50 Best revealed Peruvian chef Pía León as the winner of The World’s Best Female Chef Award 2021. The chef-owner of Lima’s Kjolle and co-owner of Central is recognised for her ascent to the very top of the gastronomic world. This year, the award is more relevant than it has ever been during its 10-year history, as the restaurant landscape still suffers from widespread gender disparity. Pia León's kitchen seeks inclusion for all those who are qualified, regardless of gender.
León was previously named Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2018, an accolade that honours the achievements and impact of a female chef in the region and her contribution to Latin America’s gastronomic scene. Kjolle also received the Highest New Entry Award on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 list when, just 15 months after opening, it debuted at No.21.
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in the Peruvian capital, the Lima native began her career in the city’s kitchens. After taking up a position at Central in 2009, she rose through the ranks to become its Head Chef. Together with her now-husband Virgilio Martínez, they developed their flagship restaurant into a benchmark for gastronomy not just in Peru, but across the globe, with Central named The Best Restaurant in Latin America three times between 2015 and 2017.
León and Martínez together have also opened Mil, a restaurant situated at 3,500m above sea level in Cuzco, which is also a research, development and interpretation centre encompassing Mater Iniciativa. León is a key player in this research organisation, founded by Martínez and his sister Malena, working closely with the siblings in research and studies to learn more about Peruvian produce and their place of origin.
Kjolle is León’s first solo endeavour: launched in the Peruvian capital three years ago, the restaurant eschews a set menu to create dishes that express her own culinary personality in accordance with seasonal ingredients and the indigenous food of the region. The name Kjolle itself is taken from a local orange flower that grows at high altitude. The restaurant, along with Central, reflects León and Martínez’s vision to showcase some of Peru’s lesser-known and indigenous ingredients, many of which are utilised in their menus.
William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “It is an honour to name Pía León as The World’s Best Female Chef 2021. Her dedication to gender parity in her kitchen and her passion for using the indigenous ingredients of her country have set a benchmark for others. We don’t doubt that Pía’s work will be game-changing for the future of gastronomy and will contribute to helping more women succeed in some of the world’s best kitchens.”
León says: "The most positive thing that came out of such exceptional and difficult times is that I have been able to continue working with a team of people who are first-class human beings. They will see this award, as I do, as a great indication that we are on the right track for the future."
Aslı Aydoğan, Head of Nude Glass, says: “We're delighted to support an award that shines a light on female achievements in the restaurant landscape. What Pía has created in her years at the helm of both Central and Kjolle is remarkable. It’s a pleasure to acknowledge both her creative devotion to her native cuisine
and her drive to elevate Peruvian gastronomy across the world.”
Previous recipients of The World’s Best Female Chef title include Daniela Soto-Innes, formerly of Cosme and Atla in New York, in 2019; the UK’s Clare Smyth in 2018; Ana Roš of Hiša Franko in Slovenia in 2017; San Francisco-based Dominique Crenn in 2016 and French chef Hélène Darroze in 2015.
(source: World’s 50 Best)