Chef Jose Duarte, was born with a passion for food; something he believes is programmed in his genes. Born in Peru, he moved to Venezuela with his family as a child, making frequent trips back to visit relatives in Lima.
He recalls one specific visit to a marketplace with his uncle, where they stopped at a fish booth. He watched in awe as the man there pulled out a massive fish from a cooler, and was able to prepare two completely different, incredibly fresh dishes in front of his eyes in only ten minutes.
It was there in that vast open market that the food gene was activated.
After pursuing a degree in tourism in Venezuela, Duarte moved to Florida where he studied hospitality, management, and of course, food preparation.
He traveled north to Boston after marrying his wife Anna, a true Italian North-End resident whose family had resided there for generations.
Taranta was opened in 2000 as a purely Italian restaurant, competing against a market oversaturated with chicken parmesan and Alfredo sauces. A craving of Peruvian beef stew after a long night in the kitchen inspired Duarte to create his now famous Gnocchi di Yucca, and with that, his menu changed forever.
Duarte spent the next few years enveloped in finding ways to transform his dishes with Peruvian flair. Each option on the menu is perfectly balanced with flavors, spices, and traditions that compliment one another. It was after a reporter from the Boston Globe fell particularly in love with his calzoncini; a hybrid of calzones and empanadas, that his restaurant took off.
It was around this time that Duarte read an article about the impending global warming crisis, and how scientists were beginning to explore the use of vegetable oil as fuel. It might be that the gene that’s responsible for his culinary genius also creates a love of pioneering new environmental trends.
What started as a desire to save money turned into a completely new lifestyle for both Duarte, his staff, and his business.
In 2006, Duarte sought out the guidance of the Green Restaurant Organization, which requires that four environmentally conscious changes be made a year in order to be Green-Certified. In its first year, Taranta made 15 changes.
Ten years later, over 40 changes have been made to the restaurant. LED lighting, in-house filtered water, and recycled straws are just a few of the changes diners will experience, but behind the scenes, even more action is taking place.
Duarte sources local when possible, and when it’s not, it’s sustainably sourced and free of harsh chemicals. All the meat he serves is grass-fed, free range, and antibiotic-free.
He sees sustainability as a process that goes beyond making environmentally-conscious decisions.
Chef Jose Duarte prides himself of the traceability of every ingredient on his menu. Putting money in the pockets of small business owners is just as important to him as serving a delicious meal.
He travels all over the country educating students about the importance of sustainability, and takes a week out of every year to travel with his staff in an intensive culinary training to either Peru or Italy.
He feels an economic, social and environmental obligation to everyone and everything around him. And to diners, he feels the obligation to serve an unforgettable experience.
Meet this wonderful chef at the BC Seafood Festival in Comox Valley.