As Peru continues racking up awards in the culinary world, Pía León is making her country proud. Last week, the Peruvian woman won Elit Vodka Latin America’s Best Female Chef 2018. Pía is part of the reason that Central, located in Lima, has snagged high spots on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. She runs the kitchen at the renowned restaurant, but up until now, her husband, Virgilio Martínez, has served as the face of Central. But with the recent opening of her own eatery, Kjolle, this is bound to change.
Up until this point, the 31-year-old chef has chosen to stay behind the scenes. “Virgilio always encouraged me to go outside, but it was my own decision to remain in the kitchen,” León told The World’s 50 Best. “Virgilio has 15 years more kitchen experience than me – it’s a huge difference – and I saw it as my role to learn and to cool. I’m also not a person who loves being in the spotlight, in the media. But time has passed and now it’s my turn, and I’m very happy to be in the spotlight. It’s my responsibility.”
Pía knew from a young age that cooking was in her future. She attended the Cordon Bleu school in Lima, then worked at Ritz Hotel in New York. But she returned to Lima to work at Gastón Acurio’s Astrid y Gastón. At 21, she moved to Central.
It’s been a long journey – one sometimes filled with sacrifices – but 10 years later, Pía runs a few kitchens, all of which boast crews that are roughly half female and half male – and serves as an inspiration for up-and-coming chefs. “This award is a recognition for the work of many people, including the Central team, Mater Iniciativa, Malena, and Virgilino, and I’m very happy to receive such an honor,” she said. “I hope I serve as an example and a model for many people who are just starting out in their careers, and that is a beautiful thing.”
Check out her story below.