Juan OtivoKokka and Big Kokka
Juan Otivo was born in Peru in 1988. Despite his youth, he has trained at the best Peruvian restaurants in Spain. Although he had only worked as an electrical engineer before arriving in Madrid when he was 22 years old, in the capital he would get the bug for the kitchen. Since 2016 he has been in charge of the kitchen at Kokka, and he has also been the chef at its big brother, Big Kokka, since June 2017.
Q: Tell us the 5 best sellers at Kokka.
A: Oysters as a starter, followed by maki of salmon in ceviche, yellow pepper ceviche, octopus tiradito and the three causas.
Q: Which dish is your favourite when it comes to cooking?
A: The uramaki salmon ceviche. It’s one of the dishes where the fusion between Japan and Peru, which is the basis of Nikkei cuisine, is most obvious. Among other ingredients, you can find salmon, avocado, mango, rice, nori seaweed and coriander. A total ‘must try’.
Q: And which one do you enjoy the most?
A: The Nikkei ceviche, because it’s a very authentic Peruvian dish, with a subtle touch of a Japanese influence, which would be the dashi.
Q: What dessert do you think is essential?
A: Definitely the mochi, also known as daifuku.
Q: Tell us about the roots of your cuisine.
A: Right now I’m 28 years old. I started working in the hostelry business when I moved to Madrid. Before arriving in the capital I was an electrical engineer, and that’s what I’d worked as in Lima and Buenos Aires. When I arrived in Spain, an uncle was working in the kitchen at Jaime Renedo’s Asiana Next Door and I started to get the taste for it. From there I went to work at Tampu, which a friend of mine had just opened at that time. I remember that until I arrived in Madrid, as far as I was concerned dinner was cooking some pasta with pesto, but everything changed when I started working in restaurants. That all coincided with the boom in Peruvian gastronomy, which encouraged my passion for my country’s cuisine to grow even more. From Tampu I went to work at Astrid y Gastón, and then I moved to Barcelona, as I had been offered a job at Ceviche 103. Once in Barcelona, I worked for a while at Pakta, and then moved on to Kokka, where I’m the chef.
Q: How would you define the menu at Kokka?
A: It is exotic and fun, without losing direction. The flavours of Nikkei cuisine are very clearly defined and we want to stick to them, while always bringing some creativity to each dish.
Q: Tell us which restaurants we can find you at when you’re not keeping an eye on the kitchen at Palosanto.
A: I love Japanese restaurants: Shunka (C/Sagistans, 5), Majide (C/Tallers, 48), Tempura-Ya (C/Muntaner, 153), Yamadori (C/Aribau, 68) and Ramen- Ya Hiro (C/Girona, 164), although it’s difficult to get a table because there are always endless queues.