Virgilio Martinez, head chef at restaurant Central (Lima, Peru)
On April 29, 2013, his flagship restaurant, Central Restaurante, entered as number 50 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants as awarded by the British magazine Restaurant. In 2014, the restaurant jumped 35 places to number 15, winning the “Highest Climber” award, and later that year was named Best Restaurant in Latin America. In 2015 Virgilio Martinez and his restaurant Central, gained the 4th place on World’s 50 best restaurants 2015.
Virgilio is a perfectionist with a deep love for nature. One of his major passions is exploring nature to find new or better ingredients for his cuisine. He is known for example for using potatoes grown 5000 m above the sea level and for supporting Mater Iniciativa, an interdisciplinary group of professionals who travel throughout Peru in search of unique ingredients which Martinez in turn incorporates into his cooking. The water in his restaurant Central is bottled on-site and is filtered, ozonated and purified using reverse osmosis so as to trap any naughty microparticles to which it might be providing refuge. He has also created a special wooden case that has been adapted to the temperature and humidity requirements for the optimum preservation of chocolate.
I deeply admire his work, so I am really happy that he agreed to talk to us about chocolate.
This is what he said:
“There are many things I remember in detail from my childhood. One of them is the immediate association my mother created in me about chocolate and happiness. That is the way I see a nice piece of dark chocolate bar, with the expectation of feeling just calm and relaxed, after a long day of work.
Personally, getting to know the way a cacao tree grows and correlates with other trees and herbs made me love it even more. In different Northern regions of Peru grows a very aromatic cacao among mango and orange trees, right next to the Algarrobo’s area, where the sweetest mamey and paico emerge in the most deserted Peruvian soil. Amazing how such tropical species, like cacao, got comfortable in this system. The smell of fruit and fresh cacao pulp is unbelievable.
We made the Bosque Seco desert (which means dry forest) with mamey granita, crispy paico, algarrobo cream covered in this Palo Blanco cacao. This dessert somehow showcases our territory and how cacao lives among other species. Our cooking is always inspired by that – regionality, ecosystems, altitudes.”