In the verdant expanse of Moray’s Sacred Valley in Peru, a unique culinary convergence has taken place. Celebrated Chef Atsushi Tanaka of A.T. Restaurant, Paris, embarked on an epicurean journey, coming together with renowned chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon to honour their friendship, and immerse himself in the rich tapestry of Peruvian cuisine. At the heart of this gathering was not just the reunion of three gastronomic giants but also an ode to the traditions and rhythms of the Sacred Valley — an ancient seat of Inca civilisation.
This extraordinary gastronomic event witnessed Chef Tanaka reuniting with Pia León, crowned the World’s Best Female Chef in 2021, and Virgilio Martinez, whose establishment is recognised as the World’s Best Restaurant 2023 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The setting? The revered MIL restaurant in Peru.
Pia León's culinary journey began over 15 years ago when she helmed the kitchen at Central, repeatedly acclaimed as the Best Restaurant in Latin America and currently ranked #2 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Alongside her role at Central and MIL, which she co-directs with her husband Virgilio Martínez, Pia is the chef-owner of her distinctive concept, Kjolle. Renowned for her curiosity beyond ingredients, sensitivity to human connection, and appreciation for craftsmanship, Pia has gained global recognition. Through Mater Iniciativa, an interdisciplinary research center co-directed with Malena and Virgilio Martínez, she extends her exploration beyond indigenous produce, integrating art, culture, and ancient knowledge to communicate Peruvian megabiodiversity.
Pia's commitment to cultural preservation extends to WARMI, a self-managed workshop focusing on traditional dyeing techniques, involving women from neighboring indigenous communities of MIL. Collaborating with the community, Alejandra Ortiz and Pia initiated the introduction of Andean braiding techniques, creating a khipu in Moray, Cusco.
Recognized as Latin America's Best Female Chef in 2018 and the World's Best Female Chef in 2021, Pia has participated in notable projects like Michelle Obama's Netflix show and Harvard University's Science and Cooking program. Her future endeavors include joining the international council of the Basque Culinary Center, a testament to her natural leadership and commitment to inspiring others
Choosing August as the time to hold the collaboration event was intentional, as it holds profound significance in the Sacred Valley. As the Inca calendar welcomes a new year, the valley buzzes with the anticipation of agricultural rejuvenation. It’s a period symbolic of rebirth for local communities, where predictions about future harvests and farming tasks take centre stage. Throughout his sojourn, Chef Tanaka was in a perpetual quest for inspiration. Experimenting with novel ingredients, he meticulously crafted a fresh menu for the grand event, constantly tweaking and perfecting it based on his experiences.