Peru's Pia Leon named best female chef for Latin America 2018

Pia Leon
Pia Leon

Pia Leon, co-owner of Central restaurant in Lima, Peru, has been named Latin America's Best Female chef 2018.

Though she may be best known for working alongside her husband Virgilio Martinez for the last decade in the kitchens of Central -- which has held the title of Latin America's best restaurant three times -- Leon broke out on her own this summer, opening Kjolle, her first solo project in the Peruvian capital.

Like the philosophy at Central, the menu at Kjolle -- which is the name of a local yellow flower that grows at high altitudes -- advocates local Peruvian ingredients like native vegetables, flowers and local herbs, and changes with the seasons.

The restaurant also leans on Mater Iniciativa, an organization co-founded by the Martinez siblings which researches Peruvian ingredients across the country.

After studying at the Cordon Bleu in Lima, Leon built up her kitchen cred at the Ritz Hotel in New York and Astrid y Gaston before joining Martinez at Central and eventually becoming head chef. The two married in 2013.

Leon takes the crown for best female chef in Latin America at the tender age of 31.

In an interview with Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, Leon said she has always shied away from the media spotlight, preferring instead to work behind-the-scenes and letting Martinez serve as the face of Central.

But a decade of experience and maturity have encouraged the young chef to bask in her own accomplishments, she said.

"Virgilio always encouraged me to go outside but it was my own decision to remain in the kitchen," says León.

"...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."

Leon will receive her award at the gala event October 30 in Bogota, Colombia.