Today we chat with Isabel Perez, who we have recently welcomed to our team. However, Isa is not a Galapagos guide or dive master as you might expect, she is actually a professional chef. She, along with her husband, has joined Academy Bay Diving as an extra special host giving ceviche cooking classes to our passengers. With our new Diving, bites and escapades itinerary we offer our guests the chance to experience the Galapagos culture and community and included in this exclusive package is a Ceviche cooking (and tasting!) class with the Galapagos Chefs.
Ceviche is a delicious seafood dish found all across the coastal region of Ecuador and the Galapagos is no different. This fresh, flavorful dish is the perfect seafood treat for a hot summer day, and served in most restaurants here. Ceviche combines fresh seafood with citrus fruits and is typically served with fried plantain chips, popcorn or rice. There is some debate on whether it originally came from Peru or Ecuador.
Isa has more than ten years experience as a chef, has worked internationally and created culinary experiences. Here she tells us more about her gastronomy journey and of course, talks about the Ecuadorian favorite, ceviche.
You are one half of the “Galapagos Chefs” along with your husband Andrés Orlando, tell us about yourselves…
My name is Isa and I was raised in the Manabi province on the pacific coast of Ecuador. I grew up surrounded by nature and next to the ocean. My husband Andres was actually born in the Galapagos, on San Cristobal island and lived his childhood here between the mangroves and volcanic rock. We both formed a love for gastronomy and we met in the culinary institute in Guayaquil and have worked together on projects and are both passionate chefs.
What made you become a chef?
For me food is more than just something you eat. I love the connection between nature, food and family and everything that happens around the table. When you cook you put a lot of heart into it and then to share that food is like sharing love.
Was food a large part of your culture and environment growing up?
Yes! In my family we used to grow our own food, and cooking with my grandma, cousins and uncles was very special and unique.
What is your favorite Ecuadorian dish to eat and to cook? Are they the same dish or different?
Honestly, ceviche is my favorite! I love how it can be so simple to make it but other recipes can be very complex, I never get enough of it and I´m always creating new recipes with locally sourced produce.
Isa enjoys experimenting and creating new Ceviche recipes
You have travelled around the world and worked in places like Napa Valley, CA and London. What was your favorite from another country? How do you think Ecuadorian food compares to international gastronomy?
Napa Valley was a favorite of both my husband and I. We loved the wineries and all the fresh and organic produce available. We have learnt about many different cuisines around the world but I must say that Ecuadorian is different with it’s fresh and unique flavors and wins for the variety of organic fruits that we have!
I hear that traditional dishes can differ across different regions of Ecuador such as the coast versus the mountainous regions. Is that true? How do they differ?
That is true. As you might expect seafood is eaten in the coastal regions along with stews but in the highlands the meals are based on root vegetables, corn and grains. The food varies in each region depending on the produce that is available there. Luckily Ecuador has a lot of great quality fresh crops throughout the country.
With the new Diving, bites and expeditions itinerary with Academy Bay, tourists can take a Ceviche class with you. What can one expect in the class?
The ceviche is a traditional recipe based on fish, fresh lemon and fresh vegetables and in this fun workshop we will prepare two types of our signature ceviche. The class will take an hour or more where we explain the process, the techniques and then we will have a tasting size ceviche
Isabel Perez and Andrés Orlando became the “Galapagos Chefs” after being invited to the art week in London and people started calling them by that name.
The master class is a fun experience where you will learn all about ceviche, how to prepare it, some tips using fresh and locally sourced fish and produce from the islands and I’ll share my top tips but you’ll have to come to the class for that!
What makes a good ceviche?
Fresh ingredients and the correct techniques; there is an art to it! Choosing a good quality fish and seafood is the most important part.
For people visiting the Galapagos for the first time, what other food and drink do you recommend they try?
Fresh lobster! Locally and sustainably caught makes it even more enjoyable. More artesanal drinks are being created in bars and restaurants here and I recommend trying a fresh garden herb cocktail or two.
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If you are not familiar with ceviche nor it’s cooking process, you might be interested to learn that there is actually no heat or classic cooking methods involved. In fact, ceviche is “cooked” with a chemical process that occurs when citrus acid comes into contact with the fish. It is similar to what happens when the fish is cooked, and the flesh becomes opaque and firm! Come and learn for yourself and contact us for more information on this fun and unique Galapagos experience!
Written by: Charli Pocock