Hugo Lara – Cooking Up a Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’

Tell me how you got started.
I got started with A Little Peruvian in January 2012. At first, I was considering organizing culinary travel tours to Peru and I was trying to figure out a way to fund that business; I came up with the idea of having a stand at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. The farmers’ markets in Vermont are well attended and a good hub of activity. I thought it would be a good way to introduce people to the food and culture of Peru, before introducing people to the tours. So the food stand would be a way of marketing the tours by introducing people to Peruvian food first.

What interests you most about what you’re doing now?
It’s a combination of being able to have direct relationship with customers, to see their immediate reaction to foods they’re tasting and to have the ability to start a business that constantly changes and to adapt every to different tastes, weather, number of clients etc. You get a real education on how to run a business by having to deal with all these factors.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment?
Offering people something that is true to Peruvian tradition, but is also a marriage of local (Vermont-based) ingredients and international flavors, a combination of local fresh ingredients with international cuisine and flavors. I love giving people the opportunity to try something that they haven’t tasted before.

Biggest challenge?
Trying to gauge the market because it fluctuates so much. Trying to figure out how to make enough food for all customers while keeping our costs low and minimizing waste. We want to offer the best product using local ingredients, but also have to be profitable and making money. I’ve been learning how to balance the authentic and fresh with the affordable.

Who or what inspires you?
My inspiration comes from taking the responsibility of sharing my Peruvian culture with my Vermont neighbors in a way that’s respectful of my heritage, but also bringing something different and unique to this New England community. What drives me is the ability to share my food culture and heritage with people who don’t necessarily have knowledge about it. Bringing together community and adding another flavor to it is an integral part of the community here.

Why is peace sexy to you?  What does”Peace is Sexy” evoke for you?
Peace is Sexy to me means that peace is attainable. It’s not something that we have to be overwhelmed by. It’s within our grasp. It’s something that we each do during the day. Sharing information or sharing food with someone, sharing ideas. Making peace less about overwhelming huge problems that we are helpless around, and instead seeing peace as something that we can do in our everyday lives. And for me it’s through food. It’s a way of being open to other cultures. Others may criticize certain countries or be ignorant about them, but when they try the food, they’re able to transcend a lot of the artificial barriers that we set up. It’s its own universal language. Food is able to overcome a lot of differences and stereotypes.

What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday?
I share food with people, but not just the food, but also my culture, talking about how a certain dish came about. For example, causas, a layered potato and meat dish, came about because of a war with Chile.  Peruvians collected food for the soldiers, for the cause, and that’s the history of that food. Sharing new foods with people opens up their minds, opens a door to another culture, in such a way that they might feel less intimidated or more inclined to explore another culture’s way of life.


How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to?
Come up with a recipe book between different countries, recipes for peace, different dishes, desserts. Sharing recipes that bring a certain amount of pleasure. Maybe recipes from refugees, or different communities. Food is so important to a community because it reminds them of a struggle that their people has gone through. I think food really connects a people to their history. It’s also a good way of healing and remembering the joys and celebrations, creating something positive. That should be a key element.

Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?
I want to create sustainable food businesses that support local farmers, be a part of a system that is fair to my employees, to the animals that we serve, to the resources that we use (like water). I want to design a system that is holistic about its food production and that nourishes people. I’d like to create those kinds of businesses and support as many businesses as I can, whether it’s sourcing from sustainable farms, or collaborating with other food entrepreneurs that share the same values.

Is there anything else you want to tell us?
We’re at the Burlington Farmers Market – every Saturday of the month except the second Saturday when we’re at the Montpelier Farmers’ Market. We’ll be there through the end of October.
Twitter: @alittleperuvian
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