Cuisine as a Means of Seduction
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Photographer: Spanish chef Juan Pablo Felipe
The soul of a cook with the mentality of a businessman. Juan Pablo Felipe's career has been marked by his entrepreneurial spirit, his determination to keep on the cutting-edge of his profession, and something that he considers essential for standing out in cuisine: passion.
Juan Pablo Felipe was one of the pioneers in the renovation of haute cuisine in Madrid. He started out, at the age of 15, working in a hotel in Almería in Andalusia, but his ambition took him at the earliest opportunity to Madrid. In the capital, at El Chaflán, he found a place where he could apply his culinary philosophy, and gradually molded it into a temple to Spanish avant-garde cuisine.
The restaurant is located in the Aristos Hotel, run by Juan Pablo Felipe since 1993. Six years after his arrival he decided to rehabilitate the restaurant and refashion the menu, offering Mediterranean flavors, with reinvented Spanish dishes and the best market produce. Today, El Chaflán surprises with its minimalist décor, broken only by an olive tree presiding the main restaurant and a skylight throwing bright, natural light on the tables. The presence of the olive was a deliberate choice, symbolizing the chef’s admiration for Spanish olive oil. Such is his admiration that he even sells his own brand of extra virgin olive oil, pressed from Arbequina olives collected from olive groves in Lleida in Catalonia.
Felipe describes his cuisine as “Spanish contemporary, avant-garde, but not futuristic”. He sees his job as providing food to his customers but, at the same time, offering them "spiritual enjoyment". Amongst his favorite ingredients are Mediterranean red tuna, which he prepares with remarkable precision, salt fish and prime vegetables. He claims to be especially proud of his version of Andalusian gazpacho.
While he acknowledges an Andalusian influence on his cuisine, he also pays tribute to two leaders on the Spanish gastronomic scene who helped him mark out his own professional path – Luis Irizar, maestro for a whole generation of Basque and Spanish chefs, and Ferran Adrià , with whom he worked for just two weeks but whom he considers a special friend.
Juan Pablo Felipe cooks "to seduce", and this he achieves by incorporating a Mediterranean sensuality in his recipes. He sees cooking as a complex, pure profession, a convergence of different disciplines – artistic, manual and scientific. His aim is to offer his customers’ senses wave after wave of emotions.
As from late 2008, Felipe has had a second establishment, the Aris Bar, in which to practice his personal view of cuisine, this time in the Spanish tapas tradition. Located next door to his restaurant, it offers both classic and updated tapas and a very extensive list of wines, served by the glass. And to round off the visit, classic desserts and a cocktail bar.