Juan Luis Martínez
With a cuisine that combines the best culinary traditions from Venezuela and Peru, Mártinez has carved a place for himself in the Latin American food world.
Juan Luis Martínez studied at La Casserole du Chef and at the Centro de Estudios Gastronómicos Amecameca in his native Venezuela, and from the moment he graduated he aimed to open his own restaurant. But before doing that, Mártinez delved into the world of cooking with stints at Le Gourmet (Venezuela), Martín Berasategui, and David Muñoz’s Diverxo. He also took advantage of his time in Europe to take a cooking course at the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts: armed with all this experience he arrived in Lima to work under Virgilio Martínez at Central.
The event that marked the change in his gastronomic vision.
It was the year 2014 when Juan Luis arrived in the Peruvian capital. As he explains, his decision was marked by a particular event: a presentation by Virgilio Martínez at Madrid Fusión, which impressed him to the point to convince him to send his CV to the Virgilio restaurant.
“I was shocked not knowing everything that was being done in Latin America. I felt ignorant being unaware of this whole movement.”
For two years, the Venezuelan was at the order of what was needed in the place. “I learned a lot. I had the opportunity to travel with Virgilio, see how he managed his restaurants, how he used the products, and how he used them in a unique, beautiful, artistic way”.
A chef worthy of “Merito”.
Over time, the idea arose in Juan Luis to open his own store. In the first place, his idea was to open a vegetarian restaurant in Cusco, but he was unable to materialize it. Thus, little by little he began to carve out the idea of what Mérito is today, a successful establishment that is endorsed by critics.
“Latin America shares a beautiful endemic pantry. A product can be used one way in Venezuela and another in Peru, but that’s where the link is. People always ask us: “Are you from Venezuela, do you cook Venezuelan cuisine? No. So you do Peruvian cuisine? No, we don’t. We have recipes from each country and use products from both, but our cuisine is not necessarily one or the other.“