Virgilio Martinez and Mater Iniciativa in London on 12th March at Lima Floral
Virgilio Martinez, one of the best chefs in the world (currently no. 15 on World’s 50 best restaurants and no. 1 in the Latin America) is known for his passion for the ingredients and his perfectionism in everything he does. He is also founder of the project Mater Iniciativa and creator of dishes which are an explosion of flavours and colours. An excitement for the mind and the soul.
Virgilio has his flagship restaurant Central in Lima (Peru), but beside that he owns also two restaurants in London: Lima Fitzrovia and Lima Floral. Lima Fitzrovia is the first Peruvian restaurant in the world that gained a Michelin star. On 12th March will Virgilio host in London a special event which will present the Mater Iniciativa and offer to the guests a gastronomic experience which will be very unique and absolutely unforgettable.
On the Mater Iniciativa page is his project explained with this words: “Several Peruvian products are becoming increasingly known to the public due to their inclusion on the menus of Central Restaurante and Senzo, whose gastronomic offerings are influenced by the creative culinary process of Virgilio Martinez: the linking of the cultural and biological diversity of Peru with the culinary experience. In this search, Virgilio Martinez and a group of researchers travel to the countryside and compile the histories of these products, but above all, the histories of the life which give meaning to the inseparable union of the diversity of our land and Peruvian gastronomy. In this way, Mater was born, with the goal of sharing valuable information about Peruvian products with chefs and the public in general – now not only interested in good eating, but also in the knowledge of the origin of those local ingredients included on the menus. It seeks, in this way, to contribute meaning to the task of our producers and their knowledge, which form the base of our diversity.”
How did it all start? How was Mater Iniciativa born?
Virgilio: “Eight years ago we started travelling to different parts of our territory searching for products, and after every trip we came back with a deep reflection. How could we connect to different realities that are vast and complex in so many ways, when trying to find potential ingredients? How important it is to understand the space, our products, our nature, our people and our geography! We discovered there are many visions, and lots of other elements to consider when trying to know more about products. So we began a registry of everything we saw, with the help of other disciplines. Anthropologist, biologist, geographer, people that were excited to do the trips with us and help understand more their field´s association to food. We created a group, and have been working with different communities from Andes, Amazon, North and South of the country to learn and to share.”
What is your greatest goal?
Virgilio: “We aim to re-establish a basic connection with our soil by being an arm deeply rooted into the ground. Our culture is so rich and it varies from place to place so much, that understanding our food is so much more. We want to register everything and elaborate for others as a database.”
You have two restaurants in London – Lima Fitzrovia and Lima Floral. What products are you using here?
Virgilio: “We can’t get everything from Peru, so we have to focus just on those Peruvian products that are really necessary. We rely strongly on local producers. But of course, we always include Peruvian ingredients like quinoa, some roots, Peruvian potatoes, corn, cacao and coffee for example.”
Since not all ingredients for London come from Peru, how do you choose British ingredients?
Virgilio: “That’s Robert’s role (Robert Ortiz, the head chef of Lima London), he has a great knowledge about what’s going on in London and he has excellent relationships with suppliers and producers, I would say he is the man who shows me the way.”
How would you describe Peruvian cuisine to somebody who doesn’t know it yet?
Virgilio: “Fresh, modern, authentic, with deep flavours, immensely diverse.”
And how would you describe your cuisine?
Virgilio: “At Central we work with ingredients from our Mater Iniciativa trips. We conceptualize our menu focusing on altitudes, which is the way that best describes how Andean people understand their surroundings. Every single dish transmits an ecosystem, an area, a landscape, like the altitude of the Andes, the altitude of the jungle … So we do “alturas menu” you get to move to different ecosystems, with lots of emotion …”
Peruvian terroir offers so many different ingredients of incredible flavours, which ingredients are your favourites and why?
Virgilio:” The vegetable roots in the mountains, and the wild herbs and fruits of the Amazon.”
I have read that in Peru you can find 3800 different types of potatoes. Is this true? You are using also potatoes that grow on the altitude of 5000 m, what is special about those potatoes?
Virgilio: “The thing about potatoes is that I have seen about 300 varieties, but we haven’t finished yet our discoveries. The names may not be registered, but they are being produced by local communities as high as 4800 m, or even higher. Some have special qualities for growing at that altitude (sweeter, starchier, smaller), and some are just different in colour or shape, so it is amazing to see them for the first time, and see the look of the farmer that has developed this variety on his own. Also, there are the ones that are dehydrated in the altitude (to be preserved), which are luxurious in the process they have gone through and the care the producer has invested in them.”
All dishes in your restaurants are not just rich of flavours, but also very colourful. Where do those wonderful colours come from?
Virgilio: “Colours are just coming from our ingredients, our heart, our vision … This is what we see in our landscapes, this is what probably we have inside us, vivid, live things, coming from biodiversity and nature.”
You also have a special relation to water. Water in Central is purified in special ways. Can you tell more about this? What about water in Lima London?
Virgilio: “We have our own bottles and we look after our own water which is used everywhere in the restaurants. We use the reverse osmosis technique to be sure it is filtered enough to be light and good for our clients and every cooking process.”
You will on 12th March host a very special dinner at Lima Floral. Can you tell us a bit more about this dinner? How will it look like? Who should not miss it?
Virgilio: “We will bring products from Mater Iniciativa trips. We just came two days ago from Ancash in the Andes, where we picked some ingredients, like cushuros (a cyanobacteria that appears at more than 4000m), then we will go to the Amazon of San Martin, and right into the jungle to get some wild fruits, cacao and coffee.
Mater team will go to Puno to get varieties of quinoa. So that is mainly the theme – getting products that may have never been in London before, because we will get them ourselves. Then we will be cooking and preparing everything in two days with the Mater cooking team and with Robert to create an experience of the altitudes, the way we do it at Central. We can’t do Central, because Central depends on 100 % Peruvian produce, but this time in London we will try to achieve something similar, lots of wild products from Peru, or products from amazing producers we know in Peru. Ingredients will come from their place and will fly with us to London. This will be an unique event for only one night. Of course we can’t make it happen daily.”
The event on 12th March will for sure be one of the greatest, most overwhelming culinary experiences in London. So if you love intense flavours and colours, or better if you really love life – unpredicted, intense and beautiful, if your mind is open and your palate ready for new tastes and flavours, I wouldn’t want to miss it!
Reserve your place at this spectacular event at http://www.limafloral.com/reservations
Get to know more about Mater Iniciativa: http://www.materiniciativa.com/en/
Get to know Virgilio’s take on chocolate: https://londonchocolovers.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/virgilio-martinez-head-chef-at-restaurant-central-lima-peru/