The culinary altitudes and terroir of Peru, from the Amazon to the Andes
Chef Virgilio Martinez has taken Peruvian cuisine to a whole new extreme elevation. Central, which captured the top spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2014, takes diners on a vertical journey across Peru’s landscape, serving native ingredients sourced at various altitudes. The mountains, sea, desert and jungle are all represented as Central’s tasting menu travels from 25 metres below to 4,200 metres above sea level.
The restaurant celebrates Peru’s biodiversity and ancient Andean heritage, pushing culinary limits to delight guests with inventive creations. Produce from the restaurant’s urban garden and the in-house filtration system (promising the purest of water) are a strong presence. But diners must also try ingredients previously unknown to the majority of Peruvians, let alone the rest of the world. These include cushuro, the caviar-like bacteria found in the mountains after a rainstorm; tunta, a white freeze-dried tuber dating back to Inca times; and airampo, a bright magenta member of the cactus-family grown in the Andes.
Martinez’s Mater Iniciativa research project plays a central role in developing the restaurant’s identity and ideology. The chef, who worked across the world before returning home to open Central in 2009, has led the formation of an interdisciplinary team combining gastronomy with nutrition, history, anthropology, and science. He and his cohorts regularly travel across Peru to discover and study local ingredients, feeding the extraordinary culinary narrative played out on the plates of the restaurant.