“The expedition we undertake has no destination or end, rather, it centers on constant movement, observation and respect for the temporality and the seasonality dictated by Earth,” writes Peruvian restaurant, Central, on its “About us” page – a restaurant which seeks to explore and exhibit Peru’s unique cuisine, culture, traditional cooking techniques and biodiverse environment.
June 20 this week was a monumental day on Central’s journey – a day which 50 Best called “a historic day for Peruvian gastronomy” – it was the day that Central was crowned as The World’s Best Restaurant 2023.
“On a day that will be remembered by Peruvian cooks and food fans all over the world, a dining experience completely focused on the country’s ecosystems and their diverse flavours has been voted by a panel of 1,080 global gastronomic experts as the world’s best,” wrote 50 Best.
Every year, through a panel of over a thousand culinary experts and a “structured and audited voting procedure,” 50 Best releases a list of 50 of the “world’s finest restaurants” which they say “provides a snapshot of some of the best destinations for unique culinary experiences, in addition to being a barometer for global gastronomic trends.”
You can see the 2023 list in pictures, here.
“The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has earned its legitimacy by providing guidance to aspiring gourmets, inspiring diners to travel and explore restaurants and bars, unveiling up-and-coming chefs and culinary trends, and showcasing the subtlety and complexity of various cuisines and cultures from around the world – with many more still to discover and celebrate.” – 50 Best.
This prestigious list reveals the ultimate dining experiences you must try! Learn more about The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna: https://t.co/ZJ05NK2bvF #Worlds50Best @sanpellegrino pic.twitter.com/PkBC2UgLdY
— The World's 50 Best (@TheWorlds50Best) June 22, 2023
In claiming first place this year, not only is Central now considered as the number one restaurant in the world, it’s also the first South American outlet and first restaurant co-run by a female chef to take the top spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
On its “About Us” page, Central also explains the motivation behind its expedition:
“Conscious of our lack of connectivity, we wish to humbly take on the great challenge of discovering and, in some cases, rediscovering this beautiful country, replete with unique ingredients, landscapes, cultures, traditions, and history. Above all we wish to connect with the individuals who live here and convey their stories. Our collaborative team works hard to create links between humans, nature and culture, and strives to highlight those elusive elements that few people see in their daily lives.”
“A journey through Peru’s diverse ecosystems at different altitudes”
Central is in fact run by a married couple, Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, who over the years have developed a “world-famous menu” which 50 Best explains is inspired by “the country’s biodiverse ecosystems, with each dish representing a specific area of the country.”
They also have a research organisation called “Mater Iniciativa,” led by Martínez’s sister, Malena Martínez, which is as a “Cuisine Experimentation Area” that conducts innovative food and beverage research projects and develops “gastronomic concepts” for Central as well as Kjolle (Pía León’s solo restaurant) and Mil (a restaurant and immersion experience in Cusco).
What is Central’s “gastronomic concept?” “Central proposes a journey through Peru’s diverse ecosystems at different altitudes,” explains Mater Iniciativa, “from the depths of the sea, at -25 metres, to the Andean highlands at more than 4050 metres above the sea level, going through the Amazon rainforests, the valleys and the desert coast.”
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What’s on the menu at Central? Well, the restaurant has different experiences which explore different heights and ecosystems; one of which is a tasting menu called “Mundo Mater” (or “Mater World”). This offering invites guests to “explore 14 Mater World ecosystems,” and can be enjoyed with a selection of different dedicated beverage pairings.
To give you an idea of the typical Peruvian ingredients involved in Central’s biodiverse menu, here’s seven items from “Mundo Mater’s” menu:
- “Black Rocks;” incorporating Yuyo seaweed (a red algae typical to Peru and Chile), clams and squid;
- “Dry Valley;” incorporating shrimp, Loche squash (a squash typical to Peru) and avocado;
- “Extreme Altitude;” incorporating corns, kiwichas (an ancient cereal from the Peruvian Andes) and sweet potato leaf;
- “Cold Sea Current;” incorporating Murike grouper, razor clams and vongole;
- “Sea Brain Algae;” incorporating octopus, sea lettuce and codium (a type of seaweed);
- “Amazonian Water;” incorporating pacu fish (freshwater fish related to piranha typical to South America), watermelon and coca leaf (a traditional native Andean plant that helps treat altitude sickness);
- “Andean Forest;” incorporating pork belly, olluco (a type of Andean tuber) and callampa mushroom.
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“The most influential and important Latin American restaurant of its generation”
Central opened its doors 15 years ago in 2008, “with a vision to create a fine dining experience rooted in Peruvian ingredients and cooking techniques,” says 50 Best.
It first made its way onto the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list in 2013 at number 50, and in the years since has accumulated a multitude of 50 Best awards for sustainability, hospitality and numerous other accolades, as well as The World’s Best Female Chef, awarded to Pía León in 2021.
Between 2014 and 2016, Central held the title of The Best Restaurant in Latin America. In 2021, it was named as The Greatest Restaurant in Latin America 2013-2021. And in 2022, it was again named Latin America’s Best Restaurant, which 50 Best says further cements its status as “the most influential and important Latin American restaurant of its generation – and possibly of all time.”
50 Best also went on to say:
“Central’s win truly marks a watershed moment – a before and after in the history of gastronomy when the global culinary crown was bestowed not on a traditional fine dining institution, but on a family-owned, independent restaurant located in a small, underrated nation straddling the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.”
LIVE NOW: Central in #Lima is crowned The World's Best Restaurant 2023, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, and The Best Restaurant in South America 2023! #Worlds50Best @CentralRest @VirgilioCentral @Sanpellegrino pic.twitter.com/ntpV4Xphex
— The World's 50 Best (@TheWorlds50Best) June 20, 2023
In addition to Central, there were also three other Lima-based restaurants that made The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 list: Maido came 6th (described by 50 Best as a “Japanese restaurant with Peruvian heart”), Kjolle came 28th (which is Pía León’s solo restaurant), and Mayta came 47th (which chef Jaime Pesaque says is a “personal and contemporary expression of the Peruvian cuisine and territory”).
These restaurants, combining indigenous Peruvian ingredients with innovation and/or other international cuisines, are making a significant mark in the global gastronomic landscape and bringing the traditional and contemporary culture and cuisine of Peru into the spotlight.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: Rainbow mountain in Peru. Featured Photo Credit: Trace Hudson.