Photo by Ruta Smith

On the Side

Obstinate Daughter sous chef Carlos Paredes’ passion for Peruvian plates shines through the moment you ask about his culture and its cuisine. But, his respect for the Sullivan’s Island restaurant that hired him four and a half years ago has him exploring dishes like parihuela and choritos a la chalaca outside of the OD, helping Charleston expand its Peruvian palate through his pop-up called Umay.

Some pop-ups rely on volume, but not Umay, which has served a total of seven dinners since Paredes’ first event at Rebel Taqueria’s Workshop stall in 2018. But, don’t take Umay’s infrequent appearances to mean the food isn’t a hit. Paredes sold out of his four specialty dishes in less than three hours at a recent January pop-up at Xiao Bao Biscuit, just the second Umay event since the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s not something that I’m fully committed to, but I get to introduce Peruvian cuisine to the city,” said Paredes, who grew up in northern Peru before moving to the United States in 2012. “I’m also a sous chef at one of the busiest restaurants in town.”

The Obstinate Daughter has been a second home for Paredes ever since executive chef Jacques Larson took him under his wing in 2016.
“I went to the Obstinate Daughter, and their style is just so different,” Paredes said. “Chef Larson allows me to do most of the specials, and I get to use my creativity. There’s a lot of constructive criticism between us.”

How he got there
The give-and-take relationship is a far cry from many of Paredes’ restaurant jobs in various Northeastern cities, including Boston where he worked at L’Espalier, a French restaurant which boasts two Michelin stars.

Photo by Ruta Smith
Umay pop-up owner Carlos Paredes is also a sous chef at the Obstinate Daughter

“If you weren’t good, you wouldn’t last there a week,” Paredes said. “It was definitely the most difficult time cooking-wise.”

But, his hard work paid off, and he quickly climbed the ranks.
“Most of the attention to detail I have now is from that kitchen. If you are dedicated and work hard, you can do all the stations in two years,” he said. “That’s what I did, and then, it was time to move on.”

Charleston was Paredes’ next stop, and he’s happy with his decision to move to the Lowcountry. After briefly interning at The Ordinary, Paredes secured a job at the Obstinate Daughter, and he doesn’t have plans to move on any time soon, despite Umay’s success.

That’s due, in part, to the increasing responsibilities Larson has given Paredes since naming him sous chef in 2017.

“I get to see what’s on the list and come up with a special,” Paredes said. “I feel like that has motivated me more because it got to be my responsibility.”

Crafting daily specials is helping Paredes get more comfortable working with the South Carolina ingredients the restaurant procures from GrowFood Carolina, and he’s realizing some are familiar with the produce found in Peru.

“The local red onions are so similar to the best region in Peru,” Paredes said. “The climate is very similar, so I’ve been able to grow peppers in my house that would be really difficult to grow anywhere else.”

For some, it might be tempting to use this produce to make the dishes he serves at his Peruvian pop-up, but you won’t find plates of Peruvian causa or anticucho at the Obstinate Daughter.

“It’s not my restaurant, and I’m not trying to confuse people,” said Paredes, describing the camaraderie inside the Obstinate Daughter kitchen. “It’s probably the most talented crew I’ve ever worked with.”

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.