A Triumph for Central: Elevating Cuisine and Community at The World's 50 Best.

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The recent rise of Central to the apex of The World's 50 Best Restaurants is a victory of profound international significance. This success echoes beyond its hometown of Lima or the borders of Peru and resonates throughout Latin America and the culinary world.

Central, under the ownership of chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pía Leon, has created history by becoming the first restaurant outside Europe and the US to secure the No.1 spot and simultaneously being the first co-run by a female chef. This initiative builds on the work begun over a decade ago by another significant Peruvian chef, Gaston Arcurio, who initially trained Virgilio Martínez and Pía Leon before they launched Central. Arcurio opened the world's eyes to Peruvian cuisine, showcasing the immense biodiversity of Peruvian ingredients, local history, and food culture, raising it to the same significance level as Western cuisine.

Following the victory, Arcurio shared his emotions, stating, "Today, the news will be the headline of the most important media on the planet, which will help promote tourism and especially send a message to our youth of faith and hope to achieve their dreams. Because they will be the ones who, in the years to come, continue this path started some years ago so that the flavours of Peru and Latin America are recognised in the world and that today thanks to @centralrest, reach the highest. Up Central, up Peru, up Latin America." Furthermore, post-50 Best Awards reports highlight the invaluable support from the Peruvian government, which provided opportunities to bring food media professionals from all over the world to spread the word and significantly contributed to the victory we now celebrate.

Central, a stronghold of authenticity, has refined its offerings into an experience that moves the soul, calms the mind, and kindles a range of emotions that transcend the mundane. Besides creating extraordinary culinary masterpieces, Central upholds values that chime with the spirit of our times. This includes an unwavering commitment to preserving biodiversity and celebrating indigenous ingredients, both fundamental to its innovative dishes.

Cushuro, or “Andean caviar”

native corn

Chef Martinez never forgets to mention how, before opening Central, he traveled throughout Peru, exploring the Cusco Andes and the Amazon. This journey, which he describes as life-changing, helped him understand the untapped potential of local produce that was previously unheard of and unused in the kitchen.

Since Central's opening in 2008, it has undergone a significant transformation. Initially blending European ingredients and Asian flavours, as its skills strengthened and its vision clarified, it shifted to a menu based on altitudes and Peruvian ecosystems, featuring 300 local ingredients that uncompromisingly resemble their Western counterparts. Leon and Martinez dared to introduce to Limenos and the world a menu with Peruvian ingredients never seen or tasted by local people before.

In 2012, Martinez introduced a tasting menu representing Peruvian ecosystems in each dish, revolutionarily ranging from 10 meters below sea level and rising to 4,150 meters altitude. Moreover, ingredients sharing the same terroir were combined in a dish, making each dish a comprehensive representation of the Peruvian landscape.

From the 10 MASL of Yuyo, seaweed with clams and squid rises to where MIL Centro sits at 3750 Meters Above Sea Level (MASL) with the bounty of native potatoes served with high altitude leaves in the traditional manner of huatia (ancient Peruvian cooking method in a stone oven). This journey ascends to 3600 MASL of Moray and its cabuya, muña leaf, and qjolle, a dish with medicinal plants that Central cleverly infuses into its dishes. The final stop is at the 1800 MASL and Chuncho Cacao dessert, where Central showcases its ongoing study on how far you can go in researching a cacao fruit. Utilising every part of the fruit, the team examined each aspect to craft preparations with mucilage, seeds, and fragments of the cacao shell.

Every return visit to Central brings new textures and shapes of seemingly fully discovered cacao: including preparations with mucilage, seeds, and fragments of the cacao shell. The dishes are served on handmade natural materials, be it clay, elaborated fish skin, stone, or ceramics, primarily by Null Lab ceramics studio in the same neighbourhood as Central, in Barranco.

The driving force behind Central (and its other projects, Kjolle, MAZ Tokyo, MIL) is Mater Iniciativa, "a place of learning, experimentation, and cultural communication" and also a place that aims to "preserve agrobiodiversity and cultural features of the different human groups." It began in 2013, from the idea to gain and systemise knowledge about the Peruvian landscape, its flora and fauna, and social ecosystem, preserving the knowledge of the local indigenous people, the seeds and plant varieties, their craftsmanship, and even centuries-old ways of food preparation. The ultimate goal was to look beyond the known and discover the full potential of what Peru can offer.

native potatoes, nigh altitude leaves, chaco at Central

making of huatia earth oven in Cusco

making of huatia with local communities in Cusco

Cacao Chuncho dessert at Central

Native to the Cusco region, cacao Chuncho

Malena Martinez, the head of Mater, sister of Virgilio Martinez, is supported by a vast staff of anthropologists, sociologists, botanists, linguists, and other specialists. They study the biodiversity of the local terroir from the Amazon forests to the high ends of the Andes, bringing indigenous ingredients and traditions into the light. This knowledge is painstakingly collected through the extensive and gentle collaboration with neighbouring communities Kacllaraccay and Mullak'as-Misminay, ancestors of the Quechua people of the Andes.

Central has cultivated a symbiotic relationship with these indigenous communities in all these activities. These communities are active participants in the whole ecosystem of Central, contributing to cultivating vegetables and sharing invaluable knowledge that Central advances through their research centre Mater Iniciativa in Moray. This mutual exchange forms the bedrock of a business model that is as beneficial as harmonious.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 David_Holbrook

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 David_Holbrook

The joy of seeing Central ascend to the top of The World's 50 Best lists is immense. Their steadfast resolve, as echoed in their press conference, to maintain their momentum and strive even harder is equally inspiring.

They shoulder the weight of their new status with a sense of responsibility that matches their pride. Central's success is more than a culinary victory; it is a testament to the power of shared values and mutual respect.

This victory is indeed a victory for a brighter future. As is customary, the winning restaurant garners unparalleled attention and reservations. It's vitally important that those intrigued by Central Restaurant should visit and uncover not merely the gastronomic offerings but the entire concept behind them. This would prompt thought regarding the ecosystems and the significance of safeguarding the indigenous cultural and gastronomic heritage. Every so often, the luxurious experience conveys these messages and extends an invitation to explore matters beyond the dining table.

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