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Virgilio Martinez: "Part of my future is going to be in Cusco"

Virgilio Martinez: "Part of my future is going to be in Cusco"

We catch up with Virgilio Martinez just hours after finding out his Central restaurant has been picked as the Best Restaurants in Latin America.

By FDL on

“I told them all, you can party, get drunk, whoever wants to enjoy - that’s fine, but tomorrow you have to be here at 7am.” These are the words given by Virgilio Martinez to his team at the Central restaurant after discovering their restaurant in the heart of Lima, Peru, had been nominated as the Best Restaurant in Latin America.

We caught up with Martinez and the entire crew just 10 hours after the announcement as they prepped for their first service after receiving the award. “Nothing has changed,” explained the chef, apart from the three extra staff maning the phones and answering emails from exited people desperate to taste the now famous Altitude tasting menu. A menu that’s seen Martinez and his team, including wife and fellow chef Pia Leon, present ingredients and dishes from across the diverse landscapes of Peru.

“My first thought was this feeling of gratefulness, like, ‘way man - people like us’ - we work every day to make people happy and if we are number one and people vote for us, it means lots of people like us - I was like, ‘wow’. People were crying at the restaurant.”

He still seems shocked as he says the words, as if it hasn't truly settled in. It's just business as normal at Central but what’s next? How do you stay motivated when you’re at the top of the ladder? Or do you change it all again? We caught up with Martinez the day after the event for a chat about the future, his feelings about winning and some of the oner exciting projects around the world the chef is currently working on.

How did you feel this morning?
“I woke up this morning and saw Pia and I saw her and said - you know we just got married - and I was like, very very emotional."

Have you thought that we would ever be in this position?
"I never thought it - we were meant to be a small restaurant and now it’s a restaurant that’s making some noise...In the kitchen we have to do the same, we have to keep the same mentality the same evolution - it can not stop."

How is the new restaurant in London?
"At one point we thought we could do something like Central in London but we realised there is just no way to do it - we had to get closer to a cevicherias but in a London environment. Lima Floral was this place that I just loved, truly relaxed, the atmosphere is great and we have a great team there - we’re really enjoying the challenge of cooking Peruvian food in London."

Dishes from the latest tasting menu at Central.

"I think Lima London is a good concept and is something that really go anywhere in the world - we’ve had offers for France, Singapore, Hong Kong - we can fly with Lima anywhere. It’s working in London and if we can survive in London we can do it anywhere."

What’s next?
"You know we have been to Cusco and we go there many times and it’s looks like we’re just about to start work there at a very special laboratory that was once used by the Incas for their research. We have a research group called Mater Iniciativa and they work to research new ingredients - this is where our knowledge comes from. Our menu is the result of our trips to Cusco and we have in our agenda the plan to travel their at least three times a month - we are now working more on this and I think in a couple of years we are going to take Mater Iniciativa to a huge place, maybe the size of Central, to Moray in the Sacred Valley - there's a location where there used to be a kind of lab, even before the Inca’s time, where they would research about how to grow ingredients at different altitudes and this was a big inspiration for me when I started the restaurant.

Dishes from the latest tasting menu at Central.

"Maybe we move Central there, I don’t know - it could be an option - Lima is crowded, its the capital and I love Cusco - I truly believe that if we are doing cuisine that’s so close to nature but we’re in the capital - we need to be closer to nature. I wouldn’t say the restaurant will move to Cusco but 50% of our heart is going to be there."

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