Manolo de la Osa
Castilla la mancha
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández and Jorge Luis Bartolomé /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Manolo de la Osa. Toya Legido/© ICEX
About 25 years ago, Manolo de la Osa set to work in a restaurant that was well and truly off the beaten track. Today Las Rejas, in the province of Cuenca, over 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital of Madrid, is one of the landmarks of Spanish avant-garde gastronomy.
It has often been said that De la Osa is the main champion of updated La Mancha cuisine, but he says he just aims to cook like his mother, his aunts and his grandmother whom he enjoyed watching, when he was a child, as they battled with their pots and pans.
He gradually developed a broader interest in gastronomy, but his natural inclination for the products and dishes of his homeland ensures that garlic, bread, mushrooms and wine have a marked presence in his pantry. De la Osa is also a great fan of Spanish black truffles which, though not typical of La Mancha, often figure in his dishes.
As a young apprentice, he studied first in Cuenca, then in Madrid at the Instituto de la Vid. But, instead of completing his studies, he chose to return to his home town and open up a tiny restaurant with just eight tables. There he started to produce the local roasts and stews, adapting them to his own style.
De la Osa likes to pass all modern concepts through a La Mancha filter. This leads him to offer dishes featuring local ingredients – Manchego cheese, game, partridge and, especially, purple Las Pedroñeras garlic . He uses the latter to make a modern-day version of garlic soup, one of his best-known creations.
In 2006, he went a step further and brought out wines under the De la Osa label. He describes them as "very natural and fresh, just what I like". The first wine to be placed on the market was the Manuel de la Osa 2004, made on his Entresendas estate in La Mancha.