How Chef Gastón Acurio Helped Virgilio Martínez Excel In The Restaurant Industry

You're met with several incredible dining options when looking for some of Lima's most exquisite Peruvian food. Peru's capital city is home to beautiful beaches, serves as a starting point for travelers exploring the Peruvian countryside, and is one of the most renowned culinary cities in the world. With a handful of the city's restaurants being named in the World's Top 100 in 2021, it's no wonder this city is a food lovers' paradise. Some of the city's most renowned restaurants include Central, founded by Cook Virgilio Martínez, and Astrid & Gastón, founded by Chef Gastón Acurio.

Central, ranked number 2 in 2022's list of the best restaurants in the world, focuses on local ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques throughout Peru's altitudes and landscapes. Astrid and Gastón, previously named the 96th best restaurant in the world (unranked in 2022's list via Worlds 50 Best), serves high-end Peruvian cuisine from a historic hacienda nicknamed the city's pantry.

Believe it or not, Martínez and Acurio are not only culinary colleagues on the world's stage — they once shared the titles of boss and employee, teacher and student, as well as mentee and mentor. Paving the way for Peruvian cuisine, Acurio helped Martínez find his voice in the kitchen and appreciate the art of introducing the world of Peruvian cooking.

Cook Virgilio Martínez worked for Chef Gastón Acurio

Martínez and Acurio shared the culinary stage for MasterChef in 2018, representing their home country of Peru (via BBC). While they're now regarded as leading chefs in Peruvian cuisine, there was one point where Martínez worked for Acurio before starting Central. Serving as the Executive Chef of Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Bogota, and eventually opening the restaurant's branch in Madrid (via The Best Chef).

According to Eater, when Martínez worked in one of Acurio's kitchens in Madrid, his culinary creativity took flight. In an interview, Acurio claimed he heard that Martínez's creativity was surpassing his own — "there's a moment that you need to play the game, and there's a moment that you need to play your game. Clearly, it was time for him to play his (Martínez) game," claims Acurio. After Martínez's time in Madrid, he decided to return to his roots in Peru. He built his restaurant and created a menu that focused on the country's native ingredients, with dishes inspired by Peru's landscapes.

As for Acurio, he continues to mentor young chefs. One of his latest ventures includes opening the Pachacutec Institute of Cooking, a culinary school geared toward the underprivileged. Acurio created this school to give aspiring chefs exposure and upward mobility in their cooking careers. From his dedication to inspiring future Peruvian chefs to make strides in the industry, we can see more delicious Peruvian cuisine worldwide.