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Food

Ricardo Zarate out at Picca, Mo-Chica and Paiche, reports say

Ricardo Zarate
Ricardo Zarate works in the kitchen of Mo-Chica in downtown Los Angeles.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Ricardo Zarate, the Peruvian chef who went from running a lunch counter at Mercado La Paloma to running three highly rated restaurants, has been kicked out of those eateries, according to a report in Eater LA.

Zarate is no longer involved with Picca, Mo-Chica or Paiche, the website reports.

Bill Chait, Zarate’s managing partner at Picca, insists Zarate wasn’t kicked out, he just stopped showing up. “If Ricardo is telling people he was kicked out of the restaurant, that’s 180 degrees from the truth. We can’t kick him out of Picca because he hasn’t been in the restaurant in two years.

“I am one of the biggest supporters of chefs in L.A. There is nothing I would rather do than support Ricardo in whatever he wants to do. The problem is he’s a child. If Ricardo would like to come back and work in the restaurant, we would love to have him. But he’s more concerned with building the ‘Chef Ricardo Zarate’ brand than he is in working in the restaurants.

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“I work with a lot of great chefs. You can’t find Walter Manzke or Ore Menashe anyplace but in their restaurants. But this is an instance of a guy wanting to build his brand based on these restaurants, but without actually working in the restaurants himself.”

Chait insisted that Picca would continue to operate not only as a Peruvian restaurant, but with Zarate’s menu intact. 

Zarate did not respond immediately to requests for an interview.

Zarate rose to fame at the original Mo-Chica in the little food court near USC, turning out highly polished versions of traditional Peruvian ceviches and saltados. He was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs in 2011.

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That same year he opened Picca, with Bombet as a partner. Former Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila hailed him as a “bona-fide cross-over star” and said Zarate “attempts to do for Peruvian food what New York’s David Chang has done for Korean.” It was named one of the best new restaurants of the year by GQ magazine.

Mo-Chica moved to a larger location in 2012 and Paiche opened in 2013.

But at the end of that year, Zarate split with Bombet, forming his own restaurant company.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1.


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