A Peruvian restaurant owner delivers a steaming-hot serving of Lomo Saltado, with a sprinkle of cilantro, to the table of two next to the door and flashes a smile before stopping by to check on the other guests.
“How does everything taste?” he asks in a thick accent telling of his South American roots. After a short chat with each table, he scurries back to the kitchen to whip up some more entrées for his hungry customers.
For native Peruvian Louis Rodriguez, the chef and owner of Se Llama Peru, success in the restaurant business has been achieved through his passion for cooking, his desire to satisfy his customers and his tie to his Peruvian roots.
Se Llama Peru is nestled on Center Street, right in the heart of downtown Provo. The restaurant has a steady following of loyal customers who come back to eat time and time again, and it’s not just for the great food. Claudia Torres, an employee of the restaurant, has enjoyed working at Se Llama Peru because of the great environment Rodriguez has created.
“He’s a really cool person. He’s really nice. He’s flexible. He’s polite with the customers, with us. I’ve never seen him mad,” Torres said.
Customers, like BYU student Emily Platt, love coming to the restaurant because Rodriquez is so friendly.
“(He) was extremely personable, and I was really impressed with him. He would come out to every customer and ask them how their experience was and made them feel welcome,” Platt said.
Nearly 50 years ago, Rodriguez followed his future wife to the United States to see what opportunities could be found. The two ended up in Utah, where Rodriguez gained experience in the culinary field, learning how to cook everything from French to Italian to Canadian food. He even received training from the chef of the Swedish president while here in America.
With his strong cooking background, Rodriguez took his résumé to Marriott in hopes of landing a job with its dining services. Much to his dismay, the company was uninterested in hiring him due to his lack of a degree.
“I felt disappointed in myself. That’s why I decided to study and be a chef. To support my knowledge — that’s why I decided to study,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriquez earned a degree in culinary arts at Utah Valley University. He grew to frequent Se Llama Peru quite often. The previous owner inquired as to why Rodriquez did not cook food from his own country. Rodriquez returned to Peru for some training on the art of authentic Peruvian food and then returned to the United States and began to work for the previous owner of the restaurant.
Five years ago, the owner transferred the restaurant to Rodriguez, making Rodriguez the new chef and owner. He reinvented the entire eatery by creating a more authentic menu and adding wall murals of Peruvian landscapes.
Among the most popular dishes are Lomo Saltado, Ceviche and Barbecue Chicken. Each brings the genuine taste of Peru right to Provo. Platt loves the Lomo Saltado.
“It’s a really good mixture of a bunch of great flavors. The meat and vegetables are cooked really well with great spices and sauce, and the cilantro cream sauce on top is the best. Overall it’s just super satisfying and delicious,” Platt said.
Rodriguez’s favorite aspect of owning a restaurant is his ability to customize each experience for the individual customer. He wants nothing more than to satisfy those who come to eat at Se Llama Peru.
“I can fill the expectations of the customers. Some people want something different. I can handle that. I work for each customer,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez loves his loyal customers, and he knows he could do well in other locations as well. He’s thinking about expanding to three more cities. Rodriguez feels he could find a lot of success in Park City.
Rodriguez has brought the tradition, culture and delicious food of Peru right to Provo. His love and passion for what he does shines through his restaurant. He has dedicated himself to making Se Llama Peru a happy and satisfying experience for each person who walks through the door.