Chef Virgilio Martinez, touted as the best chef in Latin America, is the one who started the rise of Peruvian food in the global market.
Martinez is the known owner and chef of Central, a restaurant in Lima, Peru focusing on unique Peruvian grassroots cuisine. He owns the restaurant alongside his wife, Pia, who is also a chef and owns a separate restaurant of her own.
Central was named by The World's 50 Best Restaurants as the number one best in Latin America in both 2014 and 2015, and is part of the top ten in 2016.
According to The Latin Post, Central serves up a food experience that takes diners through a 'culinary expedition through Peru's ecosystem'. This is true because Chef Martinez himself travels around Peru with his team and forage, hunt and dig for local ingredients in jungles, mountains, deserts and coastal areas. Martinez studies how these indigenous ingredients are cooked and eaten by the people living in the area, and aims to recreate it at Central.
In the restaurant, the degustation menu is classified by altitude, with the series of courses carefully taking diners from seaside to lowland plains, jungles, and then high altitude mountains. For example, at a classification of 3900M, the Andean Plateau dish is a composition of annatto seeds and tunta (dehydrated white potato). On the other hand, at a classification of -5M is Spiders on Rock, a large crab plate commonly found in the coastal lowlands of Peru.
Martinez plans to take his food experiments further, as he is set to put up a 'food lab' and restaurant up in the Andes mountains, at a circular garden terrace site once sacred to the Inca civilization.
"Ten lucky guys will be working there," Martinez tells Bloomberg during an interview, "there's a lot of history in a structure like this, but I see the future, too." The team will consist of an array of people such as foragers, botanists, anthropologists, and artists.
The restaurant is planned to be named Mil (the Spanish word for thousand, which refers back to his elevation-based dishes) and the menu will include things such as quinoa bark and underground-roasted tubers cooked pachamanca-style (over hot stones). One of the main offerings on the menu is the feature of different corn varieties - one of Peru's staple food, a country known for producing up to 4,200 different corn varieties.