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Experience required

These days it’s no secret distinctive dining relies just partly on the menu. To truly stand out, restaurants must offer guests an authentic experience, and many are looking to local attractions and customs for inspiration.

Take JW Marriott El Convento Cusco in Peru. Recently the hotel debuted a traditional Pachamanca experience in the Sacred Valley, which allows guests to dine outdoors in a manner that has existed for thousands of years.

Pachamanca means “earth oven” and refers to a hole dug in the ground to cook a meal. JW Marriott El Convento Cusco Executive Chef Rely Alecanstre and his team of four sous chefs dig a hole and heat stacked stones with firewood. The cooking process starts by placing ingredients according to their cooking time, intermixing them with the heated stones. First come potatoes — Peru is home to more than 3,000 varieties — followed by marinated meats such as beef, pork, chicken or local delicacy guinea pig, more heated stones, herbs and, finally, corn, sweet cheese, tamales and cooked beans. After placing more heated stones, the cooking pit is covered carefully with damp sacks and soil to prevent steam and smoke from escaping.

Peru’s Sacred Valley serves as the backdrop for a traditional Pachamanca experience offered by JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.
Peru’s Sacred Valley serves as the backdrop for a traditional Pachamanca experience offered by JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.

General Manager Heinz Prelle says the new offering has been well received by both guests and members of the industry who are curious about what the experience entails and the logistics behind coordinating it.

“This excursion — which also speaks to Peru’s amazing gastronomy — allows travelers to experience the destination as its ancestors did and as some locals still do, making them feel like they are a part of the destination, versus just spectators,” Prelle notes. “Travelers crave this — they want to go off the beaten path and travel deeper, and these unique experiences allow us to keep an edge as we accommodate that.”

Is your hotel offering distinctive dining experiences inspired by your destination? Please share your own good ideas in the comments.

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