9 FIERCE Facts About Pía León, The Peruvian Just Named World’s Best Female Chef
Once again a Latina has taken the title of ‘World’s Best Female Chef’ according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which just released its awards for 2021. This year, the top award goes to Pía León, which is a name that you will recognize if you follow the world of haute cuisine.
The peruana woman grew up in kitchens around the world and today she has become one of the most important figures in Peruvian and Latin American gastronomy. It was just in 2018 when León was named the best female chef in Latin America yet her influence and culinary empire continue to grow.
Here are the top nine facts you should know about this Peruvian culinary powerhouse:
1. She was director of Peru’s very best restaurant Central.
León is perhaps best known for running the kitchen at Lima’s Central – which is widely regarded as the best restaurant in Peru and, in fact, obtained the number one position in the roundup of best restaurants in Latin America by World’s 50 Best Restaurants for three years in a row.
2. She was the youngest winner of the title Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2018.
At just 31 years old, León took home the title Latin America’s Best Female Chef, awarded by elit Vodka. She joined a select and still small group of women who have been recognized for their contribution to the culinary world.
3. She’s been cooking since she was just a few years old.
León knew exactly what she wanted to be as a child and it’s obvious based on her hard work in kitchens from a very young age. She used to prepare desserts with her mother and as soon as she finished school, she announced to her family that she was going into culinary school to be a chef. She told El Pais that she never contemplated another career. She graduated from the Cordon Bleu Academy in Lima, Peru.
4. A severe accident nearly ended her culinary ambitions.
Her future as the world’s best chef was nearly cut short when, as a student, she traveled to Florida for an internship. One day, while in her apartment, she turned on the wrong burner without realizing a frying pan filled with oil had started to overheat. She was severely burned – so much so that the burn almost went through to her bone and she had to spend weeks in a hospital. But even this accident didn’t put an end to her desire to be a chef.
5. She has a twin sister who is also in the world of cooking.
Pía and her sister grew up together with her brother in a house where they liked good food. Her sister is also a professional chef and they have collaborated on various projects.
6. She opened her first solo project, Kjolle, in 2018.
In August 2018, León opened Kjolle, his first solo project. The name comes from a Peruvian yellow flower that grows high in the Peruvian Andes. In Kjolle, there is no set menu and the local dishes are prepared according to seasonal ingredients, with a personal touch where the use of flowers and herbs stands out. She herself helped in the design of the restaurant, making it a colorful and welcoming space.
7. She appeared in a Netflix series produced by Michelle Obama.
In 2021, Pía León appeared in a Netflix series, Waffles and Mochi, produced by Michelle Obama. In the program, she invited children to learn about the ingredients and culture she works to represent. The episode was filmed in Cusco, at the Mater Initiative facilities.
8. She and her teams quickly adapted to the challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic was the first time that the Central and Kjolle team ventured into delivery.
“We had to adapt and find an immediate solution. It was a difficult challenge at the beginning because it was something new, but the truth is that we have learned a lot. The team has been strengthened. It has also been an opportunity to try other things,” León told Somos in 2020.
9. She’s worked hard to create a culinary industry that is gender-inclusive.
As both head chef and director of kitchen of numerous restaurants, León has made it her mission to make sure that the places she represents are based on gender equality. In her kitchens, the teams are made up of an equal number of men and women, which is still uncommon in most restaurant’s kitchens.
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