FOURty Seconds with Virgilio Martinez

12 Feb 2018
3 min read
FOUR catches up with the king of Peruvian cuisine, Virgilio Martinez, to find out about his new restaurant Mil, in the heights of the Peruvian mountains.

Who/What inspired you to become a chef? And had you always seen this as your future career?

My inspiration has always been my family because in my family food was very important. I can’t say it was just one person, it was always the family, my community, my country.

Actually, I was trying to become a professional skateboarder but when a few injures prevented this from happening I decided to become a chef, so I could travel the world.


What initially inspired your style of cooking? 

I started to cook in different parts of the world. I’ve been in NY, Spain, London, Asia. I was cooking in a very global way, but I was always the Peruvian guy doing something that wasn’t my thing. So, when I came back to Peru, I decided to cook only Peruvian and to cook with my ingredients, my traditions and my culture. That really changed the way I cook and the way I see life.


Tell us a bit a bit about your latest restaurant venture – MIL in Cusco, Peru. How did the initial concept come about?

MIL it’s about to rediscovering things that are very related with our identity, and with Andean ecosystems and cooking in the altitudes of Peru.

In the past 8 years we’ve been exploring and traveling the altitudes of Peru, and as a result we had the idea to opening Mil in the mountains in Peru. So the idea is cooking in the ecosystem altitudes.


What can we expect from the latest venue that might be different from the others? (décor, ambience, style, format of dining experience)

Mil is going to be very different to Central. It is going to be more rustic, more straight-forward and it’s also going to be all about The Andes, and the sense of being in the altitudes of Peru. In Central we talk about biodiversity, cooking in a different ecosystem, the Valles, the Amazon, the sea etc. but in Mil we only talk about The Andes.


What do you think are the key elements are that have led to the success of your restaurants?

Successful restaurants are quite of difficult. You never succeed until you feel happy when you see your restaurant. It doesn’t matter if the restaurant is full or empty. I consider success when you actually enjoy what you do.

The key elements in my opinion are; keep the passion up, enjoy what you do, have a strong team motivated by the philosophy, and when all those things are in the same line, you can succeed.


What is your culinary philosophy and how do you translate this onto the plate?

Our philosophy is very simple, we just talk about identity and biodiversity. These two things are the key for us.


Tell us about the menu and some of your favorite dishes?

The menu is an exploration of Peruvian ecosystems, an exploration of our territory, we have plates where you see and feel the sea, the dessert, the Andes and the Amazon. We give you the sense of being in the place through the food and emotions.

We keep changing the dishes so we don’t have favorites. We try not to have favourites because we don’t want to get attached to something that we then have to maintain. We don’t cook with recipes, we cook with products and emotions.


Do you source most of your products locally? What makes the area’s you have chosen for the restaurants ideal in terms of produce?

100% of products are from Peru, from our biodiversity. On the coast, we have to travel to different parts of Peru to meet the producers and create groups through Mater Inicitiva, which is our research team. We get to know different ingredients and people.


What do you think is the way forward/future predictions for fine-dining and cooking in general and why?

We will be dealing with a lot of problems in the future. There are positive things like technology and knowledge in the cuisine, but talking about future predictions we need authenticity and follow our own philosophy. So the people will appreciate and we will be happy working like that.


On a day off from the kitchen, what would be your ideal way to spend it?

With my wife and my child who is now 2. One day with my family is priceless!


Do you have any new year’s resolutions? 

Again, stay more time with my family.