The protagonists at Identità Milano 2024: Malena Martinez, the scientist of Peru's megadiversity

The spotlight is on the co-director of Mater Iniciativa, the research centre behind Central, one of the world's most celebrated restaurants

Malena Martinez, Peruvian from Lima, at the head o

Malena Martinez, Peruvian from Lima, at the head of Mater Iniciativa. She will give a lecture in the Auditorium at Identità Milano on Saturday 9 March, at 2.20 p.m. (photo by Daniel Silva)

Malena Martínez Véliz, was born in 1978 in Lima where she grew up. She has always reasoned about the deep connections behind her country's cultural heritage, exploring it far and wide, low and high. A graduate in General Medicine, her first experience was working in the rural contexts of Iquitos, in the Amazon Loreto Region. An important activity for the career she would shortly decide to take. After taking courses in nutrition and the food industry, she received an offer from her brother Virgilio to set up and run a centre to investigate the products of her country.

From doctor she became a proper scientist, experimenter, manager and co-director of Mater Iniciativa, a centre for the investigation and interpretation of her country's mega-diversity. An institution that associates gastronomy with the sciences, the arts with the humanities and other disciplines, all cornerstones on which the culinary concept of Central, at the top of the latest World's 50Best Restaurants, is based.

Founded in 2013, Mater is a centre for the interdisciplinary investigation of the country's great biodiversity. It is more than just an institution: it involves science, the humanities and the arts in defining a method of development that seeks to interpret and explore living objects one step beyond the evidence, fostering the exchange of knowledge and the sharing of results in restaurants such as Central and Kjolle in Lima, Mil in Cusco, Maz in Tokyo.

Malena and Virgilio Martínez are the creators and drivers of art and culture, science and humanities projects that generate links with their surroundings and the people who inhabit them. Curiosity and creativity are essential requirements to develop projects ‘that always look at the past with the eyes of the present and the awareness of the future’, the definition of timelessness dear to Mater. Under the motto ‘There's more outside’, Mater is a way of seeing gastronomy, and the world in general, as a network of interconnections encompassing many other disciplines and players. A method of researching, interpreting and recording different ecosystems, fuelled by the exchange of knowledge and mutual creation and sharing.

‘Our geography is very heterogeneous and irregular,’ Malena explained to us some time ago, ‘we say that Peru is like a crumpled sheet of paper: there are huge differences between one territory and another. Countless micro-climates, countless agricultural techniques. The coasts, the sea, the Amazon to the north to the east and south, and then the Andes Cordillera. This was the seed of Mater Iniciativa. We wanted to build something with depth, with a sense that initially we could not see clearly. Now everything is very clear. It has to do with research, agriculture, botany.’


Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

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Identità Golose

This article is curated by Identità Golose, the publication that organises the international fine dining congress, publishes website www.identitagolose.com and the online Guida Identità Golose, on top of curating many other events in Italy and abroad

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