Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Focused on Erik Ramirez’s restaurants The Llama Inn in Brooklyn, New York and his more recent ventures, Llamita and LlamaSan in Manhattan, this paper examines how the translation of Peru’s food boom in the United States both builds on, and redefines, conceptions around the nation of Peru. Born in the United States to Peruvian parents, Chef Ramirez exemplifies a counter to research on diasporic populations and what is often characterized as a search for identity, place and belonging through “traditional” or “native” cuisine. Ramirez does not return to his parents’ birthplace in a nostalgic search for the past but moves toward what he understands to be his peers – creative, entrepreneurial, male, Peruvian chefs who have been at the heart of Peru’s recent gastronomic boom. Seeking a co-evalness among eminent national cuisines such as French and Italian, Ramirez’s restaurants play with Peru’s products, tastes and design to help fashion Peruvian food not as another “ethnic food” but as equal to its Euro-American gastronomic counterparts. Much like Tenorio-Trillo’s criticism of the term Latin America, Ramirez’s ventures cleave with the category of Latinindad, and instead are grounded in the promotion of a specific nation: Peru. In addition to importing specific food products from Peru, transnational tastes and hipster aesthetics build bridges between New York and Lima. Thus, Ramirez's efforts at provincializing occur through commerce, taste, design and a lack of historicism that undercuts Euro-American gastronomic imperialism while simultaneously promoting Peruanidad.