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Virgilio Martínez: “It’s Time for Latin America to Conquer its Space in Gastronomy”

16 November, 2022

The impact in Latin America

Since it opened in 2009, Central has focused on products from Peru in its most diverse altitudes and terroir, from the Andes to the Amazon. The impact Central has had on restaurants in the region is undeniable, helping to create a culture of research and appreciation of indigenous ingredients that is in full development in several countries, from the north to the south of Latin America.

But according to Martinez, Latin America is yet a region to be discovered. “Creativity in this continent is endless because we aren’t attached to the tradition as in other countries, like Italy, Spain and France. Gastronomically speaking, Mexico is growing, Peru is striking again. Colombia represents a new scene, as well as Ecuador, Panama, and many others. We have a lot to show to the world. It’s time for Latin America to conquer its space in the gastronomy world.”

For the chef, the restaurant's development over more than a decade is the result of an expansion project that led Central to create Mater Iniciativa (its expedition project through Peru) to try to understand the cultural heritage of the country in more depth. "We had a nice expansion across the Andes, with a physical place for Mater Iniciativa to work with communities and their local products. This was only possible because Central was functionally designed for what we wanted it to be. From a small, familiar restaurant, we began understanding how it could develop and thus create a new work methodology. We wanted Central to be more of a platform than a space to serve meals.”

Expansion and future

This point of view was an essential turning point for the work they have done — and for the recognition they have achieved. And also to expand the work methodology to other countries, such as Japan, where the chefs opened MAZ, in Tokyo, for example. "What we do at Central is unique, as it is what Pía cooks at Kjolle [a restaurant run by the chef, also in Lima], and what we do at MIL [the couple's restaurant in Moray, in the Andean Sacred Valley]. But our way of understanding cooking now can be expanded, and it excites us a lot, too," he says.

Regarding the impact that the Latin America 50 Best Restaurants list may have on the global awards next year, Martínez said: "We do not have these prognostics; it is impossible to know what will happen." Central was second in the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2022 and is one of the contenders to reach the top next year. But Martínez remains ever hopeful: ”I'm not going to pretend to be innocent, saying that I don't know this can happen. But let's wait and see how things evolve.”

Virgilio Martinez's Chefs

Meet the Three Chefs Driving Virgilio Martínez’s Global Mission 

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