His food – authentic, vibrant and distinct – is loved by diners and revered by industry insiders. He rubs shoulders with some of the top chefs in the world – including Gaston Acurio, the undisputed leader of Peru’s culinary scene. Daniel Chavez is every bit a mover and shaker in the local F&B scene. But when it comes to wielding his influence, the 38 year-old has a much bigger plan than just getting people to like his social media posts and visit his restaurants.
“In Peru, most of the chefs – if not all – have a social mission. There is a much bigger agenda than to win awards and be popular. We help each other as far as we can because we are a very poor country – rather than fight and compete with one another we support and help each other get better,” says Chavez.
“There is a much bigger agenda than to win awards and be popular.”
– Daniel Chavez, chef-owner of OLA Cocina del Mar and TONO Cevichera
At the World Gourmet Summit last year, the chef-owner of OLA Cocina del Mar and TONO Cevichera brought four Peruvian culinary students to Singapore. In the 10 days that they were here, Chavez worked with the students from Fundacion Pachacutec – founded by Gaston Acurio with the objective of elevating the lives of those from poor families – to design and execute a special menu for the world-class event.
This March 2018, Chavez was visited by Raúl Diez Canseco, the former vice president of Peru, to discuss future opportunities of hosting more Peruvian culinary students in Singapore. Chavez is an influencer in the true sense of the word – he creates opportunities that help improve lives.
“This is not just for people within the trade, but for society in general. We want to equip the poor with skills to enter the F&B industry so that they can have a proper job and a better life,” shares Chavez. “Our country’s culinary scene is now in the international spotlight not because of our fine dining scene serving haute cuisine, but because of our country’s native cuisine. You can say that the whole Peruvian food movement is one that starts with the people – and the people are in the heart of it.”
“Me and my brother always understood that we are part of a society and we need to bring it back to balance.”
While his heart bleeds for Peru, Chavez has equally big love for the people that surround him in Singapore too. The chef-owner doesn’t just play the role of “boss” – but also that of a mentor. “There is an increasing rate of graduates leaving this career in the first years after finishing the culinary arts program. They have expectations of what this career is all about, but things aren’t necessarily what you see on TV and on social media. Our team in Ola is quite young and we teach them to have patience in their job.”
Chavez also makes it a point to bond and listen to his team. “It is important to be close to your staff and understand their beliefs and dreams – and give them the guidance to help realise these dreams.”