Virgilio Martínez : Interview
What factors have contributed to the global recognition of Peruvian gastronomy?
VIRGILIO MARTÍNEZ: Peru was one of the first countries in Latin America to integrate gastronomy, identity and culture, which was achieved thanks in part to Mistura, Latin America’s most important gastronomy fair, celebrated annually since 2007. Peruvian cuisine gained global recognition as a result, and is ahead of all other Latin American cuisines.
One fundamental characteristic that defines Peruvian cuisine is the care for the source and quality of ingredients. The fact that Peru is a melting pot of European, African, Incan, Japanese and Chinese cultures is also a defining factor.
Additionally, Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, allowing it to virtually produce any ingredient its dishes need. Peruvian gastronomy also meets all the requisites of modern cuisine: it is a source of health, wellness and integration. All these elements combined have contributed to the global recognition of Peruvian cuisine.
How can the culinary scene be expanded both on a local and national level, and what is the importance of product classification?
MARTÍNEZ: In order to continue with its international expansion and recognition, Peruvian cuisine must focus on new formats, especially casual dining. On the local level the sector needs higher levels of formalisation and professionalism, as well as offer a wider variety of formats in regions beyond Lima. It is also important to continue enhancing research and development on a national level, and implement a product classification system. It is worth noting that the sector has not taken full advantage of existing efforts to classify products. There is a lack of approaches that can guarantee the sustainability and impact of product classification. Indeed, product classification should always consider sustainability.
What steps are needed to foster innovation in gastronomy, and how can the protection of gastronomic creations be ensured?
MARTÍNEZ: The culinary tourism sector is lacking the necessary tools to innovate, which is something the government can help with; however, Peruvians innovate without incentives provided by the state. In countries such as Italy, Spain and Singapore, the government helps to enhance and promote local gastronomy. The advantage that Peru has over other important culinary centres is the natural emotional connection between the country’s inhabitants and food, which is what creates the conditions for innovation and growth in the sector.
Beyond that, there is a need to classify products, take advantage of all the research being conducted and integrate efforts carried out by professionals from different areas, such as anthropology.
Traditionally, chefs have considered that gastronomic creations must be shared. Nevertheless, there must be a framework that protects unique creations, and that come as a result of research, development and innovation, while safeguarding the nature of sharing that is intrinsic to Peruvian gastronomy.
How can gastronomy help to create formal employment in a country where more than 70% of the economy is informal?
MARTÍNEZ: The culinary tourism sector can play a fundamental role in creating formal employment. As tourism grows and consolidates itself as a key driver of economic growth, so will culinary tourism, which will create jobs and act as a catalyst for dynamism in different regions across the country.
It is important, however, to create quality jobs. Quality must always take precedence over quantity. In this sense, there is a shortage of professionals that are knowledgeable on local history and culture, which is key to maintaining the essence of Peruvian cuisine.
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