Meet chef, conservationist, researcher and beloved Peruvian and international culinary personality: Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. Known for being the first chef in his country to put Amazonian cuisine on the map, Schiaffino acts as an ambassador for an extraordinarily biodiverse and culture-rich region that remains widely unknown to this day.
His passion and love for the Amazon region, its exotic produce and communities that live within, motivated him to embark on a 20-year journey of discovery and exploration to uncover the wonders this region has to offer. Through his cuisine, Schiaffino helps support local producers and resource sustainability while raising awareness, teaching and inspiring fellow Peruvians and people around the world to understand and protect the precious rainforest.
2007 marked the beginning of a longstanding partnership between Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and Aqua Expeditions as he joined the team as Consulting Chef on the Aria Amazon. He oversees the entire culinary experience by creating an innovative menu focused on fresh and locally-sourced produce – 70 percent of all ingredients used onboard are sourced within the Amazonia. His ability to transform unusual ingredients into authentic delectable dishes is echoed in Aria Amazon’s culinary offering which includes Spicy River Snails with Tapioca and Turmeric Sofrito, Roasted Cocona Salad and Coca Leaf Alfajores.
Aqua Expeditions’ partnership with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino transcends the unique culinary proposal offered onboard our expeditions, with meaningful collaborations for conservations projects, such as the protection and rehabilitation of native paiche fish population, as well as our work with local river communities to foster sustainably sourced produce in the Amazon taking center stage. Intrigued? Here are five things you need to know about Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.
1. He is the first Peruvian chef to specialize in Amazonian cuisine
The Amazon region comprises 60 percent of Peru’s territory, but its cuisine, culture and incredibly diverse array of native products have been largely overlooked as there is a large disconnect between the capital city and the interior of the country. Following his studies abroad at the Culinary Institute of America and the Italian Culinary Institute, as well as experience in acclaimed restaurants of Italy, Schiaffino returned home to Lima curious about his country’s indigenous culinary resources.
It was a trip to Belen market in Iquitos in 2003 that would change the course of his career and personal development forever. He became instantly fascinated by the diversity of ingredients previously unknown to him, including the paiche fish (the second largest freshwater fish in the world) which triggered his passion for Amazonian ingredients and kick-started his journey of discovery and a lifetime commitment to connect this region to Latin America and consequently to the rest of the world, through his cuisine.
His first foray into fine dining came in 2014 with the inauguration of Malabar, in which he incorporated many of his new Amazon discoveries into his menu — along with artisanal products from the coast and mountains of Peru, fusing them into his unique personal style. As he continued to develop a deeper understanding of the fundamentals behind traditional Amazonian cuisine, his drive and passion to explore further led him to create ámaZ in 2012, a restaurant devoted to studying the indigenous products and techniques of the Amazon with the objective of preserving its gastronomic culture.
Both his cutting-edge restaurants in Lima, ámaZ and Malabar, are household names in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, captivating its visitors with new and exotic flavors while being transported to the remote Amazonia through their palates.
2. In 2019, he received the prestigious American Express Icon Award by Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants
Schiaffino was named an icon by the culinary expert community for his contribution to developing Amazonian gastronomy. His inspiring work with indigenous communities has helped to improve their quality of life by introducing their sustainably-sourced produce in his restaurants, as well as promoting them amongst his peers in Peru and Latin America.
Schiaffino strongly advocates for Latin American countries to connect with the Amazon, the earth’s “unexplored pantry” as he calls it. As a key partner in the Cumari Rainforest to Table movement, he works with scientists, environmentalists, social entrepreneurs, forest communities, journalists and other acclaimed Latin American chefs to protect the Amazon biodiversity. This initiative has created sustainable economic opportunities for native communities by supporting responsible resource management and sustainable food businesses while working towards a cultural shift in how audiences consume and value food and its source, fostering a love and appreciation for Amazonian products. This unique approach has its basis on gastronomy as an agent for change, a concept which lies at the heart of Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s restaurants and conservation initiatives.
“Latin American countries have generally turned their backs on the Amazon and have undervalued its cultures and biological riches. The rainforest-to-table movement aims to make visible the Amazon and its cuisine to Latin America and the world. Now more than ever the Amazon is under threat, but it is also the moment for food to bring people closer to the Amazon.” Pedro Miguel Schiaffino
Learn why Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is deserving of an icon status:
3. His second ámaZ location, ámaZ Patio Panorama, is the first restaurant in the world to obtain an FSC® certification
With the support of AIDER (NGO dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainable development in Peru), ámaZ Panorama became the first restaurant in the world to solely use wood sourced from responsibly-managed forests, certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). For Schiaffino, protecting these forests is extremely important as this is where biodiversity is found. His decision to implement sustainable wood into his restaurant emphasizes his commitment to protect the resources of the Amazon and integrate them throughout the value chain.
The wood used in ámaZ comes from the forests of the Shipibo-Conibo communities, an ethnic group native to the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon. Since 1992, they have committed to sustainable management of their forests which led them to obtain the FSC® certification. In 2016 the native group achieved a historic milestone, exporting their certified shihuahuaco wood for the first time to the United States, benefiting 400 Shipibo-Conibo families.
Schiaffino sees his restaurants as vehicles to communicate and connect audiences to the Amazon. At ámaZ, every element from the music to the design tells a story about the traditions and history of the location. The plate wear is handmade by artisans in Iquitos, the tables at the main hall are contained inside an interpretation of “Malocas” (ancestral houses native to indigenous communities of the Amazon), whose shape can also be seen as the traditional “Juane” (the Peruvian Amazon’s most iconic dish), while the ceiling represents Shipibo iconography.
4. He works with local communities to manage their resources sustainably and elevate the value for these products in the market
Despensa Amazonica is the embodiment of Schiaffino’s devotion to the research of Amazonian products, cooking techniques and ancestral knowledge, and his work to support local communities in the Amazon. This work is exemplified in Despensa Amazonica’s “Tucupí Negro” project. The Tucupí is a black fermented sauce used as a condiment by the communities who live along the Ampiyacu river in the Peruvian department of Loreto to add flavor to their meals. It is extracted from the yuca brava, a poisonous yuca, via a unique ancestral technique passed on from generation to generation.
Intrigued by this black chili sauce, Chef Schiaffino found the Bora-Huitoto women in the community of Pucaurquillo who preserved this tradition and worked with them to develop a market for this unusual but delicious ingredient that has a particular umami taste. Despensa Amazonica helped to train them to improve the quality of their production process and end product and developed a market for an ingredient that had no previous monetary value as was only used locally amongst the families in the communities.
By introducing this ingredient into Schiaffino’s restaurants as well as Aqua Expeditions menu, this created a demand for the Tucupí Negro, transforming it into a packaged retail product for national and international markets. Thanks to this project, the Bora-Huitoto women have benefited from a new source of income to support their families and improve their quality of life.
5. The Sustainable Paiche Project has achieved an outstanding recovery of the population of wild paiche
The paiche (Arapaima gigas), the giant fish of the Amazon which Schiaffino fell in love with as he discovered the diversity of the Amazon, has been exploited for many years, taking the species close to extinction. Thanks to the effective sustainable management of the Yarina lake in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve by a group of artisanal fishermen, along with support from local authorities, NGO’s and Despensa Amazonica, they have managed to rehabilitate the population of paiche to almost 10,000 in 2018.
By introducing the paiche directly from the Yarina lake into his restaurants, Schiaffino once again took an incredible product which was unknown to audiences in Lima and abroad and demonstrated how valuable it can be for gastronomy when sourced sustainably. By creating a demand for the paiche, its average price value in the market increased by 500 percent and began being incorporated in Lima’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Aqua Expeditions has collaborated closely with Schiaffino in this project which is based in the remote Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Francesco Galli Zugaro, CEO of Aqua Expeditions, explains:
“Aqua Expeditions serves as a kind of incubator for this exotic product of the Amazon, the paiche fish, to develop locally and then to be put on a global stage while at the same time rewarding local Amazonian fishermen for their sustainable fishing practices.”
Aqua Expeditions has committed to buying large quantities of sustainably caught paiche fish to be served onboard Aria Amazon, and soon on Aqua Nera. In addition to serving the paiche on board, we support the local fishermen to expand their business by helping them establish a reliable supply chain. We safely transport the paiche product from the Amazon to Lima where we have set up refrigeration facilities and packaging centers allowing the fishermen to continue growing their business and distribute this delicacy to new markets.
Embark on a gastronomic adventure with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino onboard the Aria Amazon and Aqua Nera. Discover the amazing diversity of ingredients native to the Amazon region and experience an innovative 5-star culinary menu designed to connect you to this unique location.