Chef and restaurateur Virgilio Martínez is a man on the move. Along with his wife, Pia León, he’s the vanguard of Peruvian cuisine's global spread with one-Michelin-starred restaurant Lima in London as well as Central in Peru, has penned two hit cookbooks and has several new projects, including a new restaurant in Cuzco, on the horizon.
His cuisine is based heavily on the bounty of his home country. Considering Peru is home to 84 of the world’s 117 microclimates ranging from the Pacific Ocean to the Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest and even deserts, there’s a lot to contend with. In fact, the terrain is so varied that he had to form Mater Iniciativa with several researchers to document all that Peru has to offer and figure out possible uses with his restaurants’ cuisine.
We got Martínez to pause, catch his breath, and take a look back to when his whirlwind all started.
What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
When I was at El Raco de Can Fabes, a (now defunct) three-Michelin-starred restaurant. I was 25 and it was absolutely overwhelming. It was really something for me as it let me see and experience the rhythm and philosophy of working in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant.
When did you receive your first star?
It was four years ago for Lima. It was a bit of surprise, as we were new in London, and we were doing this new concept of Peruvian cuisine. We were, of course, happy and grateful, and I would like to thank all my of my team who made it happen and for always being there.
What was the first thing you did when you realized you won a star?
I was in Peru just about to sleep, as we had just finished service at 1:00 am. My telephone suddenly started making all kinds of noises. I woke my wife up and called my partners in France immediately so that they could double check the news. I mean, when you get a star for the first time, you feel you need to make sure that it is really happening.
How much influence has the MICHELIN Guide had on your life and career?
It is recognition of the work that we do every single day and for me as a Peruvian based somewhere very far away, this is something new and exciting. While we try not to let it change things, it does have an effect—which I’m sure the team is fully aware of.