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Diego Oka’s distinguished, globetrotting career owes much of its start to a chance encounter in a supermarket. While studying culinary arts at Lima’s Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, a young Oka ran into Chef Gastón Acurio, who agreed to let him complete his required internship at Astrid y Gastón. After graduating in 2001, Oka spent a year and a half as a line cook at Ichi Ban Japanese restaurant before Acurio lured him to Tanta Restaurant to groom the young cook into the executive chef of his next restaurant. In 2004, Oka opened Sogo Room Bar & Restaurant but left after six months, deciding he had more to learn before becoming “a boss.”

Acurio put Oka to work preparing for the opening of the first La Mar Cebicheria, which Oka opened in 2005 as executive chef. Just over a year later, he left to open La Mar in Mexico City, where he stayed three and a half years before returning to Lima to launch the La Mar concept in Bogotá, Colombia. After spending a year and a half in Colombia, Oka moved to open yet another La Mar—this time in San Francisco, where he stayed for two years. In 2013, Oka opened La Mar in Miami, where his marriage of Peruvian, Japanese, and (now) South Florida influences have crystallized. Establishing roots in Miami, Oka is stepping out of Acurio’s grand shadow and making a name for himself as an American forerunner of Peruvian cuisine.

More about Diego Oka

What is your ultimate comfort food? Street Tacos! If you weren't a chef, what would you be? industrial designer, artist, arquitect, ceramist What three things are always in your pantry? chili peppers, salt, garlic If you could cook with anyone in the world, who would it be? mmm don't know