Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez was stopped and held by customs authorities at LAX for bringing 40 frozen piranhas into the U.S. The incident occurred earlier this week, but Martinez managed to convince alarmed customs officials that he meant zero harm in bringing the haul of fish into the country.
Peruvian chef and restaurateur Virgilio Martinez was detained by customs authorities for bringing 40 frozen piranhas into the U.S., The L.A. Times reports. The incident occurred earlier this week, as the chef arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Speaking of the incident to the outlet, Martinez – who had arrived in the city to cook at the exclusive eateries of Somni and Vespertine as a participant in L.A.’s food bowl – said that officers were taken aback and surprised by the contents of his duffel bag.
Martinez then joked that his luggage contained “bones” and “flesh,” but officers failed to see the funny side of his explanation. He was then taken to a private room and questioned.
When asked again about the contents of his bag, Martinez, who has served the fish at Central in Lima, said, “I’m doing a special dinner with a friend who I really respect and I’m going to do a dish I really enjoy doing.”
Martinez was questioned for five hours by customs staff, who eventually released him.
Speaking of his experience, he said, “I took my book and said, ‘Look, this is what I want to do with the piranhas.’ And he [the customs official] finally said, ‘Oh, wow, go ahead.’”
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