The Renaissance Chef
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández and David Cánovas Williams /©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Paco Roncero. Tomás Zarza/©ICEX
In an interview, Juan Pablo Felipe, chef at El Chaflán in Madrid, stated that in the future there would be three types of chef: creators, managers and team leaders. And he added that it would be practically impossible for a single person to be all three at once. But his forecast was either wrong or can be confirmed by some exceptions to the rule. Paco Roncero has been successful in all three disciplines if not more: media chef, researcher, adviser...
La Terraza del Casino, in the stately, palatial building of the Casino de Madrid, has been the operational base for this young Madrid chef since 1991. Alongside the kitchen, Roncero has set up a research laboratory, El Taller de La Terraza del Casino, where he produces his creations: apple and virgin olive oil ravioli, dragon oil (using liquid nitrogen), nori seaweed lollipops, air of foie gras, rose petals in tempura, olive oil jam, and many more.
His style takes much of its inspiration from the revered Adrià. This influence comes direct from the world-renowned Catalonian chef, gastronomic adviser at La Terraza since 1998. Roncero asserts, "We're the elBulli of Madrid". But Paco Roncero also imposes his own personality, especially in his main dishes, such as his knuckle of veal or his lobster with Arbequina olive oil soup and pink pineapple.
Olive oil is one of this chef's main interests. Since 2006, the year when the Taller was created, he has been researching into the different textures and flavors that can be achieved with olive oil. His work crystallized in the form of an ambitious menu of thirteen dishes, every one of them based on olive oil, from the starters to the desserts.
Paco Roncero trained in the late 1980s at Madrid Higher School for Hospitality and Tourism and took his first professional position at Zalacaín, the city';s first restaurant to win three Michelin stars. From there, he moved to the Hotel Ritz, so he can be considered to have played a key role in placing Madrid on the Spanish gastronomy map.
But, as already stated, Paco Roncero wears more than one hat. In addition to cooking, he has always taken charge of the financial side of his operations and in 2003 created his Kitchen manager software to calculate costs and optimize the returns of restaurants. The program is now out in its forth release.
A successful 'gastrobar'
This La Terraza wizard has always enjoyed sharing his findings. He has brought out a book on 21st century tapas, and participates regularly on a Spanish TV cookery programs and in numerous culinary congresses and events the world over. And he still finds time for his other passion, photography. Many of the photos of his culinary creations are his own.
In 2008 he set up the first of a chain of tapas bars called Estado Puro in Madrid, with a concept based on classic recipes with a touch of sophistication and top-quality produce. The renovation of tapas is a task that enthuses Paco Roncero, a chef who builds on Spanish cuisine through innovation and experimentation while preserving its origins. In April 2011 the second Estado Puro gastrobar in Madrid was opened. Another role played increasingly by Roncero is as a member of gastronomic juries. In June 2012 Paco opened VIEW62 in Hong Kong It is the city’s only revolving restaurant, offering “unrivalled” views from The Peak to Victoria Harbour, and is located in the Hopewell Centre. When asked about his secret, he replies, "I sleep only four hours a day".
One step further
More surprises came along in June 2012. Paco launched PacoRonceroTaller, his personal culinary workshop.
This time, it is cutting edge technology and the assistance of the prestigious Guía Repsol (guide) and the NH Hotel Chain, that have made it possible to carry out this dream of creating a unique space dedicated to the pairing of avant-garde gastronomy with technological innovation.
The result, a ‘secret’ workshop equipped to stir one’s emotions, recreate environments and provoke sensations. Available by invitation only and with seating for only eight diners, this living lab is designed to create a 100% vivacious sensory space that interacts with those who inhabit it – controlling the temperature and humidity, as well as the colors, aromas and acoustics – making it possible to create different stages and ambiences in which the dining experience can be enjoyed.
This is possible thanks in part to Hisia, an “intelligent table” made out of a ceramic material called Keraon. Another element is the olive oil ‘archive’, with its 216 test tubes for tasting olive oils. In any case, one thing’s for sure, that this laboratory of gastronomy and technology is only the beginning for Roncero.