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Series: Chef's Table

 

Virgilio Martinez

   2017    Art
Virgilio Martínez is the chef/owner of Central, a restaurant in Lima, Peru that currently sits at number four on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. After a decade spent cooking in kitchens around the world, Martínez only found his true identity as a chef when he began exploring the different regions of his native Peru, from the ocean to the Andes. While some chefs are obsessed with a 'sense of place,' Martínez strives to offer his guests a sense of many places — entire ecosystems over the course of a tasting menu.
Martínez always had an adventurous spirit, but growing up in Peru during the 70s and ‘80s meant that many parts of the country were closed off to him. As a teenager, he learned that pursuing a career in the kitchen would allow him the freedom to travel all over the world. The chef ended in charge of a restaurant in Madrid. This is really where Virgilio started to develop his experimental style. Martínez decided to leave Spain to go and work on opening his own restaurant in Peru. He decided to explore the idea of cooking dishes based on altitudes and ecosystems. Martínez runs Central’s kitchen with his wife, Pia León. They developed the altitude-based menu concept together. Martínez’s sister, Malena, has a science background, so he brought her on as part of the team to explore different terrains in search of ingredients that they could use at the restaurant. Virgilio remarks: 'We use 180 ingredients, and 50 percent of them are unknown.' The altitude-themed tasting menu was introduced in 2012, and the following year, Central landed at the bottom of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Two years later, it soared to number four.
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