I don’t know if it’s his infectious, bubbly personality or his capability to “throw down” in the kitchen that caught my attention. Maybe it’s both. Chef Jason Peru has the right attitude and just the right flavours to make your taste buds scream, “‘More!” It’s no wonder he landed a spot on CNC3’s new cooking series Taste. Peru will join six other local chefs as they take their viewers on a journey through the culinary arts over the next nine weeks. This former Belmont Boys’ Secondary student got his formal training from the Hospitality Institute (TTHTI), where he earned an associate degree in culinary management and an associate degree in culinary arts, as well as a degree at Johnson and Wales University in Miami. But for him, getting busy in the kitchen really all began at age ten. Describing his younger self as a chubby kid who just loved to eat, Peru said he had an affinity with food. “We had just got cable and I use to watch all the US food commercials. I remember always going to the kitchen and trying to make what I saw.” One commercial from Outback Steakhouse which advertised one of its newest appetisers at the time —onion rings—caught Peru’s eye. “It might sound silly now, but when I saw that commercial that is the first time I knew I wanted to become a chef. I just wanted to become a chef to make onion rings,” he laughed. Peru said once he learned how, he made onion rings and ate them until they literally made him sick. “Man, I eat them onion rings until I threw up,” he reminisced with a chuckle.
From onion rings to big things
Although his mother had reservations about his becoming a chef, for fear it might not be a lucrative career, Peru felt he needed to go after what made him happiest—cooking. After graduating from Johnson and Wales he held down three jobs abroad in the field, one full time and two part time. He now works at TTHTI, where he also lectures. Becoming a chef has taken Peru across the globe to places like Dubai, London, Ethiopia, Venezuela and throughout the Caribbean region. He has also written and continues to write cooking columns for a number of magazines including Scorch, E-zone, Hi-Lo Food Stores’ local cuisine magazine and a magazine for his alumni at Johnson and Wales.
Taste, a walk in the park
No stranger to the camera, as he has been featured on other television programmes before, Peru said his experience on Taste was a walk in the park. “I was trained for this at Johnson and Wales. Part of our practicals included filming our sessions.” Added to that, the venue at which the series was shot, Fanatic Kitchen Studio, is also very familiar to him. For this episode, Peru seduces his viewers with a mouth-watering three-course meal. His appetiser—a maple-glazed bacon and garden frittata topped with a tomato and feta cheese salad, drizzled with a balsamic reduction—was to die for. The main course included a chicken roulade with carrot spinach, swiss cheese and peppers, drizzled with a beetroot reduction and served with a fresh pecan mango salsa with radish and purple onion. And for cheesecake lovers, Peru made stuffed cheesecake strawberries dipped in chocolate ganache and white cocoa chocolate krisp with a strawberry reduction.
It’s never a job
Peru says being a chef never feels like he is at work. “It is more like recreation for me. I just love cooking, I get to experiment with food like a musician would experiment with beats.” He added that having such a career in T&T can be very rewarding once anyone getting involved plans to remain committed. “It really depends on the area of culinary arts you choose. As a chef/lecturer I can say it is lucrative for me. When people graduate from culinary school it takes a lot of time to move up the ranks,” explained Peru. He said he had a bit of an advantage when he returned to Trinidad because of the experience in the field that he got abroad. “It’s really about building your reputation and your repertoire.” Currently finishing up another degree—in food sciences and technology—at UWI, St Augustine, Peru said he wants to go as far as the books will take him in the culinary arts. “I would like to study food from a molecular and micro-biological level. I want to not just only understand how food grows but also what happens to it inside the body.” Creating irresistible dishes might be his specialty, but when Peru is not performing in the kitchen, a simple meal is what he prefers. “Even though I spend a lot of time creating exotic fine food, I just simply enjoy a home-cooked meal from my mom,” he confessed. So what dish might that be? Baked pork, potato salad and fried rice. Bon appetit!
The first episode of Taste will be screened at 8 pm this Wednesday, August 22, then repeated at 5.55 pm next Sunday, August 26, and again at 9.30 am on August 28.