Volunteer Blogs

Restaurant Course in San Andrés

Posted by in Blog | June 15, 2024

by: Frank Hoder

There are virtually endless ways volunteers can support the reconstruction efforts driven by Pisco Sin Fronteras. Many dig foundation trenches, clear rubble, pour concrete and lay brick. Others teach English and life-skills to local youth. As a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Pisco for the better part of the last two years, I´ve seen some amazing people come through PSF and can attest to the enormous difference they have made in peoples´ lives here. The growth of the organization since I arrived in 2024 has been impressive, to say the least. Today, in the waning months of my service as part of the PC Small Business Development program, I´m excited to be able to formally collaborate with PSF in an effort to improve the standards of customer service, hygiene, and general management capabilities of local restaurants.

The initiative aims to bolster the gastronomy and tourism segments of a fledgling coastal economy through a series of nine evening workshops covering a broad array of topics regarding restaurant management. Participants are learning about essential steps of service for “front-of-house” staff (waiters, bartenders, hosts) as well as how to improve efficiency and quality control in the kitchen. Furthermore, owners and managers are being trained to seek and analyze customer feedback in order to implement the changes needed to improve the quality of service they provide. Given my own experience as a bartender and server, I am coordinating the “front-of-house” and business management training modules while Carlos Rozo – long-time PSF volunteer and newly appointed PSF Director with a rich culinary background – is taking charge of the hygienic standards and kitchen management portion of the course. Carlos is also helping to promote some innovative dishes that incorporate underused locally produced ingredients. Scallops and asparagus are two such ingredients that, though they are abundant in the region, are slated almost exclusively for export to foreign countries. When Carlos demonstrated the preparation of two simple yet delectable dishes – a cream of asparagus soup with scallops sautéed in a white-wine butter sauce and an appetizer consisting of sautéed asparagus, seared scallops dressed in a sweet & spicy honey-ají glaze – he stoked the culinary passions of every participant in the room until it nearly boiled over. The owners and managers who often double as cooks and/or waiters began to discuss the fusion of different flavors and debate the best possible variations as well as the side-dishes and drinks that would best complement them, their eyes wide with excitement.

My Peace Corps work with a small-scale scallop farming association here provided further motivation to promote an increase in local consumption, which should benefit small-scale extractors, restaurants, and end-consumers alike. By increasing local demand, more of the value stays in the community, which should generate greater economic activity.

The course is offered free of charge to all participants, and includes several sessions that take place in Puro Pisco, one of the most modern restaurants in the area, providing a practical setting where participants see how theory is put into practice.

When the course is finished, we will be working with the Municipality in San Andrés to implement a new set of standards of excellence in customer service amongst local restaurants. These standards will not be imposed, yet will offer incentive to those who comply through publicity provided by the Municipality. The hope is that this may serve to strengthen the gastronomic sector along the coast as a way to augment tourism in the future. Although some tourists currently pass through Pisco and San Andrés en route to Paracas (approximately 15 – 20 minutes south), it is imperative to prepare small-business owners for a potential influx of tourists once the plans for the construction of an International Airport in Pisco/San Andrés comes to fruition. Peruvian cuisine is quickly becoming renowned across the globe – most notably ceviche and many other seafood plates – which provides an extraordinary opportunity for locals dedicated to the culinary arts and which may also improve the standards of living of many others consequently affected by a local surge in gastronomic prowess.

This course is just one more example of the myriad possibilities available for PSF volunteers to make a difference in the community. As reconstruction moves forward, I earnestly hope the people at PSF will continue to use their creativity and good-will to begin new, innovative projects while continuing to enhance existing one in order to promote sustainable development in Pisco. There are truly no limits to the things you can achieve at PSF; there is an immense need here for people who can share skills and experience with locals and there are innumerable ways to do so. The intrepid spirits of those volunteers who break the mold of the status quo and persevere in their efforts to make this a better place are what I have come to revere most about PSF. I hope those of you who continue on at PSF will maintain that mentality, always striving to make a positive impact that may be felt long after you´re gone.

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