Paiche Restaurant Custom Interior Mural

Custom designed, hand-painted interior mural for Food and Wine's "Best New Chef" Ricardo Zarate's Paiche LA restaurant.


Design and create a custom interior hand-painted mural for each of 3 floor to ceiling cement columns featured in Paiche Restaurant.

Create an upscale, sophisticated mural for the restaurant columns that complements the design and color scheme of the restaurant while paying homage to the Paiche (large-scaled fish from the Amazon) theme.

Paiche LA is Chef Ricardo Zarate’s 3rd restaurant in Los Angeles and it honors the influence of Japanese flavors in Peruvian cuisine and the efforts of Zarate’s mother country toward making indigenous species of fish sustainable with a menu inspired by the Japanese tradition of creative small plates.

The restaurant was named for the Paiche fish, a prehistoric Amazonian fish which is prominently featured throughout the menu and represents the nearby ocean—from the seafood-focus of the menu down to the restaurant’s design.


Discovery and Research: During this stage, I researched the history of the Paiche fish and Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. I collected imagery that was representative of the oceanic theme present in other design elements of the restaurant and I drew inspiration from the logo and menu design for the restaurant. The existing blue, green and natural wood color scheme of the restaurant influenced the color scheme for my design.

Mockups: Based on my research, I created a series of several digital design mockups utilizing Paiche and peruvian imagery and worked with the client to refine the mockups until we landed on a design that satisfied the objective. We chose a design featuring the Paiche fish scale pattern in hues of blue with the occasional gold leafed scale to add a hint of flair and sophistication to the mural.

Materials Planning & Sourcing: Once the digital mockup was finalized, I created a plan for implementing the design. The plan included a list of materials, where to source the materials, materials budget and a step-by-step guide to assemble and create the set.

Materials and planning for this set included custom color matching to create the blue tone for the column base and scales, gold leaf paint, vinyl stencil paper and paint supplies.

The best way to achieve the perfectly repetitive scale pattern for this design was to create a hand-made vinyl stencil. In order to do this I created the scale pattern digitally and traced it onto clear, vinyl stencil paper. I then hand carved each scale to create a 1′ x 2′ stencil.

The stencil dimensions and scale size were carefully created based on the circumference of the columns in order to ensure seamless repetition of the scale pattern.

Set Creation and Build: After acquiring all materials, I completed the following steps to create the mural by hand:

  • Paint each of the three columns a solid blue base color
  • Create vinyl stencil of scale pattern using tracing paper and Exacto knife
  • Replicate vinyl stencil three times to ensure sharpness of scales when transferring to column
  • Use spray adhesive and a level to secure scale stencil to column
  • Roll blue scale paint over stencil and let dry for 5 minutes
  • Remove stencil and touch up bleeds with brush by hand
  • Repeat this process until all 3 20ft tall columns are complete
  • Apply gold-leafing by hand to a random selection of scales in order to mimic the metallic glint of fish scales
  • Seal mural with a coat of clear polyurethane

About the Client: Chef Ricardo Zarate for Paiche LA

(abridged bio from Paiche LA)

Chef Ricardo Zarate has opened Paichẽ, a Peruvian izakaya, in Marina del Rey, CA on April 12th 2013. Zarate, a 2011 FOOD & WINE “Best New Chef” and two-time James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist for “Best Chef: West,” plays with plating and flavors on his new menu, showcasing modern interpretations of Peruvian dishes.

The restaurant was decorated to evoke oceanic themes; the restaurant is adorned with different shades of blue interspersed with warm tones and dark woods. The design is modern yet warm—the concrete floor is stained in a dark brown, and the walls are covered with reclaimed wood from a salvaged barn in Utah. Colored, three-form panels hang from the ceiling to mimic crashing waves.

Paiche interior column mural design, installation and project lead by Melissa Judson.

Painting Assistants: Morgan Wylder and Andy Polefrone

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Chef Ricardo Zarate for Paiche LA Restaurant