Virgilio Martinez on the stage of the auditorium at Identità Golose (photos Brambilla/Serrani)
«Through cooking, we try to connect people, farmers, producers, our guests. This way, we can truly represent our country, Peru». If you observe and listen carefully to Virgilio Martinez, the young Peruvian patron chef at Central, considered the sixth best restaurant in the World's 50Best, it’s easy to understand how he got so far.
He’s more than a chef. He’s a visionary. He understood where cuisine can reach its finest form, so that it can be considered an art, and he’s also found how to get there. That is to say he presents the soul of the country, giving shape to its natural and cultural richness, making it tangible through a unique experience of exploration, which you can savour with all your senses.
«We want to give guests a different perspective on our cuisine, a way to approach Peru in an intimate way, and discover its incredible biodiversity. We have an extremely varied land: the Andes, the Amazon Forest, and every altitude has its own raw materials and a different cultural background that deserves to be discovered».
An important mission that requires commitment. The team at Central has been working on this for the past six years. They research and try to become part of the local communities to learn ancient techniques and discover the varied ingredients of this marvellous Peru. Like potatoes, which have become a real element of exploration, discovered by the staff at Central in their infinite varieties.
This work requires first of all listening skills, observations skills, and patience. These are essential to stimulate trust and build virtuous relationships. These good-neighbour relations allow to make the best use of the local knowledge by enhancing surf and turf products with no prejudgement. Instead, at the restaurant they replicate the most unusual processes, like cooking in edible clay, a technique used by part of the Andin community when making quinoa.
For Virgilio ingredients are the new memories. Because they enclose the history and the future potential of Peru. And indeed on the stage of the Identità Golose Congress he presented dishes where raw materials have a main role.
Like the giant corn from Cusco – where his wife opened a new restaurant called Mil – with duck, cooked in the soil of the Andes, just like the local communities do, served with coco leaves and sweet potato leaves. Or the fish from the Amazon River prepared with beans and enriched with colourful discs made with herbal remedies.
And then a dessert made with corn and chuncho cocoa, a variety from South Peru. A tribute to the Pachamama of which he’s so proud, which has driven him to the top of the international fine dining scene, thanks to his profound thoughts, skills and creativity.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
born in the iconic Eighties, her love for writing started in PR, while she's always been passionate about food and wine. A tireless explorer of food, pairings and flavours, she's a freelance food reporter collaborating with ilpelonelluovo.it and with various digital publications including iodonna.it