For Peruvians in Russia for the World Cup, one restaurant is providing supporters of La Blanquirroja a home away from home. On June 14, jersey-clad Peruanos gathered at Lima Restaurant in Moscow and celebrated their team, chanting “Peru! Peru! Peru!” as the World Cup opening ceremony played in the background. Soon their chanting turned into singing and dancing. Lima Restaurant has become the spot where people come to unwind during the chaotic tournament, to indulge in delicious food, and to connect with others seeing the South American country in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

Lima Restaurant is the brainchild of Orlando Baldeón, a huanuqueño who left Peru about 15 years ago. Baldeón didn’t intend to start a career in the culinary world. As a matter of fact, he was on track to become a doctor. “I always said that if I left the medical field behind, it’d have to be for something better,” the 33-year-old told Peruanos por el Mundo. “Cooking for others has always been my passion.”

At 17, he enrolled in a Peruvian-Russian school, where he quickly picked up the language. Shortly after that, he left Peru for Russia. To keep afloat in a foreign country, he worked in several restaurants while balancing school. There was one week where he spent all his time peeling garlic and chopping onions. But that didn’t turn him off from the food industry. By 2004, about two years after he arrived in Russia, he realized cooking was his calling and he left medicine behind. Despite not having formal training, he worked his way up until he became the head chef of a Mexican restaurant, which eventually came to serve Peruvian food because of Orlando.

From there, he started his own venture: Sabor Inca Comida, a business he ran out of his home. As he gained popularity, things became hectic and a “disaster.” When the owner of the building saw the mess he had made in the kitchen, she evicted him and Sabor Inca came to an end. That’s when he decided to return to Peru to properly train as a chef. Though he could have embarked on a career in his native country, he felt something pulling him back to Russia.

“I had started something here in Russia – something that I hadn’t finished, something I wasn’t even halfway through,” he said. “I felt like what was pulling me to Russia was a mission, a mission to open doors for everyone, to open doors for employment, to introduce the Russian palate to Peruvian food… It’s my dream that all Russians know and understand traditional Peruvian cuisine.”

So he made his way back to Russia, with no money but with connections. He persuaded the owners of a Cuban restaurant to become partners. With his recipes, he promised to turn the restaurant into the best in Moscow. With people coming back for his food, he once again decided to take a leap and opened his own eatery, Lima. “It’s not the easiest path,” he said. “It’d be easier to open an Italian restaurant than a Peruvian one.”

Lima opened in 2017. And in that short time, it’s already become a go-to spot for Jefferson Farfán, a Peruvian futbolero who plays for Lokomotiv Moscow. Now, as Peruvians watch Farfán and his teammates at the World Cup, Lima is also the scene of new friendships and adventures.

H/T Janice Llamoca

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