Palacio Nazarenas, A Belmond Hotel, Cusco, has appointed 2021 World’s Best Female Chef Pía León as culinary director of her new restaurant, Mauka.
Named after an endangered Incan root vegetable, Mauka is an ode to the bounty of Cusquenian cuisine and its diverse produce, from the Andean mountains to the Amazon rainforest. At its core, Pía’s vision is to preserve Peruvian culture, transcending local gastronomy, and curating moments to learn and experience the true root and origin of Andean cuisine.
Mauka aims to introduce diners to a thoughtful vision of Cusco, where they can immerse themselves in a pleasant dining experience, surrounded by a sensory understanding of place, landscape, and the peoples of the Peruvian Andes.
The restaurant offers an à la carte menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with ingredients sourced from extreme altitudes around lagoons, forests, valleys, and the origins of the Amazon River.
Together with local farmers and artisans, Pía and her team continue her culinary legacy, incorporating Cusco’s history and biodiversity into the restaurant’s DNA, with menu items such as grains from the Andean plateau with pumpkin cream and beef cheek cooked at a low temperature, Urumbamba giant corn, Pampa yuyo, and smoked caiguas.
Weaving past, present, and future together, the menu curates unforgettable culinary experiences at the heart of the once capital of the Incan empire, using distinctive flavours from forgotten tropical and mountainous crops.
To accompany the dishes, a curated list of wines has been selected from local high-altitude vineyards. Cocktails are made with distillates developed by Mater, which aims to explore, register, and interpret Peruvian megadiversity. These include Q´aqe, a bitter made with 26 herbs and roots and foraged at 4,000 MASL (metres above sea level), and an Amazonian Spirit, made with a selection of fruits and botanicals from the local rainforest.
Mauka’s interiors have been curated to delight the senses, taking a step closer to the local land and people who keep culinary traditions and food of provenance alive. Guests are immersed in more than just food – natural lighting enhances the Andean Lenga wood and volcanic stone finishes, while the smooth texture of natural fabrics using botanical inks by local artists. The calm, relaxed interiors are further enhanced by a soundtrack recorded in nature with instrumentals composed by Peruvian artists. Tactile, handmade copper cutlery and pastel-colored ceramic plates – designed by the acclaimed chef and inspired by local crafts – welcome guests to each table.
The day-to-day running of the kitchen is led by talented head chef Leonel Almanza. The Cusco native, who specialised in culinary arts, joined Palacio Nazarenas’ kitchen team in 2015. Leonel is now in charge of executing and deepening his knowledge of Andean gastronomy and its diverse produce.
Palacio Nazarenas, a former 17th Century convent in the heart of Cusco, is home to original architectural features such as colonial frescoes with 21st-century elegance, inca walls, and an important collection of Cusco paintings