“I grew up surrounded by wild herbs, fresh vegetables, fruit orchards and animals,” he says fondly. “This connection with nature influenced my style of cooking more than anything else.”
His family moved soon after and set up a restaurant. Then aged 20, Miguel attended the Castellón Catering School in Valencia in 1982, at that time considered the best in Spain.
There, teacher Dativo Pérez introduced him to the secrets of Nouvelle Cuisine. “I’d picked up a few things from my parents growing up amongst the delicious smells of their cooking,” he says. “But learning new techniques opened up a new world of endless, fascinating possibilities.”
Chef Miguel didn’t travel the country working in different restaurants like many chefs. Instead, he stayed put, honing his techniques, always curious to discover new combinations.
In 2005, he remodeled his existing premises and re-named the restaurant Cal Paradís, meaning The House of Paradise. Intimate, cosy domesticity and a new way of understanding food was his signature identity.
Penjar semi-dry tomatoes with sardine alioli and barbecued garlic was one of his first dishes. It still holds pride of place on his menu years on. As do his baby squid in meatballs.
Wild hare rice with mushrooms and truffles was another of his creations along with hake cocoxa, fried cauliflower and vegetable cous cous. “I wanted people to recognize my dishes instantly,” he says. “I wanted my creations to have a distinct personality.”
Greatly influenced by his childhood spent on the farm, he based his dishes around local products. “I aimed to use 90% local and seasonal produce,” he says.
Keen to pick the best catch of the day, Chef Miguel went to his local fish market every morning at 8am. Nestling in between mountains and the sea, his restaurant soon boasted the best fish and seafood as well as wild mushrooms, truffles and artichokes.
In 2012, the Valencian Gastronomy Academy named Cal Paradís the Revelation Restaurant of the year. “Of all the prizes we received over the years, which number some 20 awards, this was the most significant because it was the first,” he reveals.
“You work hard and your clients give you positive feedback but sometimes it feels like you are only reaching the people who already know you. Getting outside recognition is such a boost.”
The following year his restaurant received a Repsol Guide Sun Award and then a Michelin Star. “It meant so much,” he recalls. “Suddenly your clientele grows and becomes more international.”
In 2016, he took charge of the Mindoro de Castelló hotel restaurant. He was also voted Best National Chef 2017, awarded by the Spanish Federation of Wine and Gastronomy Associations.
This year he designed the menu at a new NH establishment due to open in Valencia.
Chef Miguel, who has since been awarded a second Repsol Guide Sun Award, has also just launched a book this June called La despensa perfecta. La cocina de Miquel Barrera – The Perfect Pantry – Miguel Barrera’s kitchen.
In it he tracks Valencian gastronomy from the 14th Century until the presentday, of which he is one of its leading lights.
“Spanish gastronomy is one of the ones which has most evolved in the world,” he says. “It’s all about simple, tasty food which has a close connection to nature and which feels like coming home with the first bite. Regardless of whether it’s the first time you’ve ever tried it. That’s the magic.”
His great-grandparents opened the original establishment just after the Spanish Civil War in 1938 - the same restaurant Solana which he still runs today.
Aged just 13, Ignacio studied at the respected catering school - Escuela de Hostelería in Laredo, Cantabria, northern Spain. “It wasn’t a passion back then,” he reveals. “It was a way of life, something I fitted into naturally”.
Five years on, Ignacio began working in some of the top restaurants in Spain such as Real Club Náutico in Laredo, (Cantabria) the then Michelin star restaurant Aldebarán in Badajoz, (Extremadura), Túbal in Tafalla, (Navarra) and Michelin star restaurant Europa in Pamplona, (Navarra) where he became the second in command. “That’s when I truly fell in love with cooking,” he says.
Along with the huge variations in Spanish gastronomy, “I learnt all about ham in Extremadura, vegetables in Navarra…” he says. “You only have to travel 100 miles in Spain to discover different climates, food and traditions. That’s what makes its gastronomy so special.”
Then in 2004, aged just 24, he took over his family restaurant giving it a contemporary twist not forgetting his mother’s legendary stews. “People came from miles away to try her chicken picasuelos, Cantabrian mountain cocido and hake stews,” he says proudly.
Now critics raved about dishes like roasted leeks with salted cod in a pil-pil sauce and black garlic and green mustard, poached egg, wild mushrooms and truffles, fresh oysters in Cantabrian gazpacho, Alaskan wild salmon tartar with cucumber ice cream. “We made a green pepper caviar which was simple and amazing and we did lots of wonderful things with tomatoes and lobster,” he says. “We loved combining vegetables with seafood.”
Three years later, he had an annex built and then in 2012, aged just 31, he received the acclaimed Michelin star. One of just ten of the youngest Spanish young chefs to receive the coveted award. “My life changed completely,” he says. Chef Ignacio began to travel, meeting other chefs. “My world opened up,” he adds.
More prizes and awards followed such as a Respol Guide Sun Award, the 2014 Premio Arco-Atlántico awarded to the best chef in Cantabria and the Prize for the Best Croquette in the World in 2017 awarded at Madrid Fusion. “The secret to our croquette is that we make the béchamel with raw milk, which makes it creamier and then we add some of the best Spanish pata negra ham,” he says.
Spaniards will literally travel hundreds of miles for an exceptional croquette, one of the most iconic of tapas in Spain. Now, instead of making 10 litres of béchamel a week, Ignacio was making 10 litres every day.
Chef Ignacio continues to be one of the most well-respected chefs in Spain, applauded by critics and public alike, regularly giving conferences all over the world.
His philosophy is simple. Use the best available local products which have been lovingly cared for and prepare them with flair and respect. “For the Spanish, food is like a religion,” he says. “We eat for pleasure and a chef’s mission is to achieve the best possible flavour from every dish.”
Chef Rafael Centeno (42), who heads Maruja Limón, is a genuine phenomenon: a completely self-taught chef, who accidentally came into the kitchen of his wife’s restaurant (while a different cook was in charge), and a decade later received Vigo’s only Michelin star. furthermore , he was listed as one the 100 best chefs in Spain by Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía.
The restaurant, named after Centeno’s mother in law (Limón is an homage to an old, famous Flamenco song), operates for the past 15 years in the Galician city of Vigo, located on the Atlantic coast near the border with Portugal. In the late 90s, after Centeno’s Olympic career abruptly ended with a knee injury, he was searching for something; he joined his wife’s restaurant as a manager, until he heard the story of the renowned restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Cataluña and realized he found his vocation: “I was mesmerized and eager to learn everything. I spent hours training.”
Centeno discovered the philosophy and complexity of the culinary world, and developed a huge passion toward it. Today, together with his right hand – chef Inés Abril, who participated in the Spanish 2014 Top Chef – the restaurant offers a fresh, light, richly flavored and textured interpretation on local Galician cuisine, with its abundance of fish and seafood (befitting Europe’s largest fishing port).
The menu is updated every few months, based on the available seasonal ingredients – the real stars of the restaurant: “I want to capture the nature of the produce in my dishes. To create a simple cuisine with Galician roots, which relies on the freshest ingredients, offered every day on the market. The use of sauces and condiments is always minimal, because I want to ensure that the original flavors remain clear and distinct.”
His aspiration certainly paid off: in 2010 the restaurant received a Michelin star, which maintains up to this day.
Iván Domínguez is a chef who doesn’t do things by halves. He joined the Spanish Navy when he was 17 and worked in the kitchens preparing daily meals for up to 600 soldiers during the Iraq war in 2003. After he left the Navy, he returned to his home city of La Coruña in Galicia, Northwest Spain and enrolled at the Fraga do Eume Cookery School.
“I knew this profession required vocation, passion, creativity and sacrifice,” he says, due to his life at sea. “But I wanted to be an innovative chef. I wanted to learn more.”
Working for a catering company at the weekends he learnt to work with huge quantities of food for weddings and events. “Not using tins like we had on board the ship,” he says. “But with fresh and high quality ingredients.”
“That’s when I realised the sheer physical and psychological effort which was needed.”
And a star was born.
Soon after he went to work at the Casa Pendás restaurant, famous for its stews and other restaurants such as Loxe Mareiro, specializing in fish and seafood and O Retiro da Costiña which has one Michelin star. Iván also worked at Casa Marcelo, a Michelin star restaurant in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, famous for its avant-garde dishes such as cafetocaldo (consomé in a coffeepot), tomate kinder (tomato filled with cream), the miniempanada, a mini pie cooked in a tin of cockles. Perhaps its most attention-grabbing dish was a liquid aerosol bread…
“Our team was so close we had breakfast together in the market every day an hour before work and bought all the food there for the restaurant, just like that, without intermediaries.”
Iván was headhunted soon after by his current restaurant Alborada in La Coruña which attained a Michelin star in 2010 which it preserves up till this day and two Respol Guide Sun Awards.
As the head chef and gastronomic director, he defines his style as Atlantic Gastronomy.
“We use fresh, quality products from the sea and local farms,” he explains. “Our dishes are very personal, artisan and we use locally-sourced organic products.”
“We surround ourselves with the very best seasonal products. We understand why farmers feed their chickens the way they do and what time of year sole is most delicious. We want to rely on technique but no solely on that in designing a dish. Above all, the most fundamental thing is that it needs to taste amazing.”
“My whole family cooked together and my grandmother’s Pepitoria chicken was legendary,” he says. “At 16 I regularly prepared clam fideuà and cheesecake for my friends.”
Chef Yayo was awarded his Michelin star in 2007 at the age of 31, just two years after he opened his restaurant, Yayo Daporta.
“I was shocked and elated,” he says. “I hadn’t expected such instant recognition.”
Curiously, Yayo had not always been certain he would be a chef.
After training at the Escuela de Hostelería de Santiago de Compostela, he chose to work at his family’s seafood business instead.
“I was only 21 and not ready to commit to the long hours and demands of a kitchen,” he explains.
But a chance to work with Michelin star chef Pepe Solla at his restaurant Casa Solla at 27, changed the course of his life. “The creativity and sophistication of his dishes blew my mind,” he remembers. “I knew then, my place was in the kitchen.” A stint at Michelin star restaurant Alejandro in Almería, followed by Carmen Guasp’s legendary restaurant El Amparo in Madrid sealed his fate.
“I learnt to treat each ingredient with respect and was taught to draw out the essential essence of their flavour,” he says, especially proud of working alongside Basque chef Carlos Posada. Aged 29, Yayo opened his restaurant in 2005 in his home town of Cambados, Northwest Spain, an area famous for having some of the best seafood and fish in the world.
An 18th century former royal hospital, the restaurant exudes a traditional charm with a modern twist which matched the young chef’s dishes.
“Spanish gastronomy is very special because each region preserves its culinary identity and heritage,” he says. “This was what we tried to transmit, but updated and unexpected.”
The restaurant which he runs with his sister Esther, a professional sommelier, has since also been awarded two Repsol Sun Awards.
A judge on Spain’s top ranking show Top Chef in 2014, Chef Yayo remains modest about his success. “I simply cook from the heart, always respecting the product, striving to improve every day.” His signature dishes confirm his deep love of the sea and commitment to drawing out the essence of fresh, honest, lovingly-prepared ingredients.
Cambados oyster ceviche, inshore-fished hake in mollusc fumet and marinated and baked horse-mackerel sashimi… all a testament to Chef Yayo´s love affair with food.
Battered by up to nine-metre waves, the wild North Atlantic coastline provides some of the best fish and seafood in the world.
Born in Santiago de Compostela in 1973, Fernando is a self-taught chef who learnt his trade working in Michelin Star chef Toñi Vicente’s restaurant, Garfio in Denia, Alicante, Spain.
He has held his Michelin star since 2010 and his restaurant is famous for creative and honest cooking using the very best ingredients and excellent techniques at reasonable prices.
“We believe in good, down-to-earth home cooking, with a modern twist,” says Fernando. “Our intention is not to force people to eat what I dictate. We like to let them choose what they fancy.”
Which is why there is always a rice dish on the menu – lobster with rice being one of his signature dishes along with wonders such as scallop carpaccio, Galician octopus and with potato foam in a shot glass…
The ingredients are the true stars in Fernando’s kitchen.
“It’s all about the product,” says the expert in fish and seafood. “Sometimes the simplest dishes are the hardest to produce well.”
Being awarded the Michelin Star hasn’t changed Fernando, but it has opened doors. “We get a lot of people from different countries who discover us because of the guide,” he says.
He has also won many other prizes. Sol Repsol 2010, National Gastronomy Prize "Alvaro Cunqueiro" in 2011, Coast of Death "Faros Nerios" prize in 2012, the Malpica de Bergantiños "Doces do Antroido" prize from 2009 to 2011.
He was also responsible for organising the "Rota das Estrelas" Gastronomy Festival in Portugal in September, 2015.
One this is for sure – Fernando will no doubt continue winning prizes.
“It all about giving people what they want – and doing it well,” he says.
“People sometimes tell me something they’ve eaten has brought back memories from their childhood or a loved one. That’s success for me.”
After studying to be a chef in Santiago de Compostela, Juan trained at a succession of top restaurants in A Coruña, Northwest Spain.
But it was the opening of his restaurant A Estación in 2002 which changed everything. In 2009 he received a Michelin star which he maintains up to this day. An expert in fish and seafood, his caldeirada, a traditional fish stew from northern Spain is famous as is his wild chestnut tart. But Juan, who recently opened a new restaurant Bido, believes a good chef is someone who can make something delicious with whatever is available. “In life, as in the kitchen, it’s all about experimenting and trying new things,” he says.
A great fan of the late great Catalan chef Santi Santamaría and French cuisine for its elegance, for Juan the key is “work, work and work”. “I love what I do,” he says simply. “That makes me very lucky.”
After studying at the Escuela de Hostelería de Artxanda in Bilbao and dessert school Espai Sucre in Barcelona, she worked at world famous restaurants Celler de Can Roca, Mugaritz, Bohio, Tápies de la Seu de Urgell and Bensd Avall in Mallorca. She opened her restaurant A Tafona Casa de Xantar in Santiago de Compostela, Northwest Spain when she was 27. Since then, Lucia has gone on to win countless awards.
Six-times winner of the Best Tapa Award in Santiago de Compostela, her tapas tasting menu is legendary. In 2016, Lucia came second in the Spanish Chef of the Year competition at Alimentaria in Barcelona.
“I believe in fresh, local, seasonal products,” says the innovative chef who designs the daily menu at her restaurant based on the best quality products from the nearby local market and her own garden.
Last September she also opened a new restaurant in New York, Tomiño NYC. As the Executive Chef at this Manhattan eaterie, she relishes the challenge of her new American dream. “This is just the beginning,” she says.
“This is the essence of communal Spanish eating,” says Santi Almuiña, an
extraordinary chef with over 24 years of experience and Paella Master.
“Sharing a delicious paella with family and friends is a special tradition that goes back hundreds of years.”
For Chef and Paella Maestro Santi Almuiña each project is a challenge to break new boundaries and introduce signature culinary trends. He specializes in International and Fine-Dining Cuisine, with a focus on new trends. He is also a Paella Master with years of experience preparing Spain’s most emblematic dish.
Originating in Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, paella goes back to the 19th century. But its ancient roots go right back to the 10th century when the Moors introduced rice to Spain.
There are as many paella recipes as villages on the Mediterranean coast and Santi prepares this most delicate and authentic of dishes in a myriad of ways. There are meat paellas with duck, rabbit, chicken and even snails and green and white beans infused with sweet paprika, garlic, tomatoes, saffron and fresh rosemary. Then there are seafood paellas as well as vegetarian varieties – there’s even a very special Paella Negra – prepared with squid ink.
An expert in these traditional paellas, innovation is also key in Santi Almuiña’s quest for new frontiers. “Don’t assume things are what they seem,” is his motto. His latest creation – lobster paella with codium seaweed – has been a huge hit. As has his octopus, scallop and plankton paella.
Spain has some of the best seafood in the world and Santi’s emphasis on organically grown, natural ingredients means his paellas brings together the very best that Spain has to offer. Since food and beverage development involves constant creation, his focus on providing his clients with the widest variety of unique best-selling products helps establishments set themselves apart from the ever-growing competition.
As senior advisor to the Extravaganza Culinary Consultancy, Chef Santi Almuiña exemplifies leadership qualities and professionalism, backed by a consistent, verifiable record of achievement.
Benigno Couso Prado, received his training at the School of Hospitality in Lugo. In Lugar de Pascuais, and by the hand of Diego Lopez, Beni learned the most traditional and homely made Galician cuisine.
Determined to strengthen his professional learning, he went to Barcelona to study a master's degree in Creative Cuisine. He combined studies with work in Ribelino's, a restaurant by then very fashionable fusing drinks with haute cuisine.
At that time, and being son of innkeepers, he clearly wanted to open his own business. He finally saw this dream come true in February 2014, inaugurating Taberna Patouro in Vigo. A different place, where you can find a small vegetable "market " in the dining room and a trough of bread, in addition to its open kitchen in sight of the customer, without gimmicks.
For Héctor López, cooking runs in the family.
"I began working in my family´s restaurant at a young age,” says Héctor, of the restaurant El España in Lugo, Galicia, Northwest Spain which recently celebrated its 110th birthday.
After graduating from the Hotel and Catering School in Santiago de Compostela, Héctor worked at many memorable restaurants in Spain like the Akelarre Restaurant in San Sebastián, northern Spain run by Chef Pedro Subijana, a pioneer of New Basque Cuisine. He also worked with Chef Toño Pérez at his restaurant Atrio in Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain, which has two Michelin stars.
Héctor then returned to his family’s restaurant determined to renovate its traditional cuisine. “Our restaurant has been an iconic establishment for over a century so making changes was a challenge,” he admits.
Ham, potatoes and egg, a classic Spanish tapa takes on a new life as egg confit on a bed of potato emulsion with crispy ham. Barbecued, smoked sardines on a bed of corn bread crumbs and Padrón peppers comes alive because the corn breadcrumbs are soaked in an oil made from the sardine´s fishbones.
Thanks to his efforts, his restaurant has received a “Q” prize for Quality Tourism, awarded by the National Institute for Spanish Quality Tourism in 2014 and a Repsol Guide Sun Award. One of his new projects has been the rearing of native breeds of Ox, lovingly tended by his father and valued for their tender meat and exquisite flavour. Héctor also takes part as a judge on the cookery TV programme “Kitchen Stove Challenge” produced by regional channel, Televisión de Galicia.
“This is much more than a profession,” he grins. “It’s a way of life. I think about food 24 hours a day and that’s just how I like it.”
At 15 he worked in local restaurants on Spain’s northwest Atlantic coast in Galicia. Ominously known as the Coast of Death for its death-defying waves, the area is also famous for its incredible fish and seafood. “They remain my favourite dishes to this day,” he says.
Fernando trained as a chef in Santiago de Compostela, moved to Barcelona and worked at hotels like the 5 star Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel. He became Head Chef at the Tryp Barcelona and then at the Melia Maria Pita in A Coruña, northwest Spain.
His desire to innovate led him to work as Head Chef at Michelin star restaurants Alborada and then A Estación in Coruña.
Working alongside his business partner Chef Juan Crujeiras, the dynamic duo love pushing the culinary boundaries that make them worthy of their Michelin star.
Dishes like black monkfish with basil, almond and sun-dried tomato and seabass with roasted vegetables in Iberian ham and cockle broth have made them famous.
“We love traditional Spanish cuisine but we add our modern twist,” he says. “Nothing makes me happier than being in the kitchen.”
Chef Álvaro Villasante became a chef by pure chance. He went from washing dishes at a ski resort in the Spanish Pyrenees to working as an award-winning chef and never looked back.
A childhood spent cooking with his mother at weekends stood him in good stead and he worked all over Spain, quickly rising through the ranks.
He learnt his trade at the Pasteleria Balbona in Gijón, El Rincón de Gonzalo in Tenerife and Parada das Bestas in Lugo.
Then in 2002 Álvaro moved to Miami and landed a job at La Broche restaurant with world-renowned chefs Sergi Arola and Ángel Palacios. He worked at the Sushi Samba Dromo restaurant and he also worked in Eth Taro and other leading restaurants in Barcelona. “I worked 17 hour stretches without ever looking at my watch,” he says. “That’s how much I loved it!”
Then in 2008, Álvaro moved back to his home city of Lugo, Northwest Spain and opened his own restaurant, Paprica. Since then he has made a name for himself for his innovation. It’s been voted as one of the top five restaurants to visit in Galicia by the Lonely Planet Guide.
At the international Madrid Fusión summit, his restaurant was named one of the 100 most creative restaurants in Spain. He has won a Q Prize for quality and has been nominated as the best chef of the year in Galicia in 2013.
Paprica has won best creative tapa six years running in Lugo and he has won the tapas contests outright five times. Tapas such as smoked smoked cheese roulette in black coupage sauce and line-caught hake with black rice croquant and tomato ice cream. “Tapas are the perfect way to sample haute-cuisine cooking in miniature in a relaxed social setting,” he says.
In Spain they are a huge part of any night out with family and friends as food is the social centre of everything!” “Good food brings people together and tapas are what the Spanish excel at.”
“Every house when I was growing up had a grandmother cooking in it night and day,” she says. “Every important thing that ever happened, took place in the kitchen.”
One of María’s fondest childhood memories is running home from school and smelling her grandmother’s delicious creations wafting down their street. “Mine is a story of food wisdom passed down by generations of women,” says the award-winning self-taught chef.
But it could have all been very different. For when she and husband Suso opened their rural hotel Parada das Bestas in 1997, María’s culinary knowhow only went as far as making student pasta. “I had little idea about cooking,” she admits. “What I didn’t realise is that I had absorbed a lot just watching my grandmother.”
Over 21 years later, María and Suso’s restaurant is considered one of the best in Galicia, northwest Spain. It was even selected by Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batalli’s series “Spain on the road again” in 2008 as a culinary temple. “I taught Gwyneth to cook my signature dish, Pilgrim Style capon,” says María. “I could barely believe we’d come so far.”
Parada das Bestas started out as an exciting hotel project. “We rebuilt a 300- year-old house in a forest with century-old trees in the middle of nowhere in Lugo.” she says.
What was missing was a restaurant and so María volunteered to run it. “I had no idea at first,” she admits. But with her family and neighbour’s cooking advice María soon found she had a special talent for turning local produce into star dishes and tapas. “There were so many amazing cheeses, dairy and meat farms, orchards and artisan biscuit makers in the area…” she says.
Nowadays, pilgrims doing the world-famous Camino to Santiago de Compostela which passes near the restaurant foodies, famous politicians and artists all flock to Parada das Bestas.
María’s famous vegetable mille-feuille, courgette parcels are firm favourites. But she also excels with other mouthwatering tapas such as mussels in spicy escabeche sauce, salad with wild mushrooms, pickled vegetables and pomegranate or sardine pastille marinated in cheese, piquillo pepper confit and strawberry vinagrette.
In 2012 and 2014 the Ministry for Agriculture awarded the restaurant a prize for excellence and innovation and another for their quality food products. In 2015 the Xunta, the Galician Regional Government, gave them a Camino de Santiago prize. “We have Canadians spending their honeymoon here, Australians doing the Camino who look us up especially, Americans who saw the series and want to sample the dish Gwyneth made…” says María.
“I could never have guessed that running home to my grandmother’s home cooking could have inspired such a legacy.”
Diego Lopez Garcia is a leading authority on healthy cooking, who owns two restaurants in Galicia, Bulló and Lugar de Pascuais, which are both sacred temples for organic food lovers. He advocates scientific understanding in cooking, but handling artisan locally grown products only. His vision has fans all over the world, not only clients and journalists, but competitors as well. He is a pioneer of multisensory cooking, food-pairing and flavour encapsulation. He is named The King of Bio-Tapas.
He learnt his trade at a young age following in his mother and grandmother´s footsteps whose recipes he saves and cherishes, determined they don’t become lost and forgotten.
He began his professional training at the Centro Superior de Galicia and continued his learning at the professional cooking school, Bell-Art in Barcelona.
He then embarked on a culinary career at some of the most emblematic restaurants in Spain and countries like Australia and Brazil… until arriving back home to become an integral part of his family´s events company, Mogay.
In 2011 he launched his own personal project, A Braseria Faragulla Winebar , which combines all his passions and acquired experiences to create a space where the wines from Galicia accompany the very best locally-sourced food across the glowing embers of his grill.