We catch up with the remarkable Martin Morales, ambassador of Peruvian culture and owner of Ceviche and new Shoreditch restaurant Andina
I meet Martin for breakfast at his new Andean restaurant Andina, the first restaurant in London to focus solely on cuisine from the Andes. It’s a very exciting proposition. We eat Peruvian pastries filled decadently with dulce de leche and quinoa porridge as we discuss Martin’s journey from life in Lima as a child to head of iTunes Europe and leaving it all behind to become a restaurateur.
Andina is healthy, fresh and an entirely new concept on the London dining scene. “It is really a homage to the Andina ladies – the mothers of the Andes – at the centre of the kitchens. My grandmother was an Andina and I grew up going to see her. Every six months she would send us these hampers full of wonderful ingredients, which of course at the coast we knew nothing about, such as quinoa and queso fresco.”
Martin, who grew up in Lima before moving to the UK in the 1980s, started his cooking education in Peru. “I cooked a lot with my great aunts who lived in Lima. They were originally from the Andes but moved to Lima in their 20s and they brought up my mother. In Lima I would visit my aunts’ house every week and cook with them initially just picking the peas from their pods and picking the stones from the rice and the lentils. I was watching them all the time.” From this this beginning Martin’s interest in food always simmered in the background as he pursued a career in the music industry.
At the age of 18 – before the pop-up movement – Martin started a night called The Global Kitchen, where he cooked and played records from around the world. Rising to influential heights in the music industry Martin never let go of his love of food. “I got to a point where I was like maybe now it’s time to go back and do what I was really born to do. Halfway through my time at Disney I said I’ve just got to stop talking about it and do it. I started to create supper clubs until I sold our house investing everything into Ceviche. People thought we were crazy. A A Gill said ‘As long as you don’t make it like Mexican food.’ And I thought this is even more encouraging I need to change this ignorance.”
The success of Ceviche has put Peru on the food map as far as Londoners are concerned, it would have been easy to create a carbon copy of the Ceviche blueprint. “To create beautiful restaurants you have to be there you have to have the soul and the spirit of a human being and the love for the place so that customers can feel that. That’s why we created Andina as we had another story to tell. The words scaling up are just ugly and there are more ways to have fun, make money and be creative than upscaling one thing.”
Martin acts as an ambassador for Peruvian culture shining a light on the South American country. A dynamo of invention Martin has recently released a compilation of Peruvian music from the 1960s and 1970s, he is promoting Andean artists at Andina and he works with Amantani – a charity working to improve access to education in Andean Peru. But for now Martin’s focus is firmly on Andina. “It’s just the beginning of this story of the Andean world and I just want this to be loved.”