Betty Vázquez

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"I love to observe nature, its rhythms, seasons, colours, textures, flavours - the secret to everything is there, our roots and our essence"

Fotografía de INTERVIEWS WITH OUR CHEFS

What made you want to become a chef?
Crises. Yes, the crisis of wanting to eat well, of knowing that armed with food you can cure, you can heal and you can provide nourishment. Not to forget you can enjoy the creative process and when you donate your work - because that´s what you do - more than money what you earn is the pleasure of seeing the happiness of your diners.
And when I say crisis, it´s because I´ve always liked to eat and when I finished my first degree and it wasn´t what I expected, I consoled myself by cooking - without realising I had found my vocation.

What is your first memory of a dish that made you dream?
My grandmother´s snacks, always imbued with flavours with great history; the tamales - knowing what I would find inside and seeing her surprised face when we hit upon what was in the filing. My grandmother´s cooking was fun, inclusive. She used to let us play around the table in her kitchen, and she chatted about the Mexican countryside and she made us love our country, its history and its gastronomy.

Who has influenced you in your cooking style or philosophy?

First of all, my grandmother, with her in the kitchen even the dullest of days was phenomenal.  The great chefs from my country, the old guard, who remain with us and relevant: Pedro Ortega, Patricia Quintana, Titita Ramírez Degollado; in Spain, having been in Juan Mari Arzak´s kitchens; the cutting edge of the new generations from around the world, their daring to change in a multitude of ways.

What inspires you? or Where does your inspiration come from?

I love to observe nature, its rhythms, seasons, colours, textures, flavours - the secret to everything is there, our roots and our essence. I look at the sea every day and imagine all the secrets contained within its vastness and dream. From there, crazy ideas arise later to acquire texture. I think my diners are aware of my degree of madness, which is quite something...



What is your favourite culinary method or technique?
Marinating. Perhaps the most primitive of all, but for me the beginning of everything.

What is your favourite ingredient?
Salt.

What is your favourite cooking utensil?
My knife, a good pan.

What material do you prefer for your pans and saucepans?
It depends on what you´re going to do.

What would you like to change about the cooking schools?
More depth in everything: in information, in teaching, and then head out into the world.
Your advice for young chefs.
Not to expect fame before they are 30, but in the 30 years of chopping onions and crying, as I see it, if it happens perhaps that´s luck, maybe talent but it will not be fulfilling if there isn´t the maturity to manage it.
And if it happens before, let vanity be burnt away on the rings of the stove.

What do you look for when you hire someone for your restaurant?
Commitment, everything else can be learnt: you perfect, teach, experience.

How do you motivate your team?
Chatting with them a lot. I work with them, even on the simplest tasks, because everyone begins there and I never want to forget that.

What would you like to change in the catering industry?
Every country experiences its own crisis. I hope the Mexican restaurateur never confuses quality with quantity.
Our work as restaurateurs is to bring culture to the table and educate over time and with patience. That way neither time nor patience are lost.

What do you do when you have difficult guests?

You listen to them, attend to them, teach them. We are all free to listen, learn and appreciate the effort put in by others; politeness and diplomacy must always be there. You categorize your diners and, of course, they categorize you.
They decide whether to return and we decide if we want them back, too.
And here the challenge is to make these difficult guests into faithful customers, because word of mouth and the good practices of a place shine through in the service, food and diplomacy.

Where do you like to get away to relax?
To the sea always.
I grew up by the seaside, both personally and professionally.

What pushes you to keep on going?
The legacy I will leave behind. I´ve had great examples, great mentors, of course, so I cannot do anything less and I owe this to future generations.
 
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?

All my raw dishes, my ´ceviches´ with fresh seafood from my sea. They have made their own mark, their reputation... ´a taste of the sea´.


What is your favourite restaurant?

Wow, that´s like asking which of your children is your favourite! Perhaps my home, first and foremost. There I can eat how I want! In Mexico: ´Estoril´ - a legendary place. In Spain: Arzak; in France: Carré des Feuillants; Italy: Don Alfonso. These are all great places, but there are
so many around the world. Good cooking can even be found in a café, you can tell when it is done with love and care. And I´ve eaten in the street, in memorable places - both recommendable and spectacular. 

Which current chef do you most admire and why?

Many, they all have their own styles. To name just one would be unfair.

How do you think restaurants should be classified?
Classification is subjective. Good cooking is identifiable - stars, points, forks. What really counts is the opinion of the regulars, your faithful customers, the ones who return to your place over and again and recommend you by word of mouth.