A blend of South America and East Asia is apparent in each of his dishes. Meet Sanjay Dwivedi, culinary director, COYA Dubai, who has been using modern European cooking techniques and taking Asian influences to create Latin American dishes.
Overseeing COYA’s flagship venue in Mayfair, and international destinations like COYA Monte Carlo, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Dwivedi creates evolving, contemporary menus by taking traditional elements from Peruvian cuisine and gives it a whole new flavour by using modern seasonal ingredients.
Prior to launching COYA Mayfair in 2012, Dwivedi travelled across Peru, sampling unique ingredients and spending time in the kitchens of some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants and local eateries alike. During this period, he worked alongside celebrated Peruvian chef and ambassador, Gaston Acurio, at his restaurant Astrid and Gaston in La Mar, Lima.
The culinary brand ambassador for COYA continues to make regular trips to Peru, always keeping abreast of the current South American trends. He keeps discovering new ingredients and techniques on each visit, which makes COYA Dubai one of the most renowned names in the Dubai culinary circuit and is also a part of the prestigious Michelin Guide of Dubai.
BOLD AND COLOURFUL
Dwivedi says that COYA is not just a restaurant where one goes to eat and drink – rather, it is a lifestyle restaurant. “Our guests basically come to have fun with family, friends and loved ones. Live music, DJs and artists bring the venue to life, entertaining guests and creating an atmosphere that is uniquely COYA,” he says, adding that Latin America, as a culture, is colourful, bold, loud and fun, and they try to encapsulate all elements and bring it to COYA.
He has been associated with the brand since 2012 and was super proud to bring it to Dubai in 2015. Since it was his first international opening, it was a great experience to be a part of.
WHY TRY PERUVIAN CUISINE?
There are several popular cuisines that people swear by and wait to try, so what makes Peruvian cuisine stand out?
The chef explains that Peruvian cuisine takes it influences from Japan, China and Spain, and it remains unmatched in both its diversity and individuality. “Loyal to my eclectic tastes, I found inspiration in vibrant Peru, when I first visited back in 2012. It is home to Inca heritage and the original fusion food,” says Dwivedi.
Talking about the cuisine, Dwivedi says that the cuisine is bombarded with flavours. “A variety of chillies gives the food a zesty punch, yet not too overpowering. The food in Peru is as varied as the country’s terrain, a combination of mountains, rainforests, and coasts,” he says.
Dwivedi explains that this biodiversity, coupled with influences from European colonisers, enslaved Africans, and Asian migrants, means that Peruvian food encompasses a range of flavours and key components are the beloved Ceviches and Tiraditos (Peruvian Sashimi).
The anticuchos — basically vegetables, fish and meat pieces, marinated in Peruvian spices, cooked on the charcoal grill — are another popular choice.
Talking about what makes the Peruvian Ceviche stand out, the chef says that he considers Ceviche to be the new sushi. Instead of wasabi and soya, Peruvians use chillies and lime. “Peru has an abundance of chillies, and their limes are some of the best I have tasted and we use a range of different varieties, each giving a unique taste to our Ceviches and Tiraditos and above all, its fresh, light and healthy – I guess that is the appeal and beauty of Ceviches,” he says.
Most of us are aware that Peru gave potato to the world. Ask Dwivedi what his favourite Peruvian potato dish is, and he says, “Papa Seca con Setas y Trufa, made with Peruvian potatoes, wild mushrooms, truffles.”
Papa Seca, or ‘dried potato’, is a traditional Peruvian ingredient with its roots firmly in the past. These crystal-like nuggets of potato have been produced by Andean people for thousands of years to preserve the crop for months, or even a year.
“This dish has been on the menu since day one and once again it shows the diversity of Peru. Papa Seca is soaked overnight and then is cooked with mushrooms and porcini stock, finished with shavings of fresh truffles. A very moreish dish no doubt,” he explains.
Dwivedi says that for him, the perfect moment is cooking with his 12-year-old twin boys.
“Me giving them instructions and then learning and helping to cook a meal. Of course, the glass of red wine or two is always handy and brings a warm smile,” he says.
He loves calling people home and offers excellent hospitality, ensuring that everyone has a glass of wine/ champagne, and there is enough food with lots of variety. “It drives my wife mad – as I always cook more than required, but it is always a good excuse to have it the next day,” he says.
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