How South American Restaurant Central Emphasizes Sustainability

Central Restaurante, the handiwork of husband-and-wife duo Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, merges taste and sustainability to create dishes bursting with Peruvian flavor. The Lima-based eatery opened in 2008 with the vision to engage in ethical consumption after Martínez explored the agricultural hot spots of his home country. Martínez told Nuvo Magazine, that as he traveled from the Peruvian Amazon to the villages dotting the country's jungles and coastlines, he found that Indigenous growers were ignored in the process.

"The growers have no voice in the industry, and producers are considered only a tiny part of gastronomy. The system is also very European, based on seasonality and style, but it doesn't work for these lands, for these people," Martínez said.

Martínez saw sustainable practices as a means to support the Peruvian community, according to Estudio Rafael Freyre, the architecture firm, which designed the restaurant. Central was built out of an old home in the Barranco district of Peru's coast, repurposing materials to reduce excess and bringing the restaurant to its inspiration — the people of Peru.

"What we cook is what we feel belongs to us. We are cooking with the altitudes of Peru, and the different ecosystems and producers that we connect with via Mater Iniciativa. I feel our restaurant promotes what is happening in my region," Martínez said in an interview with Ambrosia magazine republished in Tatler.

Sustainability as a culture

Once founded, Central exhibited the best of Peru's diverse palate by locally sourcing each of its ingredients, even growing a few in a vegetable garden boasting over 100 plant species, according to The World's 50 Best. The restaurant personally works with growers from across the country, using relationships formed during Martínez's travels to both bring fresh food to Central's tables and directly benefit the country's agricultural community. Waste produced by the restaurant is recycled and composted.

Visitors can expect sampling from a tasting menu, which has at times extended up to 17-courses composed of 256 ingredients hailing anywhere from the Andes to the seas hugging the shores of Peru, as reported by Ambrosia. Central's menu is composed of favorites of Martínez's travels, including cactus, squid, and yuca, Nuvo reports. Mater Iniciativa, Martínez's research team which includes himself, León, and his sister, Malena, studies and preserves Peru's unique resources. Each of the restaurant's dishes is created from Mater Iniciativa's research.

"Mater Iniciativa is growing the most out of everything," Martínez told Eater. "If Mater Iniciativa doesn't work, Central doesn't have any motivation or content."

For its sustainable practices and home-grown menu, Central was recognized by The World's 50 Best as one of the world's top restaurants and featured on multiple food-based television series, including Zac Efron's 2020 series "Down to Earth" and "Chef's Table" in 2017.