Coracora restaurant in West Hartford celebrates James Beard Award nomination
Coracora, a Peruvian family-owned restaurant in West Hartford, could receive one of the country's most prestigious culinary honors as a nominee for “outstanding restaurant” in the James Beard Awards.
Chef Macarena Ludena Jimenez is originally from Ayacucho, Peru. From an early age, she showed interest in traditional Peruvian cuisine. It began when her mother taught her how to cook and developed further in culinary school.
"I went to get all the skills I need,” Macarena Ludena said. “My mom never went to school. She learned everything by herself. She thought everything in the school was something I needed to experiment with and get new techniques.
Her family migrated to Connecticut over a decade ago. Her parents, Hector and Luisa Ludena, opened the restaurant in a converted McDonald's, transforming that space into a charming showcase for Peruvian cuisine. They named it Coracora in honor of the town they are from in Peru.
"We are from a small town in Ayacucho," Macarena Ludena said. "Coming here was a little bit sad because we left everything in Peru. All the friendships. But being here with my family and seeing their hard work helped us grow more."
Grecia Ludena, restaurant CEO and Macarena's sister, says it's an honor to bring Peruvian culture in Connecticut to a national level.
"Peruvian food is recognized as one of the best cuisines in the world," she said. "We serve traditional Peruvian food. There's so much to explore, and we want to show that. And that's what we are doing here in Connecticut."
Peruvians are proud of their food, which consists of autochthonous ingredients, and the diverse influence brought to them through migration from different parts of the world.
A handful of officials gathered Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the restaurant's nomination. Gov. Ned Lamont gave a congratulatory proclamation, followed by the Peruvian general consul Elvis Tuesta, who handed out an award from the Peruvian government.
"This is a sign that the Peruvian community is hardworking. In Connecticut, there are more than 30,000 Peruvians," Tuesta said. "They are workers. Some are entrepreneurs. We make a tremendous impact here by bringing the best of our Peru."
The Connecticut General Assembly and the town of West Hartford also recognized the restaurant.
Peruvian cuisine was the “World's Leading Culinary Destination” in nine of the last 10 years, according to the World Travel Awards. The James Beard awards will take place in Chicago on June 5.