Sitting on a beach in Peru, Clifford Buck watched a chef catch a fish and prepare it. In less than 15 minutes, the catch of the day was placed in front of Buck on a plate, served as a ceviche.
“I said wow, how about we do this in Worcester,” Buck said. “What if we take the culture back here and show how things are done there.” Like everything is clean.
Three years after the trip to Peru with their business partner Leo Alacorn, the duo realized their vision at the Worcester Public Market. Pacha Mama opened at the end of September and offers Peruvian cuisine.
“It’s clean and organic,” Buck said. “They eat everything fresh [in Peru]. Nothing is frozen. There isn’t a lot of modern activity. People who have money have it, but 50-60% of people don’t, so they cook fresh every day.
The scribbles of a neon marker highlight the daily specials behind Pacha Mama’s counter, located in the aisle just from the entrance to Harding Street.
Peruvian chocolates sit atop a cooler that chills Peruvian pies. On the top of the counter, several plates show the variety of foods offered at Pacha Mama. Lemons and limes sit on a juice machine that produces cool drinks daily.
Since opening three weeks ago, Buck has said customer demand has been “overwhelming.”
“It’s been awesome,” Buck said.
Buck has roots in central Massachusetts. Her mother is from Holden. But until five years ago, he lived in various places around the world since his father was in the military.
Much of Buck’s life has been spent overseas, but no other country has reinvigorated his culinary history like the 2018 trip to Peru.
“He really is the best,” Buck said.
Buck and Alacorn visited the public market last year and were immediately drawn to the diversity. Not only in the food court, which had flavors from Japan, West Africa, Mexico, Venezuela and more, but they were also intrigued by the products being sold, which include everything from chocolates to flowers and soap.
At the time, the Worcester Public Market was at full capacity. Dreams sketched on a sandy beach in Peru seemed impossible.
Earlier this year, Buck traveled to North Carolina for an extended vacation with his sister in Cape Hatteras. The trip almost became permanent as Buck’s sister suggested he stay to help with the upkeep of the house.
“I was so close to staying there. My friend called me at the last second. He said we got the call, ”Buck said. “This is how it always happens.”
So Buck drove his truck back to central Massachusetts to open Pacha Mama in the Canal District. A market reshuffle created an opportunity for Pacha Mama to open alongside Namaste Woo and George’s Bakery.
In the first few weeks of opening, another goal emerged. Buck plans to expand to a larger space with 20 to 25 seats over the next year.
“I have no regrets,” Buck said. “In our little time here, I have met a lot of great people.