Wining onFriday, April 21, 2017
Virgilio on the world map
For The Herald
MELBOURNE The past two weeks darting around various continents form part of the day to day for Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez but would likely cause exhaustion in other mere mortals. Here’s a rundown:
Flying into Buenos Aires on a Friday, the chef-patron of Lima’s Central led a pop-up at Palermo’s Don Julio on the Monday for BA foodie royalty including Narda Lepes. Working closely with the award-winning parrilla’s restaurateur Pablo Rivero, Virgilio’s aim was to learn more about beef so where better to pick up some handy knife and protein skills than with DJ’s parrillero kingpin Pepe Sotelo?
Back home in Lima a few days later, Virgilio then showed Central staff Latin America’s top restaurants in 2016 the new site for Central reloaded, due to open March, 2018. And, a few days after that, he was in Melbourne, Australia, along with Central’s chef de cuisine (and wife) Pia León for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 awards as well as Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.
Down under, Virgilio kicked off his Aussie tour with a cooking class alongside other culinary legends including Joan Roca from Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca and Albert Adrià from Tickets (Barcelona) as part of Estrella Damm’s Gastronomy Congress. There, he and Pia gave the most Peruvian of products, tubers, Central’s elaborate textures treatment, proving exactly just how this humble vegetable stands its ground in fine dining.
And, if that weren’t enough, not only did he rank fifth in the world at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017, sliding down a space in last year (no big deal as far as he was concerned, he told me that same night) but the Chef’s Table (Netflix) protagonist also took home the much-coveted Chefs’ Chef prize. Once that exuberant night reached its conclusion, he even managed to slip in some foraging in Mornington Peninsula, one of Victoria’s leading wine regions.
But the big news is Central 2.0, which will open within the next 12 months in Lima. Recovering Casa Tupac, an arts space that’s fallen mostly into disuse in Barranco neighbourhood, is an ambitious project but a challenge the team will no doubt relish.
Squeezing in a conversation within the 50 Best context, Virgilio shared some details on the revamp. He told the Herald: “We are moving to Barranco, a new neighbourhood for us. We’ve got the opportunity to change places and have more space while keeping Central. It will only have one floor we currently have two but my dream was always to have it across one where you can see the diners eating, the garden on one side and the kitchen on the other. Mater Iniciativa, our experimentation centre, will be based here and is where people will work on unregistered ingredients. That will be called Mater Lima, and later this year we will open sister-project Mater Cusco at 3,800 metres above sea level.
“The new Central will include a café selling coffee we produce in Cusco; there will be a big bar and a new restaurant that’s Pia is conceptualising, so having something new and different from her will be good. We move a lot around Peru but we’ve never moved the restaurant so overall it’s a good idea.”
While there’s still time to make that reservation must at the original Miraflores-based restaurant (I’ve dined at Central for three Mater Elevations menus and it continues to be one of Peru’s most groundbreaking dining experiences), Virgilio and Team Central’s star will only continue to rise so book for 2017 and then for 2018.