Magazine