On my first night in Cusco I ate at the Nuna Raymi restaurant.

You’ll find it tucked up on Triunfo Street, just around the corner from the cathedral.

It was an altogether more elegant experience than Hot Chicken where I’d had lunch earlier in the day.

The wooden tables were sparkling clean, for one thing, and decorated with vases full of fresh wild flowers.

Jose Cruz from Cachin near Lares in Calca was in town delivering a batch of potatoes grown in his community.

Nuna Raymi source everything on their menu from local communities around Cusco. Jose’s community supplied the potatoes that were used in the entree and mains and to make the colourful hand-cooked organic crisps sold at the door.

Jose told us that Nuna Raymi had basically saved his village. By sourcing their potatoes from the families in his village and paying a fair price for them, it provided a living for the entire village and also a future.

Young people could make a living tilling the land now instead of heading off to the bright lights of Cusco and trying their luck there.

Jose Cruz and the Nuna Rayma placemat (Peter Moore)
Closeup pf Jose's poncho (Peter Moore)

Jose pointed out his village on our placemats.

Jose pointed out his village on our placemats. They featured a map of the various communities that Nuna Raymi sources their produce from and the kind of goods each one provided.

Cachin was where the potatoes came from. Other villages supplied corn, quinoa and squash. Quispicanchi supplied the guinea pigs.

Jose was wearing elaborate traditional clothes. Spend anytime in the Sacred Valley and you learn that this is not an affectation. It is simple what the locals wear. 

The centrepiece was a beautiful hand-woven poncho, lovingly created for him by his wife.

Each symbol woven into its pattern had meaning.

I didn’t quite catch the significance of the terrifying looking insect, but I was told later it was a bee. 

Nuna Raymi placemat (Peter Moore)
Chef at work at Nuna Rayma (Peter Moore)

Peru famously has over 4,000 varieties of potatoes. 

Jose told us that the bright reds, yellows, blacks and purples of the potatoes was caused by the unique composition of the high Andean soil they grew in. 

They were also full of antioxidants, he said, making them the healthiest potatoes you’ll ever eat.

I can’t testify to that.

But I had them mashed with lemon and black and red quinoa in my entree and they were easily the tastiest potatoes I’ve ever eaten.