A dream realized for local restaurant owner

Peruvian food was foreign to me—I had certainly entered unfamiliar territory. Julian Herrera, the owner of The Golden Chicken restaurant, assured me I was in good hands as I sat down at the corner table by the window.

 Herrera had recommended the cleverly titled dish “an avocado walks in”—a delightful appetizer consisting of two avocado halves topped with chicken salad and veggies. My first bite was absolutely imitable as was the second and third and you get the point. But more important than the food is the connection Herrera wants with his customers.

 “When you see a customer’s face light up as a chef…it’s something,” Herrera said.

 He points to his heart— not able to describe the scene in his head. Herrera says a local business should be more than just serving a customer a product; it’s about making a personal connection.

 Herrera started learning the craft of Peruvian food at the age of seven. His mother would make him prepare everything by hand—a tradition that is still practiced today at The Golden Chicken.

 “Everything here is made by hand, always,” Herrera said. “Anything that is homemade is better.”

 With that sediment in mind, it was time for the main course. I went for a seafood dish, as I was curious to see a Peruvian twist on a timeless classic such as shrimp. I ordered “The Jumping Shrimp,” also recommended by Herrera. The meal consisted of sautéed shrimp with a special wine and soy sauce, tomato and sweet red onion served over fries and rice.

 Again, I was taken aback by how each bite tasted even better than the last—the food on the plate did not remain there for long. The wine sauce gave the chicken an extra flavor that blended well together, creating a desire to finish the food I was chewing—only so I could take another bite.

 I could see Herrera smiling. His passion is to see his customers truly enjoying the food he makes. Herrera is a master chef from humble beginnings. In 1989, Herrera was only making $15 dollars a week in Peru, supporting a wife and son. Now, just 25 years later, he owns a restaurant at 417 S. College Rd. in Wilmington, N.C.

 “My dream is coming true,” Herrera said. “I want to bring the Peruvian culture to the public…It’s not just about the food, it’s about people.”

 People in the Wilmington area have already started to catch on to the great tasting food at The Golden Chicken. Both Yelp and Trip Advisor give The Golden Chicken an average 4.5 star rating. Now, he’s serving food to movie crews at Screen Gems Studios—something Herrera never would have imagined.