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03-05-2022

Fish from the Amazon and different cocoas from Peru: the world of Virgilio Martinez and Pia León

The Peruvian couple, participating in Identità for the sixth time since 2013, conquered the audience once again with their unusual exploration of Latin American biodiversity

Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon, restaurant Centra

Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon, restaurant Central, Lima. On the first of July 2022 they will also open Maz in Tokyo, Japan (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

They are regulars at Identità in Milano, having participated for the sixth time, as recalled by Gabriele Zanatta («no other international chef has participated as often»). The most famous Latin American chef takes us on a journey through the vertiginous variety of ecosystems of his country, Peru, together with his wife Pia León. And Virgilio Martinez also seems to be in the mood for taking stock, after two years of stopping and going. More reflexive and serene, he says he used the time to further research the relationship with his suppliers, visiting farmers and artisans in their homes, all over Peru, sharing with them work, efforts, discoveries.

Fishes from the Amazonia

Fishes from the Amazonia

Theobroma (the name of the cocoa plant)

Theobroma (the name of the cocoa plant)

In Milan, Virgilio and Pia bring two dishes that represent the endless biodiversity of their country that spreads from the Amazon to the Andes, from the coast to the deserts. The first is an unusual pairing, between fish and fruit salad, which Pia prepares cutting a large variety of fruits that she lists in a hypnotic nursery rhyme: tumbogranadillacarambolacamu-camutamarillochirimoya. Meanwhile, Virgilio illustrates how his guests have never been doubtful of this pairing, and how his vision is so different from our vision of seasonality, in a country that has at least three different climates with the equator only a stone's throw away. Meanwhile Pia ends the dish with a slice of watermelon that covers the rest, adding the camu-camu on top.

We start again with a dish that Virgilio and Pia offer almost at the end of the tasting menu, a sort of interstellar journey around cocoa, which Virgilio makes personally («What's the point of sending our cocoa to Belgium and then buying it back?»). In fact this is a detailed work made on cocoa itself, on the sister plant called Macambo, also known as white cocoa – a real superfood from the Andes – with pepino melon.


Massimo Bottura, arrived on stage at one point to celebrate his colleague

Massimo Bottura, arrived on stage at one point to celebrate his colleague

The room was packed for Virgilio Martinez's sixth lesson. The first was in 2013

The room was packed for Virgilio Martinez's sixth lesson. The first was in 2013

The goal is to use every part of the cocoa, so that guests are no longer sure if this is the rind or perhaps the seeds which Virgilio recovers as if he were using a placenta. The result is a dish served in two steps, colourful and topographic, a real living map of an extended thought. The map that in the end Martinez makes every day in the Mater project, in which he catalogues and presents and shares hundreds of ingredients of a cuisine which is, not by coincidence, one of the most energetic in the world, even though it doesn’t come from a country at the centre of the world we know. This would already be enough to praise Martinez, the rediscoverer of America.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


IG2022: the future is now

by

Andrea Cuomo

Roman, now living in Milan, sommelier, he's reporter of Il Giornale. He's been writing about taste for years

Author's articles list