Chef Virgilio Martínez of Central Restaurante - Biography

Lima, Peru

August 2012

Early in life Virgilio Martínez was confused about his identity, and that fact alone makes him perfectly Peruvian. Martínez made it a rule when growing up that each Sunday his family would eat Chinese food, but he was also interested in Japanese and Italian cuisines—all three of which have had significant influence on Peru’s culinary melting pot. Growing up in Lima, with a burning desire to cook and no culinary school to attend, Martínez decided (after getting his law degree) to travel.

When he ended up in Canada, Martínez got a cooking job. He loved the experience so much that he enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in London, graduating in 1998, and then worked his way around much of the world, exploring the cuisines of France, Italy, London, Southeast Asia (Martínez traveled and worked in Singapore), and New York (where he worked at Lutèce). After 10 years, Martínez returned home to helm Gaston Acurio’s flagship Astrid y Gaston, eventually exporting the restaurant, and the flavors of Peru, Madrid, and Bogota.

Martínez opened his own restaurant, Central, in the trendy Miraflores neighborhood in 2010, offering market-driven cuisine inspired by the Pacific and the Peruvian Andes. The following year, he set his sights on London, opening Lima in July 2012. Lima focuses on traditional Peruvian dishes with modern approaches; foie makes an appearance here and there, and even the requisite purple corn is showcased in gelée form, meaning Martínez’s original identity confusion has evolved into Peruvian identity celebration.