Coya’s Executive World Chef Sanjay Dwivedi
By Kara Franker
How does a London-born chef of Indian ethnicity who is married to a French woman, manage to open up one of the most successful Peruvian restaurants in the world? It’s not about where you are from or where you were born. It’s about a talented chef and his creativity in the kitchen.
Located in Piccadilly, Coya London has been so successful that Zagat named it “the hottest restaurant in the world” just a few months after it opened. What’s all the fuss about? Well, it simply comes down to the food.
To prepare for the launch of Coya, Chef Sanjay Dwivedi traveled to Peru where he spent months visiting local markets, formulating new recipes and changing his menu more than 20 times. “People want something different, and Coya offers bold and unique flavors,” he says, adding that Peruvian cuisine is a unique blend of Spanish, Japanese and Chinese undertones. The brainchild of Adam Bel Hadj Ammar and Arjun Waney (co-creator of Zuma), Coya Miami is the brand’s first stateside location, after successful high-end restaurant openings in London and Dubai. With chef Dwivedi at the helm, the Peruvian hotspot on Brickell Avenue has received high acclaim from locals and visitors alike, since opening its ornate, Incan-inspired doors earlier this year.
Meet the Culinary Mastermind
“Mr. Waney has the best restaurants in London and worldwide, so it was a no-brainer for me to decide to work for him and it’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my career,” says Dwivedi who was born in London, then spent his childhood in India before moving back to England at the age of 18.
As a child, Dwivedi knew instantly that he was destined to forge his own path in the culinary world and credits his mother and other family members for inspiring him. “One of my uncles owned a hotel in India and when I was 7 years old, I went there on a holiday,” says Dwivedi in his polished British accent. “I can recall the moment when the chef opened up the oven and I caught the distinct smell of butter chicken. I still remember it and I was blown away.”
Dwivedi launched his career working under British celebrity chef Brian Turner. He then served stints at popular London restaurants like Zaiki, Le Caprice and The Ivy, as well as spending time in The Maldives and even cooking for The Rolling Stones during their Bridges to Babylon tour. “The Rolling Stones were great to work for and it was rock and roll all the time—from the concerts to the parties that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.”
Now a family man with 7-year-old twin boys, Dwivedi manages to seamlessly balance jet-setting between the three Coya locations and has plans to open more outposts soon. “We’re looking around in different cities like D.C., New York and Los Angeles,” says the chef, who first launched the London location in 2011.
The Challenge of Achieving Status in Miami
Additionally, the expectations were very different in Miami than in London and Dubai. “It was easier to introduce the Coya menu to Miami, as compared to the other two places, because the locals here are already accustomed to Peruvian food,” says Dwivedi. “I tweaked the menu specifically for Miami and I use as much local produce and fish as I can, like swordfish, snapper and grouper.” The chef’s mouthwatering Arroz Nikkei dish is a showstopper featuring sea bass, rice, fresh lime and chilis, all mixed together in an iron pot.
All three restaurants feature a pisco bar, offering twenty varieties of piscos, made in-house and using a selection of fruits, spices and
herbs like black currant, aji panca chili and cinnamon orange. But the chef is most proud of his state-of-the-art kitchen, which he designed himself featuring two Josper ovens–perfect for scorchinga smokey ribeye topped with chimichurri and homemade salsa.
The 220-seat Coya Miami recently launched a new Sunday brunch concept offering a combination of traditional Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado, a buffet with an assortment of fresh ceviches, anticuchos like grilled ox heart skewers and dulces like an amaranth grain pudding doused in aged Guatemalan rum. “Brunch is a big deal in Miami, so we’ve put together a special menu just for the locals,” adds Dwivedi.
Each of the four parts of the restaurant (pisco bar, main dining room, outdoor terrace and members-only lounge) evoke South American-inspired aesthetics, even down to the 200-year-old artwork depicting ancient Incan ruins in the members-only area. “The beautiful thing about membership is the fact that it grants you access to all of the Coya clubs, including London,” says Dwivedi.
So what’s the secret to joining this invitation-only club? Submit an inquiry via coyarestaurant.com, and if you share the restaurant’s affinity for community and cultural spirit, then you may just be invited to join.
Award-Winning Brunch at Coya – A Peruvian Journey
“Brunch at Coya was like stepping into Lima for an authentic Sunday family meal,” said Robin Jay, Editor in Chief of South Florida Opulence. “It was unlike any other upscale brunch my family has ever experienced. Servers explained each course in detail – starting with the breaking of the homemade breads – a tradition, we learned, at the start of a family meal in Peru. We were enchanted by the freshness, the tremendous flavors, unique recipes and attention to detail.”
Coya’s Latin American Sunday Brunch concept is offered from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. – perfect for those who love traditional Peruvian flavors, a little bubbly in the early afternoon and the ultimate Sunday Funday with friends and family.
Your brunch journey will begin with the option between two all-inclusive brunch menus.
• The Aguas Calientes ($75) features limitless rose wine “Cape Bleu” JL Colombo, a choice entrée (Salmon a la Brasa, Lomo Saltado, Cazuela de Pato or Papa Seca), a buffet, an assortment of signature anticuchos and dulces.
• The Machu Picchu ($95) features limitless champagne “Cuvee Prestige” Taittinger Brut, a choice entrée (Arroz Nikkei, ½ Pollo al Josper, Solomillo de Res or Papa Seca con Setas), a buffet, an assortment of signature anticuchos and dulces.
While your entrée is being prepared, guests are invited to enjoy a selection of ceviches, tiraditos, maki rolls, causa and salads from the buffet. For the second course, an assortment of signature anticuchos will be delivered to the table to share and enjoy. After the main entrée, all dulces (dessert) will be sent to the table including Magdalena de Lucuma, Profiteroles, Flan de Carmelo, Mousse de Chocolate, Pancotta de Maiz and Tarta de Limon Verde. Yes, all dulces!
At any point during the meal, guests can order specialty cocktails off the brunch cocktail menu including Coya’s original “Pisco Punch.”