Chef of the Week: Francisco Martinez, Executive Chef at Fazenda

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I joined the Fazenda family nearly six years ago back in 2014, and what a journey it has been!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My family has always been in the hospitality industry. I grew up visiting my parents daily in one of our restaurants, where I would have my food or I would just pop in to pick up a sandwich. So at the age of 17, I decided to enroll in a culinary school for 3 years. After finishing the course, I went on to spend a year at the 3 Michelin starred restaurant El Bulli, managed by Ferran Adrià in Catalonia, which was considered the best restaurant in the world at the time back in 2002.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
My answer probably sounds like a cliché, but it is the camaraderie within the kitchen as well as being able to provide guests with a good experience.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic (did I say I’m Spanish, already?!), limes or lemons and eggs.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Probably a Thermomix, it is so versatile! Once you have good recipes, it can be very consistent and you can really trust it.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I never stop learning about meat maturation (meat dry aging). Having said that, I have also been looking into similar techniques for fish a lot lately. I believe in no more than a few years all chefs will look at and manipulate fish in a different way. I have tried products by Josh Niland in Australia that blew my mind. 30-day matured fish that comes down to just one simple principle: the complete avoidance of water or ice after the catch.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not trying the food that they are serving often enough, and putting more effort into being on television than mastering simple skills.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Definitely Autumn and Winter! I am a huge fan of mushrooms, truffle and foraging. Also, a good and slow-cooked stew beats everything for me, and you certainly enjoy those more when it’s cold out there.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Talking about my time at Fazenda, I would probably choose a sweet preparation that we have on our menu. This dessert is our Dulce de Leche Coulant, and it became a best-seller straight away! However, I did around 50 trials with it, as I wanted this one to be gluten-free. It is a goal for me to keep our entire desserts menu gluten-free, and that wasn’t a simple task with this specific dessert.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Normally just by stopping everything I am doing. I take time to think and put ideas together. I am really organised when it comes to keeping ideas on my day to day, then looking back on them when I need them. This is actually some of El Bulli legacy that still stays with me, a way to create that we called ‘sapiens’.

Who was your greatest influence?
Ferran Adrià, Albert Adrià and Oriol Castro. All of them were my mentors at El Bulli, and it was a really intense but incredible experience to be around them. After a few years, I’ve really come to appreciate their genius even more!

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Same answer! I feel lucky to still be in touch with them.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Let’s make it a whole collection! All of El Bulli’s – I have them all, and I will surely treasure them forever! They are over twenty years old and still, they read as innovative today as they did back then. That proves how far ahead of the rest of the world that special place was.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
From the UK, I’d say Alex Dilling from The Greenhouse in Mayfair. I feel they’re in the running for a third Michelin star in the near future. Worldwide, I really admire the work that Josh Niland from Australia is doing, and I think he will have a massive impact on every chef in the coming years.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
It is actually a very small place in Madrid called Sala de Despiece. It’s a really fun, interactive, and original set up, and the food is delicious! The chef has been working with many great names before this adventure. It’s an absolute must if you are visiting Madrid.