The Accidental Speaker

Asian Latino Culinary Forum 2012

Asian Latino Culinary Forum 2012

I first read about the Asian Culinary Forum via a tweet, and though I’ve always been interested in Asian cuisine, the description for their symposium on Asian + Latin American food was made for me:

From lomo saltado to jerk chow mein, Brazilian sushi to Korean tacos — learn about culinary exchanges old and new between Asia and Latin America.

What? Lomo Saltado? One of my favorite Chinese-Peruvian dishes? When? Where? September 17 in San Francisco. I am there. Or was there, two weeks ago.

But before getting a ticket, I emailed the event organizer to ask about the speakers and she replied that one of them was supposed to be a Peruvian chef. Not needing anymore encouragement, I was eager to hear what they had to say about the history of Peruvian cuisine as it relates to Asia. After all, I have written about this, and done quite a bit of research on the topic.

When I arrived at the event, I introduced myself to the event organizer and asked about the Peruvian chef. Unfortunately, she said, he could not make it. And now they were short one speaker. I am not sure how long the thought was in my mind before she asked the question, but I answered “yes!” almost right away. Do you want to sit with the panel and talk about the influence of Asian cuisine in Peru?

Just like that, I was thrown into the role of guest speaker, and was delighted to talk about the culinary and cultural contributions of Chinese immigrants and their Chifa. And then the Japanese immigrants that made ceviche what it is today. For almost two hours, it was an honor to sit with the other speakers and listen to their stories before taking questions from the audience, all who were hungry to learn more about Peru.

After the event ended, I stayed to chat with some attendees who wanted to know more about Peruvian cuisine and I thanked the event organizer for inviting me to participate. Then, on my way home, I smiled at the thought that perspective and roles can change so quickly, and that anticipation is truly a wonderful thing, but surprises can be even better. Who knew that the Peruvian chef I was going to see that night was going to be me?