Interview With Virgilio Martinez

“I told them all, you can party, get drunk, whoever wants to enjoy - that’s fine, but tomorrow you have to be here at 7am.” These are the words given by Virgilio Martinez to his team at the Central restaurant after discovering their restaurant in the heart of Lima, Peru, had been nominated as the Best Restaurant in Latin America.[1][2]

Interview With Virgilio Martinez

We caught up with Martinez and the entire crew just 10 hours after the announcement as they prepped for their first service after receiving the award. “Nothing has changed,” explained the chef, apart from the three extra staff manning the phones and answering emails from exited foodies desperate to taste the now famous Altitude tasting menu. A menu that’s seen Martinez and his team, including wife and fellow chef Pia Leon, present ingredients and dishes from across the diverse landscapes of Peru.[3]

“My first thought was this feeling of gratefulness, like, ‘way man - people like us’ - we work every day to make people happy and if we are number one and people vote for us, it means lots of people like us and I was like, ‘wow’. People were crying at the restaurant.”

He still seemed shocked as he said the words, as if it had not yet truly settled in, business as usual at Central but what’s next? How do you stay motivated when you’re at the top of the ladder? Or do you change it all again? Fine Dining Lovers caught up with Martinez the day after the event for a chat about the future, his feelings about winning and some of the oner exciting projects around the world the chef is currently working on.

How did you feel this morning?
“In the kitchen we have to do the same, we have to keep the same mentality the same evolution - it can not stop. I woke up this morning and saw Pia and I saw her and said - you know we just got married - and I was like, very very emotional - have you thought that we would ever be in this position? I never thought it - we were meant to be a small restaurant and now it’s a restaurant that’s making some noise.”

How is the new restaurant in London?
"At one point we thought we could do something like Central in London but we realised there is just no way to do it - we had to get closer to a cevicherias but in a London environment. Lima Flora was this place that I just loved, truly relaxed, the atmosphere is great and we have a great team there - we’re really enjoying the challenge of cooking Peruvian food in London.

Dishes from the latest tasting menu at Central.Interview With Virgilio Martinez

I think Lima London is a good concept and is something that really go anywhere in the world - we’ve had offers for France, Singapore, Hong Kong - can fly with Lima anywhere. It’s working in London and if we can survive in London we can do it anywhere."

What’s next?
"You know we have been to Cusco and we go there many times and it’s looks like we’re just about to start work there at a very special laboratory that was once used by the Incas for their research. We have a research group called Mater Iniciativa and they work to research new ingredients - this is where our knowledge comes from. Our menu is the result of our trips to Cusco and we have in our agenda the plan to travel their at least three times a month - we are now working more on this and I think in a couple of years we are going to take Mater Iniciativa to a huge place, maybe the size of Central, to Moray in the Sacred Valley - there's a location where there used to be a kind of lab, even before the Inca’s time, where they would research about how to grow ingredients at different altitudes and this was a big inspiration for me when I started the restaurant.

Dishes from the latest tasting menu at Central.

Interview With Virgilio Martinez

Maybe we move Central there, I don’t know - it could be an option - Lima is crowded, its the capital and I love Cusco - I truly believe that if we are doing cuisine that’s so close to nature but we’re in the capital - we need to be closer to nature. I wouldn’t say the restaurant will move to Cusco but 50% of our heart is going to be there."


  1. ^ Virgilio Martinez (
  2. ^ Best Restaurant in Latin America. (
  3. ^ dishes from across the diverse landscapes of Peru. (

Tiki Cocktails, Polynesian Drinking Going Upscale

Tiki Cocktails, Polynesian Drinking Going Upscale

Tiki cocktails are in this year, says Montréal mixologist extraordinaire, Graham Warner. That means artisanal versions of rum-heavy, cabana-friendly drinks (think mini umbrellas and fresh, exotic fruit juices) will be popping up on coconut-palmed and lei-draped patios throughout North America. Now sun-thirsty patrons can have a taste of their last Caribbean vacation without hopping a plane south. Best of all, the trend makes it more than socially acceptable—recommended, even—for well-dressed crowds to sip from plastic straws plunged into bright red, fruity concoctions…so long as they're served in hip locales with a well-curated wine list for those more into Tempranillo than tiki. Lovers of Hurricanes, Mai Tais, and Planter’s Punch, it turns out that all you need to change a city into a beach are a couple ounces of estate rum and punch bowls for two.

Here’s where to get the best tiki drinks in five of North America’s hottest cocktail cities.

1. Shojo[1], Boston, Asian tiki bar
Descend into this subterranean watering hole for Asian-inspired classics. You’ll need to specify whether by “classic” you mean classic tiki (the Scorpion Bowl for Two is a smile-inducing, friend-making concoction) or Bourbon Manhattans. Barman, Reuben, can deftly handle either, but for an original tiki creation, try the Chairman’s Painkiller with spiced rum, pineapple gomme syrup, coconut cream and orange.

2. Frankie's Tiki Room[2], Las Vegas
This famous 24-hour tiki bar off-the-strip is known for its tiki kitsch. Patrons from all walks of life and levels of inebriation enjoy its "lava letch" cocktail (demon rum, brandy, raspberry liqueur, and ginger beer.) Though neither upscale nor innovative, Frankie’s is riding tiki’s current wave of popularity. The furniture may have even existed since tiki’s heyday in the 1930’s and 40’s. For the ultimate tacky tiki experience, settle in with a Wild Watusi (rum, mango, lime, and orange with a 160-proof float) from an angry-looking oversized, carved cup. Nobody’s going to judge you for not wearing skinny jeans here.

3. Tiki in Montreal’s Chinatown
Graham Warner and business partner, Dave Schmidt, are both tiki believers, which is why they’re launching their latest Montréal venture this April with a heavy tiki bent. The as yet unnamed bar in Montréal’s Chinatown will feature tropical beverages served in exotic fruit glasses accompanying a classic cocktail menu and a curated wine and beer list. “The gist is that you could be sitting next to someone drinking a tiki classic out of a carved-out pineapple while you drink a glass of Chablis,” says Schmidt. Schmidt wants customers to feel as satisfied with their experience as he did after his first “Jet Pilot” cocktail at Drink[3] in Boston (where the second Sunday of every month is Tiki Sunday), another combined tiki and classic cocktail establishment. Time will tell if the Jet Pilot (three kinds of rum, lime and grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, falernum, Angostura bitters, and Pernod) makes it onto the menu.

4. Rhum Corner[4] in Toronto
Jen Agg of the beloved Black Hoof Café and Black Hoof Cocktail Bar decided to have some fun with her latest venture: a Jamaican-inspired rum shrine on Toronto’s popular Dundas West strip. (Good luck finding a chair, and even better luck finding vodka). Wash down stellar jerk chicken with punch-packing drinks including Wray and Tings (Wray and Nephew overproof rum with ting), lighthearted (but alcohol-heavy) daiquiri and piña colada slushes, and the best rum selection in the city.

5. Teardrop Cocktail Lounge[5] in Portland, Oregon
The west coast has been slower picking up the tiki trend than the east, but how could hip Portland not latch on to the latest drinking trend? At Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, patrons enjoy Champion’s Cups made for 2-6 people with gin, lillet blanc, grapefruit, charred pineapple bitters, coconut palm sugar and pu’erh tea. The menu is extensive, however; if you’re on the fence about what to order, feel safe choosing solely by name: neither the “Diki-Diki” nor the “Spanish Prisoner” will lead you astray.


  1. ^ Shojo (
  2. ^ Frankie's Tiki Room (
  3. ^ Drink (
  4. ^ Rhum Corner (
  5. ^ Teardrop Cocktail Lounge (

The Post Punk Kitchen, Vegan Food From the Web to the Restaurant

Hard to find a vegan who doesn't own the recipe book Vegan Cupcakes take over the world or Vegan cookies Invade your jar. Or Isa Chandra Moskowitz' first book ever, Vegan with a Vengeance, published in 2005, definitely a reference when it comes to vegan cuisine.

Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Isa Chandra Moskowitz was very much into Lower East Side's punk rock scene during the 80s. It is there that she learned about vegetarian culture and later adopted veganism. The Post Punk Kitchen[1] is her first cooking show as well as the name of her official website, full of recipes and videos such as her latest series Make it Vegan, produced by Zero Point Zero, famous for making No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, in New York. Nowadays, she lives in Nebraska and is joining the 2.0 generation of chefs in going from online to an offline life with the opening of her restaurant Modern Love in Omaha[2], in May. People can't wait to taste her food.

The Post Punk Kitchen, Vegan Food From the Web to the Restaurant

Isa gives a few insights to Fine Dining Lovers: “We don't have an exact opening date yet, we're still building it out, but we are hoping for mid-May. The menu is going to be very seasonal: I am working with local growers to get the freshest produce possibly, and the menu will be revolving around what beautiful vegetables our farmers have. That said, I am calling it 'swanky vegan comfort food'. I am drawing inspiration from comfort foods across America and making them a little bit fancy. To give you an idea: a soul plate with barbecue tofu made with local berries. Over ginger sweet potatoes and with a big serving of garlicky greens. A pub food plate, with homemade vegan sausages, a cauliflower mash, cashew mushroom gravy, and once again those greens. We've gotta' get those greens in where ever we can.”

Isa published a new recipe book Isa Does It, with 150 recipes for the busy home cook, to make healthy, everyday meals in a snap. There are plenty of beautiful pictures and 30 minute meals, and the ones that take longer are designed with built-in downtime; so while the quinoa and lentils are simmering, you can sit back, relax and play with your cat. It's her eight recipe book, and according to her the one she always wanted to publish: “Isa Does It is my dream cookbook. I hadn't done a beautiful, full-color, hardcover book before. I wanted a big, gorgeous book that is as much fun to read as it is to cook from. I also wanted the book to be a staple in kitchens everywhere, with ingredients that are accessible and recipes that are simple enough but pack a big flavor punch.”

Isa is full of ideas, she has written tons of recipes on the web and for magazines. Where does she find her inspiration? “I get inspiration everywhere! Sometimes it's simply a craving I have. If I'm dying for a gingery stew, I use what I have on hand to make it, and voilà, a new recipe. Sometimes it's a holiday inspiration, like a decadent romantic brunch for Valentine's or a something spicy for Cinco De Mayo. I also love to ask my friends what they are in the mood for, and whipping them up the dinner of their dreams. And sometimes it's just as simple as finding some beautiful produce, like purple cauliflower, and creating a meal around it.” If you want to get an idea and download Isa's recipes for free go to Make it Vegan[3], there yo will find the recipe for the delicious Quinoa Caesar salad with tofu, Roasted red pepper Mac&Cheese and Rosemary chocolate chip cookies. In alternative, you can plan a trip to Omaha and get a taste her real cooking.


  1. ^ Post Punk Kitchen (
  2. ^ restaurant Modern Love in Omaha (
  3. ^ Make it Vegan (

Men With Sacks: Gender Issues in Food Marketing

Men With Sacks: Gender Issues in Food Marketing

Numbers speak clearly: more and more men handle the house groceries, especially in the United States. Supermarket shelves, however, still speak to women only. Companies are getting aware of it and making changes accordingly. Neutral publicity and packaging, these were the main aims. Now there is also talk of products for men only. According to last December's survey Men on mission, by Daymon Worldwide - a leader in brand development and consumer interaction - in the States about 52% of men buy 78% of the groceries when it comes to their own household, half of these men go on a mission for a specific product.

Usually, some products are embarrassing for them to buy. A Yahoo survey, in 2010, found out that 51% of 18-64 year olds were responsible for buying groceries, yet only 22-24% felt these products to appeal to them. Commericals are generally directed to women and make men feel uneasy. Probably they would buy a certain product if its image wasn't all too feminine. Packaging is very important to mark the difference. A Greek yogurt company launched an exclusive line for men in which the logo is the head of a bull. If a bee's waist attracts women in search of bifidus, the powerful bull works for men looking for a healthy and masculine diet. Men like animals with a strong appeal: marketing research done to find out male preferences proves it.

What else? Men don't like straws: they don't care for nutrients that help digestion, rather they tend to look for stimulants and energy channels, or help their muscles; they like crusty things and novelties, especially at the top of their category. The food industry is opening its doors to this new market-universe that allows men to buy anything they need and feels right to them. It's now becoming a trend in the States: from tacos to cheese, more and more products are made to attract male consumers.

Apparently there are six kinds of male-shoppers the Daymon research considers: traditional male (15%); contemporary male (12%); primal male(14%); confused male (19%); discerning male (20%); heckled male (20%). Each kind has a type of "mission" or behavior when it comes to groceries. A key-study that helps retailers shape their products for the male consumer. Those who invest in male consumers will probably succeed: compared to women, men tend to stick with a brand they like.


Chef David Thompson: Next step, street food

A week is a long time in the restaurant business. Ask chef David Thompson[1]. Just seven days ago, his Nahm restaurant was named the best in Asia[2], and he was at the centre of a media maelstrom, as Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna[3] awards concluded in Singapore. But now the dust has settled, he’s back in the kitchen in Bangkok[4], he’s had time to reflect. And he still sounds shellshocked: “I’ve got tinnitus from straining to hear every phone call. I’ve got repetitive strain injury from texting and emailing from my iPhone. I’ve lost money, because I bet against myself. And finally - and perhaps more sadly - I’m sick of myself.”

It’s just as well his sense of humour remains intact. The Australian-born chef’s natural inclination towards self-deprecation probably helps keep him sane at times like these. It also helps him keep things in perspective. “It’s the luck of the draw,” he says, philosophically. “There are so many other restaurants that could have won, and in my mind probably deserved to win more than we did, because they’ve strived so hard too.”

But win he did. And for many, it came as no surprise. Thompson’s Nahm has become a shining beacon of Thai cuisine[5], celebrated for its faithful renditions of traditional recipes, excavated from ancient family cookbooks. Its near-fanatical attention to high-quality Thai ingredients and complex flavour profiles has won over Thai food aficionados in Bangkok - which is no mean feat for an Australian chef.

In typical self-effacing style, Thompson is quick to deflect such high praise. “No so-called ‘front cook’ does it by themselves,” he says. “We’ve got a team of 28 cooks behind the scenes, and 26 people in front, all of whom are working vey hard indeed, and without whom there’s no way I could have got anywhere near this result. In fact it’s their hard work rather than my mad ramblings that has made it work.”

Mad ramblings or inspired leadership? Either way, to get to where he is today it’s been a long and eventful journey. Thompson won plaudits in Sydney before launching Nahm in London in 2001. Within six months of opening, it gained a Michelin star - the first Thai restaurant to do so. But there were problems with bureaucracy. EU regulations restricted the flow of exceptional Thai ingredients to London, and Nahm, Thompson and his customers all suffered. “We lost 70 percent of our ingredients, which were unusual ingredients: Asian citron, snakeskin pears, marian plums, jackfruit from the south of Thailand, jasmine flowers, wild gingers of various types - shampoo ginger, Thai wild ginger, young galangal, old galangal... It’s not the way a restaurant should work, when you’re uncertain of the price, uncertain of the quality, and uncertain of supply. It just doesn’t make sense. It was unsatisfactory for me and the cooks, and it was unfair on the customers.”

Chef David Thompson: Next step, street food

Nahm’s London iteration closed, but London’s loss was Bangkok’s gain. There “the cornucopia spilt across the table - delicious, vibrant, in all of its array, in all of its beauty,” and the latest incarnation of Nahm flourished. But when Thompson is asked if he feels vindicated by his most recent success, he is adamant. “No, not at all. It’s a culmination rather than a vindication,” he says. “They were all fantastic experiences, and they were experiences that made me grow in ways that I could not have done here from the start. They have given me a set of tools by which I’ve managed to establish myself here and flourish somewhat. If I hadn’t gone through those stages, it would probably be a very different restaurant indeed.”

In Bangkok, Thompson feels settled. “I’ve developed a Thai taste, so I think it’s the best eating city in Asia,” he says. But it’s not just a great place to eat, it’s the only place for Thompson to continue his work. “What I want to do is set up some kind of library or repository of some of the old cookbooks that I have. Set up some kind of library, digitise it and make it available to Thais, so they have access to their remarkable culinary heritage, should they wish.”

Meanwhile, the rest of Asia can look forward to a new string of Thai street food restaurants, all with Thompson’s trademark attention to authenticity. “I’m working on street food projects, because a restaurant like Nahm can never be anywhere else but in Bangkok, or in Thailand at least. And so that’s where Nahm will stay, and hopefully flourish. Whereas street food is a far more transportable cuisine, and that’s what we’ll be doing in Singapore and Hong Kong and a few other cities.”


  1. ^ David Thompson (
  2. ^ Nahm restaurant was named the best in Asia (
  3. ^ Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna (
  4. ^ Bangkok (
  5. ^ Thai cuisine (