Mater Iniciativa, the soul of Central

In the Auditorium, Virgilio Martínez revealed the admirable research project behind his acclaimed restaurant


At Identità Milano, Virgilio Martínez, chef at Central in Lima, number 5 in the World's 50Best, showed this video

Virgilio Martínez, chef at restaurant Central, for a long time now at number one in South America (and 5th in the World’s 50 Best), is almost a veteran at Identità Milano. This year he held two lessons: one as part of Identità Naturali (here’s the story by Giorgia Cannarella) and one in the Auditorium. On both occasions, he came with two representatives from Mater Iniciativa, the research centre he co-established: an environmental economist, Gonzalo Urbina and an entomologist, Julio Rivera.

Mater Iniciativa is a project led by Malena Martínez and Pia Leon, Virgilio’s sister and his wife. It’s «the soul of Central», said the 40-year-old from Lima, that is to say the main source of their special, unusual and strictly autochthonous ingredients. Together, they analyse, document and promote the use of these raw materials. A research project that perfectly fits with the concept behind the Alturas menu, which is based on dishes that use ingredients from the same altitude in Peru.

Thanks to the image Martínez can create with his dishes, Mater Iniciativa promotes and safeguards biodiversity. It is also a cultural investigation, through which they can tell the story of the various communities that, in different areas of the country, have developed around different ecosystems. «We cannot be serious unless there’s research in what we do», said Martínez, «if we were to work on ingredients we didn’t research on, it would be unjust to those who work at Central, to our guests, to the communities of farmers, to nature and its products».

Virgilio Martínez (in the centre) with Gonzalo Urbina and Julio Rivera (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

Virgilio Martínez (in the centre) with Gonzalo Urbina and Julio Rivera (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

Martínez’s dish

Martínez’s dish

As part of this thoroughly interdisciplinary idea, Mater Iniciativa promotes a series of events called Momento, during which representatives from different professions meet and share their process of discovery and connection with nature. The next event will be in November 2018, in Tambopata, in the Peruvian Amazon Forest.

Back to CentralMartínez pointed out how, thanks to MI, he can use products nobody knew of before «and this is an extraordinary richness». The examples shown on the stage included an “Amazon” dish made with piranha meat, worked so as to make chips out of it. And then, the iconic potatoes: his staff works with the over 4000 documented varieties. A treasure of shapes, colours, flavours and textures perfectly represented by the dishes served at his restaurant.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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