Thursday, 27 April 2017

Learning from Legends (part 4): SERGI AROLA

From the moment I woke up to the moment I arrived at Michelin 2 star La Broche restaurant in Madrid, I felt sick. Putting on my uniform I often threw up and entering the kitchen I would be shaking with fear. A small team of 5 cooked for a full restaurant every day, lunch and dinner, and there wasn’t time to eat, drink water or pee.

The day started at 8am and finished at 1am with 1 day off a week. It was hell. Just when you figured the menu, Sergi Arola would change it and just when you thought you were ahead, someone quit and his work became yours pushing you farther behind. You washed your own dishes, did your own ordering, prepared your own food, cooked it and plated it. You became a machine, a jack of all trades, a soldier fighting in a war that was surely not to be won. Despite the madness, the food was brilliant with technical dishes that required clinical precision and amazing products that reflected each season and formed staples of Sergi’s style of cooking.

Working at the now closed La Broche sure as hell toughened me up and the few who stuck it out and survived left with a masters degree in efficiency and determination and the feeling of really accomplishing something. The worse it got, the more us, the surviving zombies, wanted to stick around to see what happened next.

The intensity of service and the focus required to deliver great food regardless of what may be going wrong is a lesson I will never ever forget and try to teach to my key guys in Cuca. Just minus the fear of death, of course.

Kevin and Sergi Arola

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Learning from Legends (part 3): JUAN MARI ARZAK

The grandfather of Spanish cooking, Chef Juan Mari, absolutely adores food. When he eats his eyes light up and at 74 years old he still has the curiosity and amazement of a child when it comes to cooking. Every lunch time he becomes excited with the event of enjoying tasty, well cooked food.

Arzak restaurant believes food must be first of all delicious. Sure they are inventive and playful with presentations, menu wording and ideas but my god do things taste good! You don’t leave Arzak hungry and you don’t leave without the feeling of warmth from an old school family-run restaurant. This one just happens to have 3 Michelin stars, but all the glamour that Michelin brings along has not diluted any of the friendliness and attention they pay to every single diner and every single staff member. If you are working in Arzak, you are part of their family and are treated and loved as if you were a blood relative.  

Juan Mari’s principle of loving the people he works with and taking care of them is something we believe in and have implemented since day one in Cuca. The result is not only an amazingly warm environment to spend the long hours this industry requires, but also our guests feel genuinely welcome and cared for, not visitors at a party they don’t belong.

Kevin Cherkas with Juan Mari and Elena Arzak

If you enjoyed this entry, do not miss the previous one here! 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Learning from Legends (part 2): DANIEL BOULUD

When people ask me “Who is the greatest chef on planet earth?” I do not hesitate to answer Daniel Boulud.

During my years working for him, he was like a French Batman. If you made a mistake, Daniel would surely find it, he was incredible at being everywhere and seeing everything, no one was safe, any day could be your last. It was the Olympics of cooking and no one gets a medal for participation.

Restaurant Daniel
in New York City was tough. With incredibly long hours, physically exhausting days, huge quantities of customers to serve and the constant demand for perfection, this was the most difficult place I have ever worked. One thing is cooking a few pieces of fish for a cute 20 seat restaurant; another is cooking over 100 portions of fish at different times using different methods that all demanded precision. And let’s remember fish doesn’t come in nice square little pieces… it has to be gutted, cleaned, scaled, filleted and portioned, plus it needs sauce and garnishes to become a dish and we are only talking about the fish station here, you still got canap├ęs, cold kitchen, soup, rotisserie, vegetables, meats, pastry and bakery.

Daniel’s drive for perfection has led him to make everything from scratch to be able to control the quality each step of the way. In Cuca we have adopted the same thinking: if we serve it, we make it and we make everything from scratch every single day.


If you enjoyed this entry, do not miss the previous one here!