- Pierina Pighi Bel (@PierinaPighi) *
- BBC News World
On Wednesday, The World’s 50 Best organization elected Pía León as the best female chef in the world in 2021.
The list maintains this category despite criticism from those who believe that there should be no distinction between women and men.
León is the first Peruvian to achieve this distinction and will receive the award at the gala that The World’s 50 Best Restaurants will host in Antwerp (Belgium) on October 5.
“I am happy, after so much work, it is the perfect moment, the perfect platform to show that, although it can be difficult at times, if you have the will and know what you want, things happen in their own time and at the right time “said the Lima chef in a 50 Best statement.
BBC Mundo spoke with the Peruvian cook in 2018, when she won that year’s annual elit Vodka award for the best female chef in Latin America.
Below we recover the interview that we published after that conversation.
After working 10 years at Central, three times chosen as the best restaurant in Latin America and as one of the five best restaurants in the world, chef Pía León has gone to command her own kitchen.
But it has not gone far. In August, the Peruvian opened the Kjolle restaurant in Lima, at the same address as Central, which also belongs to Virgilio Martínez, her husband.
Being more than neighbors, a diner might think that Central and Kjolle’s cards are alike.
But León, winner of the annual elit Vodka 2018 award for the best female chef in Latin America, clarifies that no.
In Central, the dishes combine Peruvian ingredients of the same altitude with respect to the sea. For example, if a dish is from the Andes, all the ingredients must grow to the same level in the Andes.
Kjolle, on the other hand, mixes ingredients from the Peruvian coast (0 meters above sea level) with elements from the Andes (average height of about 4,000 meters above sea level) as well as with fruits from the Amazon.
This restaurant “does not have so many limits, no parameters,” says León in an interview with BBC Mundo, one Friday morning, a few minutes before he enters his kitchen.
In this her place of operations, the Peruvian chef seeks using little-known products or giving a surprise “spin” to those who are familiar.
But constantly offering novelties means that the chef does much more than just cook.
How do you go about finding new products?
Central and Kjolle are united by Mater Initiative (a biological research center), which is dedicated to discovering products that are not as well known or not consumed and gives us all the information to use them.
Do you also travel through Peru to look for products or ingredients?
Yes, we travel a lot across the country. When I can, I join these trips.
We have a direct connection with people who are dedicated to seeking knowledge and so on. There is constant research.
Is that field work as important as the one done in the kitchen?
In fact it is just as important. Nowadays it is super necessary for the cook to leave the kitchen from time to time. That makes you grow much more.
You meet people, different cultures, ingredients, climates. All of this definitely influences what happens in the kitchen.
If we want Peruvian cuisine to continue sounding, it is the job of all chefs to continue researching, getting to know and traveling.
Which ingredients that you have found in Peru have surprised you the most?
- 1. Cocoa: normally one knows it in the form of chocolate, but in reality the whole fruit has 1,000 options and 1,000 parts that are not commonly used (like mucilage, for example).
- 2. Amazonian fruits: They always surprise, they are not only sweet, they are also citrusy and have a lot of properties, they can be used for any dish: desserts, salads, entrees, backgrounds. One of them is the cachiruela.
- 3. The plants or herbs of the Andes: they have aromas that are not very common and more functions, such as tinctorial plants, also for infusions, you can do a thousand things. They are like a world apart and big.
What do they use the hookah?
We are testing it. It is a sweet fruit, but super citric, fresh, and we are going to use it in some new dishes …
¿Some example Andean herbs?
We are doing tests with the kjolle (which gives the restaurant its name), a plant that grows super tall and at the same time is tinctorial, it has a super cute color, intense, medium red, orange, a fruity smell. We are doing tests to make cocktails, ferments.
And of some tuber O raiz that surprised you?
- 4. The black boat, which has an amazing color and is not necessarily very sweet, so it allows you to play around a bit and put other things on it. Normally it is used for something salty, but we have made a mashua ice cream, which has a super beautiful color.
Could you mention some of Kjolle’s more “original” mixes?
Of course. We are mixing a little of everything:
- 1. Tiradito (raw fish) from the coast, with cocoa mucilage (from the Amazon), which is not normally used, but is very rich and sweet, and with taperiba (Amazonian fruit), which we make as an iced powder.
- 2. Tuber tart: we use geese, ollucos and potatoes from Cusco (Andes), with a cañihua flour dough (Andean cereal). This cake accompanies a plate of maid (Amazonian fish).
- 3. Shells with pacae, a sweet fruit, which we use in a cold dish, as if it were a ceviche.
Many people would like to eat these dishes, but perhaps they are very expensive …
Not that they are expensive, they are expensive. They cost us a lot: the number of waiters and cooks necessary to serve as it should be, to obtain the product from anywhere in the country, the fair price for which the ingredient is produced.
Many people think that, but in reality people do not come just to eat, but to have a complete experience.
*Easta interview fI publisheda originally in 2018 and We recovered it with the award to Pía León as the best female cook in the world in 2021 by The World’s 50 Best list.
You can now receive notifications from BBC News World. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss out on our best content.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.