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.
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.
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.”
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 Gijon, El Rincon de Gonzalo in Tenerife and Parada das Bestas in Lugo. Then in 2002 he 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 restaurants in Barcelona. “I worked 17 hour stretches without ever looking at my watch,” he says. “That’s how passionate I was.” Then in 2008, he 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. At the international Madrid Fusión summit, his restaurant was named as one of the 100 most creative restaurants in Spain. He has won 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 crouquant and tomato ice cream.
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.