Chef of the Week: Begonya Sànchez, Head Chef at Chotto Matte in Marylebone, London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have had the opportunity to take part in the opening of the Restaurant (Chotto Matte) in 2013. This was one of my first jobs in London. I then went to discover other London restaurants, acquire more experience and I finally came back to Chotto Matte in 2019.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I started my cooking career at a pastry shop in Barcelona. We made a lot of wedding cakes and delivered them to venues, mostly restaurants. That was when I first was exposed to large restaurant kitchens. I think the passion started there with the vibrancy and energy I was witnessing in these large kitchens. It was like I had discovered an unknown territory, a new world and wanted to experience it.

I was already familiar with kitchens, albeit a bit more tranquil in the pastry world and so had acquired some technical skills. Cooking is a passion and so the skills are acquired with feeding the desire to discover and experience.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Believe it or not, what I enjoy the most about being a chef is working under pressure. Restaurant kitchens are typically fast paced and every service is like a mission from start to end. I think this is what I enjoy the most about being a chef, every day is a mission with a different challenge.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic, Miso, and chillies (hot)!

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A Thermomix in good kitchen jargon (food processor). Emulsification is a must.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Plant based everything. Really, everything has, or will have, a plant-based version, even bacon. We have recently, at Chotto Matte, introduced plant based meat alternatives in our dishes.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I think the portrayal of chefs in media and reality tv is something that lets chefs down. We are not all short tempered and dramatic. Success in our world is massively founded on virtues like patience and time management.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn is the best time of year. You can put your hands on amazingly fresh produce from around the world.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I can’t single out a dish I am proud of. I can say that every dish I make I am proud of. Every one of them are a combination of different experiences, skills and elements of cooking I have acquired throughout the years.

How do you come up with new dishes?
New dishes are a reflection of a chef’s kitchen and life experiences. Travelling, working with different chefs from different cultures, discovering new ingredients and techniques in different geographies. These are all components that unite in one person and bring out new dishes. Simply put, I had no clue what Jackfruit was until I moved to London.

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence was and still is Carles Carreras. Carles is an admirable pastry chef I had the opportunity to discover the culinary world in Barcelona with. He is an example to follow.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Of course, Carles Carreras is a chef I admire. But, I have always admired the revolutionary Ferran Adria and his brother Albert Adria. These two are the pioneers of molecular gastronomy, ground-breaking!

If we look at traditional cuisine, it would be chef Santi Santamaria, he was truly the best.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I don’t have a particular one but, I go for food cultural books rather than cook books written by chefs.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Everyday new talents come to light.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The last year was very difficult for the industry and so were new openings during an uncertain time. But, my favourite upcoming new opening this year will be Chotto Matte Marylebone, which opens on 20th May.