Warike: The new mainstream take-out
Culinary businesses everywhere have been taking a hit because of the pandemic. The pandemic has forced food businesses, restaurants and cafes to close their doors without much hope in opening them back up. But some businesses have had the luck of bouncing back and are willing to share their experiences as a restaurant. One of those businesses is Warike Peruvian Bistro. Located on 2399 N Federal Hwy Suite B, Boca Raton, and opened in 2018, Warike provides sit-down dining, takeout and delivery to its local customers.
The owners of Warike, Carlo Chiarella and Roxana Benvenuto, are a mother and son duo who have a heavy background in the restaurant world. “Well, you know, I was born in Peru. We actually have two owners here, the chef and myself, and she’s my mother. And we decided to go into business together. I’ve been in the restaurant business for a long time. She’s been in the restaurant business in Peru,” says Chiarella.
Chiarella states that his mother has always worked in the restaurant business. She had businesses in Peru before opening their restaurant in Boca Raton. Chiarella also has family in Peru that work in culinary businesses. As for Chiarella himself, he followed in his mother’s footsteps.
“I was a busboy, a server and delivery driver for the same restaurant. I started making pizzas. I worked as a cook, I managed the restaurant,” says Chiarella. “As a manager of that type of restaurant, you had to learn how to cook and how to do everything. I knew all the insides and outs of a restaurant.”
“My experience is not from culinary school, but if you’re actually learning in the business. And then the chef, which is my mom, actually had some training. She doesn’t have a degree, but she has some training because she loves taking classes here and there.”
Their intense culinary experience is translated in the way Warike makes its food. Warike embraces its Peruvian origin and its culinary background. The food is unique in Latin cuisine and Peruvian cuisine as well. The meals vary in flavor and taste from different areas of Peru. the presentation is also something that the owners take very seriously.
“The flavors are traditional and homemade, but then the presentation doesn’t look like you’re eating at home,” says Chiarella.
“I always say Peruvian food is its prettiness. The beauty of that is because every region has different altitudes, different kinds of tastes, there’s a difference here and there. So, there’s always going to be a difference. But the basics of and the passion for the food is there wherever you go.”
Chiarella and Benvenuto pride themselves on creating food that reminds their customers of their own homes. For Benvenuto, she bases her cooking on everything she’s learned in her childhood. Her goal is to make her guests feel comfortable and at home when eating. For Chiarella, he believes Peruvian food will break the standard of outdoor eating, especially since the pandemic started.
“Peruvian food is becoming really popular nowadays. And we’re pretty sure that eventually, I would say maybe in the next five or 10 years, I think that it’s going to reach a point where it’s one of the major ethnic groups, you know, of food flavor. You say you when you eat out you say Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and Peru, I think is going to get there,” says Chirealla.
This is possible because Warike has an international audience. The Peruvian bistro attacks customers from other Latin American countries and other cultures as well. “We have people from every country here, which I love because, you don’t only hear from the people that already know the flavor, but also from all the cultures that are willing to experience that,” states Chiarella.
The mix of different cultures being brought together in this bistro gives these owners hope in the middle of the pandemic. Not just because the food brings people together, but because they saw unity in their community during hard times.
Despite the positive things they experienced during the lockdown, Warike was not excluded from the hardships of the pandemic. Like other food businesses, Warike had to adapt to the challenges that Covid-19 presented them with. They were a newly opened business, but their hardships were shared among other restaurant owners.
“We didn’t know, we were at a point where we said we have to keep going because this is our livelihood. There’s nothing else, I don’t have another job, we don’t have any other income, this is us. This is our restaurant, our baby, So we kept going,” comments Chiarella. “you never know when you’re going to be busy or one week you can be up a lot and then the next week and be down again.”
Despite these setbacks, Warike was still able to keep its doors open during the pandemic. Warike continued its take-out services until in-person dining returned to restaurants. With the owners always present at the restaurant, Chiarella and Benvenuto went back to the basics of taking orders while cooking in the back. But these setbacks did not deter the owners.
“People that didn’t see each other for a while could get together again so that is great because it brings friends and families back together.”
And the pandemic isn’t the only adversary Warike faces. Benvenuto opened up about the discrimination she constantly faces as a female head chef. Benvenuto states that many women, some of them her colleagues, hold high positions as chefs but are disrespected because they’re women.
“I think in Peru, everybody trusts that mom or every woman in Peru can cook, and every woman in Peru can cook. But here, one day I heard people [in Warike] talking and they said, ‘I bet the chef is a guy.’ And then they always assume that it’s always a man that’s the chef,” says Benvenuto. “Imagine a woman thinking that guys always cook better.”
“I think that comes because all the cooking shows with the big names started with guys. Then later we start seeing girls in Food Network. And I was looking up female chefs in South Florida. There’s only one in Miami, they don’t know about me.”
Chiarella also says that while working at the front of the store, guests always assume that the head chef is a man. Benvenuto shared that in every restaurant she enters, she asks who the chef is and all of them are men.
“And now one of the best chefs in the world is a girl and she’s very young,” says Benvenuto, talking about famous chef Viviana Varese. “And let me tell you that the people who are stronger and don’t take sick days or who come sick are the women. They are the best always, they are very strong people.”
The discrimination and prejudice against female chefs still don’t take away from the wonderful experiences this family duo has in their restaurant. Both Chiarella and Benvenuto always make the most of their time in the restaurant and have their favorite moments.
The owner and chef duo value their customers and what they have to say. “Because we’re a small restaurant, we’re more in touch with everybody. we try to make everybody feel at home here. here,” states Chiarella.
“And even if you see something on the menu and you’re a vegetarian and you don’t see the many options, we always like to listen to our guests. We always like to tweak recipes and stuff like that to make it so you can enjoy your food here.”
When he spoke about his favorite moments in the restaurant business, Chiarella says that it’s seeing his customers’ reaction to the food. “There’s a lot of professions, other industries where you don’t have instant recognition or instant gratitude for something you made. When you prepare food, and you take it to a table, and you see their faces when they try it and the comments are coming up right away.”
Another important moment for Chiarella in Warike is the ability to work with his mother every day. Chiarella treasures the chance to introduce his customers to his mother’s passion in the kitchen. The duo has a tight family relationship and shares their vision for Warike in the way they cook and conduct the business. “My life is here, but I feel like an ambassador to Peruvian food.”
Warike is only one of the many local businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. It is a business that depends on the support of its local community to stay afloat and remain relevant. However, it is not the only business that needs support.
Boca Raton is a city full of old, new and up-and-coming restaurants. Most of them have adapted take-out, delivery and other Covid-19 friendly options to keep their relationship with their customers. With the help and support of the community, places like Warike can keep their doors open and introduce people to its diverse Latin flavors.