Chef Nico, Pisco Trail

Chef Nico, Pisco Trail

Born in Peru, and based in San Francisco, California, I am the chef, mixologist, writer, and photographer for Pisco Trail — my blog about Peruvian food and Pisco cocktails. I started Pisco Trail in 2011, and its mission is to share Peru’s culture through recipes, drinks, stories, and pictures. I am also the resident Peruvian chef at 18 Reasons, where I teach Peruvian cooking classes and prepare pop-up dinners that are a gastronomical tour of Peru’s cuisine from the Pacific Coast, the Andes Mountains, and the Amazon Jungle.

I learned to cook at an early age from my mom, and have inherited cooking traditions that were passed on from my grandmother. I travel to Peru often to visit family, do research, and stay up to date on culinary and cocktail trends. I have also taken cooking classes from Michelin-starred chefs in San Sebastian, and sushi chefs in Tokyo. I still enjoy cooking with my mom, and we recently prepared a Pachamanca, an ancient earthen oven meat and root vegetable dish from the Andes of Peru.

Pisco is a strong part of my identity, and Pisco cocktails such as the Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch are a source of national pride and historical importance in Lima and San Francisco. On my blog, I have published over 30 traditional and original cocktail recipes, and have experimented with modern techniques such as sous-vide to infuse Pisco with aromatics. My approach to making cocktails involves seeking a balance between the spirit and the ingredients, combined in a way that tell a visual story. In San Francisco, I have taught Pisco cocktail classes at 18 Reasons, CUESA, and the Red Poppy Art House.

My writing ranges from recipes to narrative. For example, when I write the preparation for a cocktail, I focus on efficiency and practicality, where instructions and clarity matter. But when I write stories about food or family, I first think and feel in Spanish and then attempt to express an experience, a moment, a place, a taste, or a person. In addition to writing for my blog, my freelance work has been published by Marcus Samuelsson and Peru This Week.

My photography complements the writing, and each recipe, cocktail, or story, has a picture. Before I photograph a dish, I meticulously plate and arrange the dish. Then, I focus on one part of the dish, the one ingredient that is going to stand out and capture your attention. Finally, I shoot between 50 to 100 photographs before I pick one or two that I can post.

Some highlights from past years include:

Outside the kitchen, I enjoy playing Afro-Peruvian, Flamenco, and Gypsy jazz rhythms on my hand drums, running on the mountain trails around the Bay Area, and dancing to Latin music.