Virgilio Martínez is the chef behind Central’s success as the best restaurant in the world.
The Peruvian restaurant, Central, has been chosen as the best in the world by ‘The World’s 50 Best’. This title was earned after several years of hard work by its owners, Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, who from its foundation were clear about their objective.
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They entered this ranking for the first time in 2013, occupying the 50th position, to jump to the 15th position a year later. Since then, they have carried out countless investigations on Peruvian gastronomy to find the best recipes that have captivated the foreign public.
However, very few know how this idea was born. Virgilio Martínez is the founder of this restaurant, although he did not always want to be a chef. His dream, after finishing school, was to become a professional skateboarder, but this project was cut short when he fractured his clavicle.
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Influenced by his father, the cook entered the university to start studying law. Immediately, he realized that it was not his thing, because he knew that he did not want to spend part of his day locked in an office. Despite the fact that gastronomy did not attract his attention, he liked to read cooking recipes, which led him to leave Peru with the aim of beginning to study haute cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu, located in Ottawa (Canada), studies that he continued in London.
Virgilio and Pía did not hesitate to refer to their work team after obtaining the recognition.
At the age of 19, Martínez began working in the British capital. At first, he was a cook at the Ritz hotel, until his visa expired and he had to leave Europe, deciding that his next destination would be New York. In this city, he was hired by the Lutèce restaurant and began to cook rice dishes with lobster, tuna millefeuille and consommé.
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As detailed in the Central book, after working for a year and a half in this city, his resident permit expired again, which finally led him to return to our country, where he would begin a new adventure alongside the renowned Peruvian cooks, Rafael Osterling and Gastón Acurio.
At that time, not having a good understanding of the preparation of Peruvian food, he decided to return to London to start working at the Four Seasons hotel. However, after a short time, he felt the need to experiment with new flavors. For this reason, he went to Asia, toured Thailand, did an internship at the Chinese restaurant of the Four Seasons in Singapore.
Central Restaurant is voted the best in the world.
It was on this continent that he began to appreciate the culinary tradition of Peru, as he was surprised that everywhere he went, he always found some reference or Peruvian food, which caused him to return to his native country.
When he returned to Peru, he returned to work with Gastón Acurio at Astrid y Gastón, in addition to participating in the opening of the Madrid branch, where he felt that the ingredients to prepare Peruvian food were limited, so he wanted to explore the origin of these products.
To achieve what he wanted so much, Virgilio Martínez took almost a year exploring all the regions of Peru. On this trip, he discovered ingredients that he had never heard of or seen before. This was the starting point for him to open Central, in 2008, in an old house in Miraflores.
Due to problems with the permits from the Municipality, it had to close for five months. This time allowed her to reflect on the orientation that she really wanted to have and at that moment she allied herself with Pía León, his worker.
‘Central’ is the best restaurant in Latin America and Peru. (Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022)
It was thus that they began to work hand in hand with what would be their cover letter and created a research area, Mater Iniciativa, which had the objective of exploring Peruvian biodiversity.
Likewise, they realized that the public they wanted to capture was foreigners, since they had the intention of showing them Peru through food. To do this, they searched for dishes at altitude, and began their proposal from sea level to the desert and valleys.
When they were at their best, the pandemic caused the restaurant to go into recession, because due to the country’s regulations, they could not serve the public and the borders were closed, so their number of foreign customers dropped considerably.
Virgilio Martínez recounts this harsh experience he lived through in a documentary he recorded for Netflix, in which he shows the path he had to travel to reopen his restaurant after two years of uncertainty.
“Getting to Netflix means an opportunity to share the work we have been doing with Peruvian gastronomy, not only regionally but also globally. We seek to transmit with the documentary the importance of joining forces in different fields, to make people believe in our diversity, in addition to recognizing and feeling proud of our virtues and of how dreams are achieved despite adversities,” he commented. .