Four Celebrity Chefs Killed in Peru

The young culinary superstars were headed to work with organic farmers.

Dec. 4, 2012— -- Peru is mourning the death of four culinary superstars, who died in a tragic road accident on Friday.

Ivan Kisic, Maria Huamani, Jason Nanka, and his fiancée Lorena Valdivia, were killed when a truck rammed into their vehicle, and pushed them off a cliff, as they made their way up a windy road in Peru's Ayacucho region.

The four chefs, who had been rising stars in Lima's culinary scene, had gone to Ayacucho to work with local farmer cooperatives that are organically growing Tuna and Tumbo, two fruits grown by Peru's indigenous people for centuries, that are increasingly making their way into fancy Peruvian restaurants.

The death of the four chefs, who were all under 40, shocked Peru's culinary establishment.

"We will say goodbye to heroes," world renown Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio wrote on his Twitter account. "They went to give encouragement to farmers in Ayacucho and they lost their lives."

"This terrorizes me, it is something that did not have to happen," said chef Javier Wong from Lima, whose ceviche was ranked one of the "World's Top 50 dishes" by British newspaper The Observer.

The most prominent of the four casualties was undoubtedly Ivan Kisic, who at the ripe age of 35, had travelled around the world promoting Peruvian cusine, and was one of the official ambassadors for the national marketing brand, Marca Peru. Kisic, had been running La 73, an uber trendy restaurant in Lima that fuses Peruvian food with international cuisine. But he was also working on plans to open his own place in Peru's capital city.

Jason Nanka had already opened his own trendy restaurant, named Nanka, earlier this year. This chef was born in Australia, but had been living in Lima for the past year with fiancée Lorena Valdivia, who was also a distinguished cook. The couple had been featured on Gaston Acurio´s TV show, La Aventura Culinaria.

Maria Huamani, the fourth casualty in Friday's crash, was based in Ayacucho City. Her area of the country was deeply scarred in the 80s and 90s by the war between the Peruvian state and the Maoist insurgent group, Sendero Luminoso.

"Along with her colleagues from Ayacucho, she converted the products of her land into a voice of hope, into a powerful weapon for peace," chef Gaston Acurio wrote on his Twitter account.

The Peruvian Gastronomy Society is planning a special event in January to celebrate the lives and contributions of the cooks who died in Friday's crash.

But as devastating as the loss is, gastronomy will live on in the South American country, where haute cuisine has thrived over the past decade.

Restaurant Magazine recently placed two Lima establishments in its list of the world's top 50 restaurants, and as this documentary by the legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adria suggests, thousands of young people study grastronomy in that country each year, swelling the ranks of well seasoned, Peruvian chefs.