WHO IS WHO? JUANMI CABRERA, EXECUTIVE CHEF OF BAHIA DEL DUQUE

How did you get into the culinary world?

A childhood friend of mine got me into it. I was in high school while he was in culinary school. He was always talking about what he was doing and the next year I also enrolled in culinary school.

We know that the Bahía del Duque trains many students from different culinary schools ¿what do these students find when they arrive in the Hotel?

They find the reality of a kitchen, we treat them as any another member of the team, however everyone understands that they are here to learn. It’s important that during their the internship they see  a bit of everything and become familiar with our way of working as many of them, when they finish their internship, stay on as part of the team.

Do you give them any advice?

Yes, when they finish the internship I tell them to really think and consider if they want to dedicate themselves to this field.

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What is your favourite product to cook and why?

Hot spice.  I grew up with spicy food, my family enjoyed it and I find it a very exciting world. It offers so much variety (and I have so much to discover).

Of everything you prepare, what would you say that is your signature dish?

Signature dishes I have several. I love cooking with very little heat and focusing on what we call extreme flavours, such as citrus, spicy or sour flavours.

Do you consider cooking to be an art, science, or both?

Art, although it is clear that science also intervenes a great deal.

Where did you study?

My basic training was in the Culinary School of Santa Cruz de Tenerife where I spent five years, and specialized in culinary arts.  Afterwards, I travelled a lot to learn and understand different techniques and the culinary offers of other regions.

Do you think you learnt more in the classroom or experimenting on your own?

In the classroom you learn the basics, in addition to learning about other subjects that are also very important. Regarding the specific training in cooking, whenever I get asked this question I state that the first two years of school are essential, you end up bored of chopping, sautéing and doing basic elaborations, but it is the basis for everything else. You later understand the importance that this process was. Afterwards, what you learn outside the classroom is greater; however the first step is crucial.

How would you describe your culinary style?

Practical, where the objective is to satisfy the client.

Would you like to share with us a curious anecdote that has happened to you in the kitchen?

I have a few, and some that did not seem funny at the time, but after a while you can see the funny side. One of them was a few years ago, we were in the process of plating for a gala dinner, and one of the plates was missing, my colleague, who is not going to like what I’m about to say, didn’t notice and ending up plating on the white tablecloth, in the gap between the plates. It caused a lot of laughs, although he was not amused.

Who has been your biggest inspiration during your career as a chef?

Paul Bocuse and Arzak. When I began my training they were the biggest references we had, we would use their books (we had no other means, there was only books and a few articles).

If any chef could prepare a dish for you, who would you choose and why?

I haven’t really thought about it, I would really like to visit the Roca brothers (I hope to do so soon). For a long time now I’ve thought that they are the best in the field.

Something you hate seeing in a restaurant when you go as a guest?

Disorganization, a restaurant can be better or worse, but if it’s organized, everything is more pleasant.

What is your favourite dish?

There are a lot of dishes I like, I really enjoy rice and soups and stews. When we dedicate ourselves to this field, we prefer simple dishes, you enjoy them differently.

With what wine or drink do you like to accompany them?

I normally prefer red wine, although I always enjoy a nice cold beer as an aperitif.

Is there a new technique that you would like to learn or apply to your dishes?

In general we apply the new techniques that are coming out to our dishes and service, unless they need specific machinery that we don’t have.

What is your favourite kitchen utensil?

Knives.

Any one that you detest or find useless?

The old kitchen mandolins (the current multi-cutters) were always malfunctioning and it was difficult to adjust the blades to the desired size. It was quicker to use the knife and you ran less risk of cutting yourself.

Cooking or baking, what do you feel the most comfortable with?

With both, but I feel very attached to baking, it was where I was weakest so I travelled a lot to the mainland Spain to train with two of the best bakers of that time.