Inspiration from a Wealth of Sources
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Andrés Madrigal
Music, cooking, reading and travel. These are the four main passions of Andrés Madrigal, a chef born in Madrid in 1967 and now one of the main stars on the Madrid gastronomy scene. Andrés had little choice when it came to deciding on his profession.
Although he had learnt plenty of culinary tricks from his grandmother who was also responsible for introducing him to the world of the sea during his childhood holidays close to Navia in Asturias , he had never seriously considered a career in gastronomy. What he wanted to study was oceanography, but his family could not afford to send him to university. His father gave him two options: either to study electronics, or to start working. Madrigal chose the latter, and started out washing dishes in a shellfish restaurant. One day one of the cooks became ill and Madrigal suggested he could stand in for her. That was his first position of responsibility in a professional kitchen.
Then came a series of opportunities -internships in some of Madrid's best restaurants during the 1980s, and visits to Juan Mari Arzak and Alain Ducasse. Then he took over the Balzac restaurant, located just behind Madrid’s Prado Museum. His position as chef and co-owner of Balzac brought him prestige but, after seven years, came to an abrupt end. He then set out on two entrepreneurial adventures in the world of food but with little success. Meanwhile, he wrote some cookery books and essays, and above all waited until the time was ripe for him to make a reappearance in his profession.
In 2007, the Alboroque arts and gastronomy centre opened up with Andrés Madrigal as culinary manager. The name "Alboroque" is a popular Aragonese term named after a merchant who used to celebrate business deals by inviting family and friends to an afternoon celebration. At this restaurant, Madrigal presented the appetizing blend of Mediterranean and Provençal influences that has accompanied him throughout his career, with classic specialties interpreted with total freedom.
Seasonal market produce, a certain inclination towards minimalism in his presentations, and complexity in his combinations, textures and flavors. Herbs and products from a wide range of geographical sources are two of the distinguishing features of his cuisine.
Madrigal also gives talks and classes to future professionals, although he himself mostly learnt from books and travel. And his travels allowed him to discover the ethnic music that he likes to play in both the kitchen and the restaurant, resulting in unusual partnerships between food and sound.
Andrés Madrigal is a restless cook, who is never satisfied and whose rebellious spirit prevents him from slipping into a professional routine. In March 2010 he presented a new project that would mark the end of his time at Alboroque restaurant and result in Bistró Madrigal. It is a small venue, the sort where the cook and front of house staff can really engage in a dialogue with the customers. Here, Madrigal produced a menu enabling him to revisit his early days, to the surprises he experienced when he was learning and the indisputable benefits of good quality raw ingredients.
If you would like to know Andrés and let him teach you culinary tips and techniques, you can find him in a cooking school located next to Gran Vía, in Madrid center. Where exactly? In Kitchen Club.