From left: Chef Virgilio Martinez cooks in the kitchen of Central in Lima on June 5; a cook helps prepare a dish. Martinez's Peruvian restaurant Central was ranked fourth in this year's list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, an annual guide produced by the British magazine Restaurant. [Photos by Mariana Bazo / Reuters]
With its cosmopolitan flavors and rich palette of ingredients, Peruvian cuisine has surged onto the global food scene in recent years, consecrated this month with Lima restaurant Central's breakthrough into the world top five.
The creation of chef Virgilio Martinez, the restaurant took fourth place Monday in the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards in London, the highest ranking ever for a Peruvian establishment.
It was a big night for Latin American restaurants in general, which have been turning heads on the global food scene in recent years.
Nine regional restaurants made the prestigious list: three from Peru, three from Mexico, two from Brazil and one from Chile.
Martinez, 37, is a poster boy for the new generation of Latin American chefs.
He opened Central five years ago on a quiet street in the residential neighborhood of Miraflores.
It quickly become a magnet for foodies from around the world with a menu that celebrates Peru's rich biodiversity, drawing ingredients from environments ranging from the Amazon rainforest to the Andes mountains.
Like his mentor Gaston Acurio, the chef at Astrid y Gaston-number 14 on this year's 50 Best list-Martinez is a cook with a cause, seeking to build close relationships with farmers, fishermen and suppliers to source the best local ingredients and put them in the global spotlight.
His tasting menus list his creations alongside the altitude where the main ingredients originate.
They range from 20 meters (65 feet) below sea level - razor clams with pepino melon and sweet lemon - to 3,900 meters above - tunta (a kind of sun-dried potato) with black herbs.
Together with his wife and partner, Pia, he goes to extremes to serve the finest ingredients. The restaurant filters, ozonates, and purifies its own water, and stores its organic chocolate in a wooden cupboard custom-made to provide the right temperature and humidity.