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Breakthrough helps Peruvian cuisine seal spot on global foodie map

Updated: 2015-06-13 08:00
By Marie Sanz in Lima Agence France-Presse (China Daily)

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Peru is known for its original ingredients, including quinoa, alpaca, guinea pig and aji peppers, and dishes like ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime) and lomo saltado (a beef stir fry).

It has been called fusion cuisine, with influences from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

"It's a very diverse cuisine, a mix of cultures and family traditions. It's a great joy to see Peruvian restaurants designated among the best in the world. We would never have imagined that 20 years ago," said food historian Rosario Olivas of the Universidad San Martin de Porres in Lima.

Local food critic Nora Sugobono said Central's menu is an artist's take on Peruvian traditions.

"What Virgilio does is auteur cuisine, 100 percent," she told AFP.

"His cooking is a personal interpretation of Peruvian ingredients. His creations represent his personal vision of Peruvian cuisine."

Martinez started out as a law student before dropping out and enrolling in a French culinary school in Canada. He worked in kitchens in Singapore, New York and Bangkok, eventually coming under the tutelage of Acurio, the chef behind Astrid y Gaston.

Acurio's restaurants have been a driving force behind the world recognition of Peruvian cuisine for the past 20 years. He has opened locations around the world, including in Madrid and Bogota, where Martinez headed the kitchens.

Martinez opened Central in 2009 and has since followed in Acurio's footsteps, opening a franchise in London and planning another in Dubai for December.

Breaking into the top five world restaurants is an honor but also "a lot of responsibility," said Karime Lopez, who is in charge of creating Central's menus and travels around Peru to research the best ingredients.

"We're very happy, but we're staying alert, we knowwe can't drop our guard," she said, keeping a watchful eye on the kitchen through the large glass window that separates it from the sober wood-and-stone restaurant, where clients reserve tables months in advance.


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