Gordon Ramsay Uncharted, Peruvian food explores flavor, freshness and family


In the premiere episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted, Ramsay travels to Peru. In this culinary adventure, Ramsay finds that Peruvian food is more than just than the sum of its ingredients.

Gordon Ramsay Uncharted seems to balance the concept of food television and a travel exploration. In some ways, this Nat Geo program invites foodies into a chef’s culinary exploration. Sure each episode has a bit of adventure, amazing food and some shock value. But, it is clearly a culinary adventure.

After watching the first episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted, there are many themes to discuss. From tasting different proteins to primitive kitchen tools, this episode tries to teach viewers that different isn’t wrong, it just needs to be understood.

As the episode opens, Gordon sources a Peruvian delicacy from a mountain. First, most Americans only go as far as the local farmer’s market for specialty ingredients. But, this foraging is more than just a fun camera op.

The story behind the source of protein is vital. In many countries, food is sustenance and it sourced from all areas. While the traditional American looks at insects as pests, not food, other cultures are more open to all types of foods.

Peru – Gordon Ramsay (R) prepares a feast for locals in Peru’s Sacred Valley. (National Geographic/Ernesto Benavides)

After gathering the worms and cooking them, Ramsay tastes this delicacy. It is confusing that he spits out the worm. But, the reason wasn’t for taste, it was for texture. Could cooking these little treasures more could have made Ramsay enjoy them?

While this moment will probably be talked about by many people, it seems odd that he didn’t eat them. Ramsay cooks with offal and he doesn’t seem opposed to those ingredients. Again, maybe the lesson learned is that proper cooking technique really matters.

Just like cooking a food correctly is paramount, fresh ingredients can and will change a dish. As Ramsay tours local markets and regions, the freshness can make a huge difference in taste. The mangoes sourced directly from the tree do taste differently from those fruits found in a grocery store. That fact does and will affect a recipe.

The biggest takeaway from this premiere episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted is the Peruvian people’s connection to their food. Whether it is harvesting food, using traditional cooking methods or paying thanks to the land before a meal, food is more than nourishment for the body. It is nourishment for the soul.

As the episode closes, the meals presented by Ramsay and Peruvian restaurateur Virgilio Martinez might be rooted in Peruvian tradition but are influenced by each chef’s experiences and perspectives. While the dishes respect the farmers that they serve, the dishes are an accumulation of experience, knowledge and desire to earn the respect of the farmers.

Each dish blends both old and new school. From traditional ingredients to creative presentation, it is a conversation between two worlds. While the chefs and guests may not speak the same language, the food communicates in a way that words cannot.

While each chef wants to hear his guests approve of the meal, it is more than gaining a “win.” This experience can impact how, what and why a chef chooses to cook. Isn’t that the best part of this culinary adventure?

For the foodie watching at home, the show can be more than just entertainment. Could Peru, its ingredients and culture inspire you to take a culinary adventure?

Personally, my approach to this show is more than just an entertaining hour of television. In a way, it is an excuse to get into the kitchen and discover food, ingredients and a love of cooking.

“Aji Amarillo” Marinated Pork Loin, a recipe inspired by Gordon Ramsay’s culinary adventures in Peru’s Sacred Valley. (National Geographic/Lisa Corson)

While not the exact recipes used in the episode, Nat Geo collected recipes inspired by the locations in Gordon Ramsay Uncharted. For this week’s episode, the recipes focused on a grilled pork loin and duck fat fried potatoes.

In the pork lion recipe, Aji Amarillo Marinated Grilled Pork Lion, the dish focuses on a yellow chili pepper which grows abundantly in Peru. The flavor is spicy, yet fruity. It is classic Peruvian cuisine.

While this ingredient might sound exotic, it can be found online in many stores (even Walmart). Although some people explore chilies, this flavor is different. The fruitiness balances the heat and makes this seasoning quite enjoyable.

Without reprinting the entire recipe, the dish uses this chili as part of the marinade. Combined with other ingredients, like fennel pollen, garlic and orange zest, the flavor is bright, rounded and enticing. The pork lion is never overshadowed, instead it is brought to a bold level to highlight its succulence.

Served with the pork, the side is Manuel’s Duck Fat Fried Potatoes. According to Nat Geo, “Peru is home to 3,000 varieties of potato.” Just as this episode connects with local growers and foragers and shows respect for the ingredients, this rather simple dish elevated the humble potato.

Simple mixed baby potatoes are given a boost from the rich duck fat. Recreating this recipe at home is doable. With a good cast iron pan, you could be on your way to impressing all your foodie friends.

Still, the biggest takeaway from both this episode and these recipes is to find inspiration from other cultures and countries. Whether it is sourcing local ingredients or respecting the traditions behind the food, a meal is just the beginning of the conversation.

Hopefully, Gordon Ramsay Uncharted viewers will be inspired to tell a story with one of their meals. No one is expected to source an ingredient from the side of the mountain or climb a tree for the sweetest mangoes.

But, you can take a trip to a farmers market and talk to a farmer. Or, pick up the phone and ask grandma how that Sunday roast recipe started all those years ago. It is time to start both the conversation and the adventure.

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What did you think of the premiere of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted? Are you ready for some culinary adventure with Peruvian food?