From a young age, Peruvian born Alejandro Saravia, was destined to be a chef. His grandmother introduced him to the strong flavours and vast amount of ingredients and dishes of Peru.
Alejandro has worked in some of the finest European and Austrlian restaurants. Since arriving in Australia, has made it his mission to show Aussies what Peruvian and Latin American cuisine really has to offer.
Today, he introduces beautiful Peruvian and Latin-American dishes to Australia as head-chef at the delicious Morena in Surry Hills. We recently caught up for a chat, asking about his food, cooking, and …
1. What inspired you to open Morena?
I have always wanted to open my own restaurant and showcase Peruvian cuisine the way I see it. I also got tired of seeing how Latin American cuisine was perceived as a mid range dinning experience. We have amazing flavours and products to present, dishes that use two or three types of chilies and are not spicy but with a lot of flavour, aromatic herbs that are there to replace spices making the dish less heavy and easy to appreciate.
That’s why I decided to open Morena. At Morena we are committed to showcasing a quality modern Peruvian cuisine, refined and elegant, fine dinning experience for all budgets and always keeping the Latin spirit, warm and provocative.
I like to say that Morena is my interpretation of traditional Peruvian cuisine because traditional Peruvian food is always better to have in Peru.
2. What is your favourite meal to cook at home?
At home I really like to sit and have a bit of everything on the table so we can share and chat while eating, cheese, roasted veggies, slices of home made cured or grilled meat and some bread. I call it Piqueo which means small plates to share, and my wife who is from Spain calls it Tapas!
3. What is your fondest childhood foodie memory?
I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her cooking the most incredible meals for the entire family and asking her thousands of questions. I think my passion for food was born in that kitchen.
4. Top 3 ingredients you can’t live without?
For me as a Peruvian chef is really difficult to live with out Aji Amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili) which is the base of our costal cuisine and gives that particular flavour and aroma to our popular Peruvian ceviche. Aji is that important for me that I have managed to grow a few plants in Morena’s Secret Andean garden, so I can share this traditional and unique flavour with my guests and friends.
Another ingredient which I am particularly passionate about is Quinoa, the Andean grain, native from Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is a really versatile ingredient, full of vegetable protein, gluten free and anti-allergic, this being so important for us as chefs to give a gluten free option in our menu.
And of course, being from Peru where the first potatoes where domesticated, I love working with potatoes! Potato goes with everything, but always kept in small doses.
5. Your favourite drink?
At the moment I like refreshing/bitter drinks like Negroni, an Italian aperitif based on Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin.
6. Where would we find you when you’re not in the kitchen?
Probably at home, spending time with my family or scrolling down one of the beautiful markets that Sydney has.
7. What is your favourite bar in Sydney?
I have to say that there are a lot of nice small bars opening at the moment in Sydney but I always go back to Downtown at the Commons. I really enjoy an old fashion bar with classic cocktails that are not to pretentious.
8. How do you think produce in Australia compares to South America?
It’s always hard to compare South American produce as they are very unique and particular from that part of the world but I have to say that Australia has a great quality and variety of ingredients being easy to introduce new styles of cuisine here.
9. What has been a major highlight in your career so far?
I can say that a major highlight in my career has been the entire journey of opening Morena, being the first chef to introduce Peruvian cuisine in Australia and also to be featured in the Good Food Guide.
10. If you could invite 4 people (dead or alive) to your ultimate dinner party who would be sitting at the table?
- My wife, of course – I love to spend time with her and I love to see her when she tries something that I’ve been working on.
- My Grandmother, she is a great person, I always have really good conversations with her and she’s the reason why I felt in love with food.
- My father, he is my number one fan!
- Oscar Wilde, I love his writing and for sure he would be a lot of fun to have in the table