Santi Almuiña, an extraordinary talented Chef, but Michelin insurgent and therefore stars free, is specialized in International and Fine-Dining Cuisine, with a focus on new trends in Galician Cuisine. He is convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown, and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has always determined his motto: “Don’t assume that it is what it seems.”
With more than 24 years of professional cooking and kitchen management experience, Chef Santi Almuiña exemplified leadership qualities and professionalism, backed by a consistent, verifiable record of achievement. Nowadays, as senior advisor of Extravaganza Culinary Consultancy, Chef Santi Almuiña is specialized in food and beverage consultancy in the Food Manufacturing Business.
Since food and beverage development involves constant creation, he is focused on providing his clients with the widest variety of unique selling products that would set their establishments apart from the ever-growing competition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For Héctor López, cooking runs in the family.
"I began working in my family´s restaurant from a very young age,” says Hectór, of the restaurant El España in Lugo, Galicia, Northwest Spain which recently celebrated its 110th birthday.
Héctor originally wanted to be a vet until meeting famous chef Tomás Urrialde. “He filled my head with amazing stories and I fell in love with the idea of being a chef,” he says.
It would prove to be a wise move. After graduating from the Hotel and Catering School in Santiago de Compostela he wanted to immerse himself in Spanish gastronomy. Heéctor went to work at many different restaurants in Spain. One of the most memorable was 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, who has two Michelin stars at his restaurant Atrio in Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain.
Héctor then returned to his family’s restaurant to implement all he had learnt, dedicated to renovating its traditional cuisine. “Our restaurant has been an iconic and emblematic establishment for over a century so making changes was a challenge,” he admits. “But right from the beginning, our customers valued innovation which was all the motivation we needed.”
Thanks to his efforts, his restaurant received a “Q” prize for Quality Tourism, awarded by the National Institute for Spanish Quality Tourism in 2014. His restaurant has also received a Repsol Guide Sun Award.
One of his new projects has been the rearing of native breeds of Ox, which are lovingly looked after by his father and valued for their tender meat and exquisite flavour.
This much-prized ox meat is served at the restaurant in a menu comprising of 12-14 dishes.
Theirs is one of the few, maybe the only restaurant in Spain, which has such an ox farm and menu.
One of these star dishes is slow-cooked ox ribs which are cooked for 14 hours on a low-flame and then served off the bone in a sauce made from their own juice.
“The slow-cooking process allows the meat to cook in its own proper fat,” he explains. “This means that the proteins don’t burn, leaving the meat unbelievably tender.”
But he also likes to play with traditional dishes, always adding a twist.
“I like to rejuvenate local cuisine every day,” says Héctor who also works alongside his brother Francisco, the restaurant’s floor manager.
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 and smoked sardines on a bed of corn bread crumbs and Padrón peppers – a staple in summertime – takes on a new dimension.
“The corn breadcrumbs are soaked in an oil made from the sardine´s fishbones,” he explains.
“The most important thing is to respect each individual product and it’s optimum cooking time so that its real, intense flavour emerges.”
Héctor also takes part as a judge on the cookery TV programme “Kitchen Stove Challenge” produced by regional channel, Televisión de Galicia.
A member of the Nove Group – a collection of the most up-and-coming chefs from Galicia – he is passionate about his trade.
“This is much more than a profession,” he grins. “It’s a way of life. Like most chefs I think about food 24 hours a day and that’s just how I like it.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”