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Jamon Del Pais

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Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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From SC Chef Ambassador Javier Uriarte and Gypsy Wind Farms

“When I make food, I want people to remember something,” says Chef Javier Uriarte. “I want them to feel what I feel. I’m trying to recreate a memory through food, and if I can get somebody to feel even a little of that, then I think they can put that into perspective and begin to understand somebody else’s cuisine and culture.”

Growing up in Peru, Javier’s earliest culinary memories revolve around his mother’s kitchen. “When I was younger, my mother cooked every single day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” he reminisces. The transition to life in the U.S. altered these routines as the family adjusted to new work schedules, but the precious memories of his mother’s cooking stayed with him. “She taught me the value of cooking and the value in making someone a plate of food and making them happy with it.”

As a teenager in Maryland, he began working in food service to finance his college education. After moving to South Carolina, Uriarte soon traded in his textbooks to pursue his passion for culinary arts. Honing his skills through hands-on experience in Columbia-area restaurants, his determination and talent earned him positions at renowned establishments like Motor Supply Co. and later as the executive chef at Hendrix.

Javier's culinary journey recently culminated with the opening of his own restaurant, Ratio, a tapas concept where guests can sample a variety of small plates, each designed to introduce them to the vibrant and diverse flavors of Peruvian cuisine.

Chef Javier Uriarte in his restaurant, Ratio
Ratio’s small plates are designed to introduce diners to the vibrant and diverse flavors of Peruvian cuisine.

“The name ‘Ratio’ comes from a book I read that emphasized focusing on the basics. For us, it means balancing the perfect ratio of food per guest per visit, along with good lighting, music and service. Every small aspect contributes to the overall dining experience, creating the perfect ratio,” he explains.

Because Ratio has small plates, guests can experience more of what they offer in one sitting.

“We encourage guests to try multiple small plates,” he says. “It helps them understand our concept and the flavors of Peruvian cuisine without having to commit to a large, unfamiliar dish.”

When it comes to creating Ratio’s menu, Javier and his team challenge themselves to create dishes that showcase Peruvian food, with its rich tapestry of traditions and significant Asian influences, while still eliciting a sense of familiarity.

“Comfort food, for me, is about memories and relatability,” he says. “I think food is an international language. If there's something we can make that helps people relate to it and not be afraid to try it, we will do that. There are many things that can cohesively work together to make a dish.”

The dishes he creates often blend Southern and Peruvian elements, like chicken pot pie empanadas, while more traditional Peruvian flavors are found in dishes like ceviche—a marinated raw fish dish with lime, ginger, celery and garlic—and papas bravas, a dish of crisp fried potatoes topped with aji verde, chili oil and cilantro. By embracing these cultural elements, Javier invites guests to appreciate the depth of Peruvian cuisine.

“This town has taught me to challenge myself to make Peruvian food that is also comfort food so that people can experience a new culture but at the same time, not be afraid to try something new,” he explains. “I think they’re surprised by how much flavor is in every dish. They’re intrigued by what we’re doing here. We change the menu often enough that we try to push ourselves to do new things and create new items.”

While flavor is in no short supply at Ratio, finding authentic ingredients can pose a challenge. For Javier, the most important part of working with a farmer is the ability to have an organic conversation about food. One of the farms he works with is Bushels and Bags, located in Ridgeway. They sell a variety of produce, including radishes, spinach, beets, sunflower microgreens and more.

“They’re growing Peruvian peppers for us,” he says. “They asked me if there was something that I wanted them to grow and they were happy to grow it for me. That’s something you don’t see with conventional food ordering; it only comes from having a close relationship with a farmer.”

bundle of radishes on a butcher block counter
Having a good relationship with local farmers has always been important to Chef Javier.

Although Javier has worked with farmers since opening Ratio, being located outside of downtown Columbia has made it challenging to maintain those relationships.

“More farmers go downtown because there are more restaurants there,” he explains. “When we first opened, we worked with some farmers, but unfortunately, we were too out of the way for them to keep coming here.”

However, thanks in part to his status as a South Carolina Chef Ambassador, Javier is now connecting with more local farmers.

“I was asking at Bushels and Bags if there are any other farmers around town that have different products, and that I’d love to meet them, but I don’t know how to get in contact with them,” he says. “They gave a me a few numbers to call, and one of them was Brad’s.”

Brad and Dana Hoffman of Gypsy Wind Farms in Blair, South Carolina, raise Barbados blackbelly sheep, chicken, duck and mangalitsa pork.

“Chef Javier called me out of the blue one day and said he heard I had mangalitsa pork,” says Brad Hoffman. “He placed an order, and we delivered it. I didn't meet him that day, but his guys were amazed by the meat. They said they'd never seen pork that red before.”

The Hoffmans have been in Blair with Gypsy Wind—a heritage breed farm—for the last decade, continuously improving the land to ensure their animals are happy and healthy.

“The mangalitsa is a Hungarian breed of pig. It's the only long-haired breed left; the others are extinct. We have the Swallow Bellies, which are white on the bottom and black on the top,” explains Dana Hoffman. “We did some research on the quality of pork and discovered that the mangalitsa is one of the nicest types.”

A slow-growing breed, mangalitsa pigs take at least 18 months to get to market size, unlike commercial pigs that are ready in six months. Although they are one of the fattiest pigs in the world with only an average of 30 – 35% of the pig being lean meat in comparison to the 50% in modern breeds. Also, unlike modern breeds, which are known for being the “other white meat,” the meat of the mangalitsa pig is reddish, marbled with creamy white fat and has a good balance of omega-3, omega-6 and natural antioxidants. This is due to their natural diet of forage, wheat, corn and barley.

“We try to give the pigs as natural a habitat as we can, which is why they have a forested area here. They do enjoy being out in the pasture, but they really love being in the woods,” explains Dana.

“I’ve had people say it’s like the like the pork their grandparents used to have, with a totally different flavor from commercial pork. This is how pork should taste,” says Brad. “It's like the Kobe beef of pork, with more marbling and fat that makes the meat melt in your mouth.”

The resulting pork from Gypsy Wind Farms is more similar to what Javier had in Peru than the typical pork found in the United States.

“This is one of the best tasting porks I’ve had in my life,” Javier says. “It’s not too fatty, it has a much better marbling giving a better distribution of fat, which gives it better flavor.”

While a variety of foods have become more accessible year-round for the sake of convenience, it doesn’t equate to the best quality of food, or the best quality of life for the animals.

“I think it's important for the food chain that more people start buying from small farmers,” says Brad. “To know who they're buying from, how the animals are raised and the environment they come from. In a grocery store, you don't know where the animal came from or how it was treated. We're trying to be different, but we need more people to support local farms, not just meat farms but vegetable farms too. Knowing where your food comes from and the people who produce it is important.”

The Hoffmans have built a loyal customer base thanks to farmers markets, and now many of their customers shop at their farm store, which is a Certified SC Roadside Market. In addition to their own products of farm-fresh eggs, pork and lamb, Gypsy Wind Farms’ store sells Happy Cow butter and cheese, Congaree Milling Company’s grits and meals, and a selection of jams, jellies, pickles and other hand-crafted items from local artisans. Visitors to the store are invited to request guided tours of the farm, free of charge.

“When I feature a product on the menu, other chef friends ask where I got it,” says Javier. “I believe sharing these recommendations can foster relationships between different chefs and help farms like Brad's grow and become more successful.”

Since becoming a Chef Ambassador, Javier has participated in several events, including the Southern Wildlife Expedition (SEWE) in Charleston, Charleston Wine and Food, Florence Wine and Food and Columbia Food and Wine festivals, with more planned throughout the year.

“I'm honored to be one of the chef ambassadors for the state. I hope this program continues for a long time because it fosters more relations between chefs and farmers, which is crucial. It also instills pride in being a restaurant owner in the South and showcases how much we can contribute to the rest of the country,” he says. “I don't think opening Ratio in a bigger city would have worked better than here. Being in the South allows us to have a greater impact, bringing diversity to the town. I love the South because of the strong sense of community. We care about each other and the food we serve.”

Chef Javier Uriarte invites you to experience the unique culinary journey at Ratio, where each dish tells a story of cultural fusion and heartfelt passion. By dining at Ratio, you'll not only savor the vibrant flavors of Peruvian cuisine but also support local farmers who make these creations possible. Wherever you are, seek out local farmers and embrace the rich, authentic flavors they bring to your table.


Jamón Del País

open pork sandwich on a plate
Traditionally, the pork for butifarra is marinated, roasted whole, and then sliced.

“This dish is a street food in Peru. It is called jamón del país, but the sandwich is called butifarra. We’d have these when we went into the city before my parents dropped us off at our grandparents’ house. When I’m making this dish, a lot of those memories come to mind, and I try to convey those memories, those feelings, through my cooking.”

2 pounds of pork loin or pork shoulder
black pepper
yellow onion
8 cloves of garlic
5 aji panca pepper
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp cumin
1.5 tsp turmeric
Olive oil

Prepare the Pork

Day One

Grind 2 lbs. of pork in a meat grinder and put into a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Using plastic wrap, shape the seasoned pork into a log about 3 inches in diameter. Wrap the log tightly to maintain its shape and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two

Preheat a water bath to approximately 150°F (65°C). Place the wrapped pork log in the water bath and cook for about 3 hours. After cooking, refrigerate the pork log until it is completely cool.

Make the Aji Panca Pepper Paste

In a blender, combine the yellow onion, garlic, aji panca, red wine vinegar, cumin, turmeric, salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth, adding olive oil as needed to form a paste. Set the paste aside.

Roast and Enjoy

Move your pork log onto a wired rack and roast it for 30 min at 350F.

After the initial roasting, poke holes in the pork log. Cover the pork log with the prepared aji panca paste. Roast for an additional 20 minutes or until the desired color is achieved.

Wait until the pork log has slightly cooled to slice it. Serve with salsa criolla, huancaina sauce and toasted ciabatta bread.

chef javier with diners at ratio
Bon appétit!
Discover Writer
Discover Writer
More from "Discover Writer"
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.