In Conversation With Michelin-Starred Chefs Miguel and Ignacio At The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

The Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi is hosting a weekend festival of the Spanish Extravaganza, where Michelin-starred chefs Miguel Barrera Barachina and Ignacio Solana Perez will combine their exemplary knowledge and passion for food to curate a signature gastronomic experience.

Deeksha Sarin  |  Updated: December 01, 2018 13:15 IST

In Conversation With Michelin-Starred Chefs Miguel and Ignacio At The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
  • The Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi is hosting a weekend Spanish food festival
  • Michelin-starred chefs Miguel and Ignacio will be there
  • Spanish extravaganza started from November 30, and will go on till Dec 2

Spanish food lovers, this one's for you! The Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi is hosting a weekend festival of the Spanish Extravaganza, where Michelin-starred chefs Miguel Barrera Barachina and Ignacio Solana Perez will combine their exemplary knowledge and passion for food to curate a signature gastronomic experience. Chef Miguel grew up surrounded by wild herbs, fresh vegetables, fruit orchards and animals; this connection with nature shaped him. Whereas, cooking in Chef Ignacio's family goes back four generations. At the age of 24, he took over his family's restaurant giving it a contemporary twist. The Spanish Extravaganza started from November 30, and will go on till December 2 at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi.

We got a chance to talk Food with the Michelin-Starred Chefs Miguel Barrera Barachina and Ignacio Solana Perezg and here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. When did you realise your love for cooking? 

A.Chef Ignacio

My mother sent me to work at another restaurant when I was 19.  I realised there were so many different ingredients and ways of preparing food that I became hooked. I can still remember making a carpaccio from a venison tenderloin which tasted amazing and it blew me away because up until then, I didn't think I liked the taste of venison. But I soon learnt that you could prepare it in so many different ways, with salad, by mixing it with sweet wine and dried fruits. I realized that I was never going to reject an ingredient again.

Chef Miguel

There was no specific moment. When I was 19 and I discovered all the aromas and flavours, I was instantly smitten. I thought: "This is not work, this is pleasure!" 

Q. Who were your cooking inspirations growing up? Are there any local and international cooking icons you still look up to?

A. Chef Ignacio

I always had to help out. By 11 I was serving my mother's croquettes and assisting her in the kitchen. She taught me to make stews and Spanish tortilla. I never realised I was good at tortilla until years later, when I made it for other chefs where I worked and they all raved about it. "But it's my mother's recipe," I told them. "Well, it's the best," they replied. I learnt to cook by watching her, without even realising it. Although, the truth be told, I wanted to be a footballer when I was growing up before I fell in love with cooking. Then afterwards, I dreamt about getting a Michelin star, but I never thought I would achieve that. When I did, it was a dream come true. It's also no coincidence that all these years on from when I served my mother's croquettes aged 11, our restaurant won the coveted Prize for the Best Croquette in the World at Madrid Fusion in 2017. The secret to our croquette is that we make the bechamel with raw milk, which makes it creamier and then we add some of the best Spanish pata negra ham. Now instead of making 10 litres of bechamel a week, I make 10 litres every day! I look up to Joan Roca, for his philosophy, personality and way of understanding food. And Albert Adria, for his creativity and the skilled management of such diverse and creative businesses.

Chef Miguel

My mother taught me a lot; love and dedication to food, a sense of responsibility and respect for training and aiming to be better every single day. All these things she passed onto me. Over the years, I've been inspired by many people like my teacher Dativo Perez and Spanish super Chef Ferran Adria. But my cooking style is very personal so I don't have any major heroes at the moment. I learn from chefs I meet at conferences and gastronomy events. My fellow colleague Ignacio Solana in India is inspiring me at the moment! As are all the hotel's kitchen team. Being at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and the Taj Mahal New Delhi hotel is an amazing opportunity to learn about Indian gastronomy from some of the best chefs in Delhi. 

Q. Do you remember the first dish you cooked and were proud of?

A. Chef Ignacio

Yes, I do! I made a rice dish with egg, tomato and a corn muffin for my family when I was 11 and it got a great response. I can still remember my father saying: "If you are able to create this at your age, you will be able to make a living as a chef!" It meant a lot to me.

Chef Miguel

It was the day when my mother and I clashed in the kitchen! Her traditional ideas against my new ideas. She wanted me to make a traditional squid in its own ink but I wanted to do something more adventurous with it, by filling it with chopped up squid legs, tomato, onion and fish stock and then grilling it. It is a relatively simple dish but it seemed really elaborate to me then. My mother kept telling me not to complicate things, but when our clients told her it was the best squid dish they'd ever tasted I think she realised that she needed to give me space to evolve and be creative. She was clever. 

Q. Would you like to talk about your initial cooking disasters in kitchen? 

A. Chef Ignacio

I was once told to cool a deep fat fryer down with water and not realising they meant by putting it underneath, I threw the water directly onto the hot oil. It caused an explosion! I never made that mistake again! I didn't really have any other cooking disasters. I like improvising so there is always a positive side to things that don't quite turn out as expected.

Chef Miguel

I don't remember any big kitchen disasters as I've always been very responsible and I've never made anything without first trying and testing it. 

Q. A word of advice for budding chefs to not repeat the mistakes?

A. Chef Ignacio

In order to learn, you have to make mistakes. What you can't do is make the same mistake three times! After every error, you write down what went wrong and draw a positive conclusion from it. 

Chef Miguel

Any errors you might make should always be behind the scenes. The client must never be aware of them. The truth is that I love my job, it's a real pleasure and that's how it should be. You end up sacrificing a lot of family time, so it has to be something you absolutely love. This is not a job you do for money. There have been lots of weekends that I haven't been able to spend with my kids playing football like other dads. But you can't have everything in life. When a client tells you they love what you've cooked it makes it all worthwhile. 

Q. Ingredients you particularly love to play around with?

A. Chef Ignacio

More than with the ingredients, I love to play around with different textures. Changing the texture of an olive and making it liquid for example, which is what I've done with one of my dishes at the Spanish Extravaganza at the Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi.

Chef Miguel

The tomato. I love it. In the summer, it is on the menu for 90 consecutive days! I'm like a little kid with tomatoes. From the moment it is planted and harvested to the moment it appears on a plate. I have over 80 different recipes for it. 

Q. 3 Ingredients that you must have in your kitchen before cooking any Spanish dish

A. Chef Ignacio

Olive oil

Chef Miguel

Olive oil
Tomatoes - the ones from our area known as hanging tomatoes - are amazing 

Q. Your favourite go-to comfort dish that you love to cook? 

A. Chef Ignacio

Spanish tortilla - because it is the first dish I have when I return to Spain after being abroad. I also have a small piece of tortilla for breakfast every day. 

Chef Miguel

Valencian Paella - Nothing beats a good paella on Sunday with my family. It's a great way to get the family together. 

Q. Secret tips to cook a perfect Gazpacho. 

A. Chef Ignacio

Fresh and good quality vegetables in the summer; not greenhouse vegetables. A good quality olive oil.
Leave the vegetables to soak with bread and ice for a day so that all the vegetables release their water and then blend everything together. 

Chef Miguel

A good quality ripe tomato which has a lot of flavour. Garlic and an exceptional olive oil. 

Q. For Chef Miguel Barrera Barechina: Secret behind the success of restaurant Cal Paradis? 

A. Being honorable
Hard work
Enjoyment - this is the most important quality. It's like the olive oil in a salad - it's an essential. You have to enjoy your work every day.

Word of advice for new restaurateurs to make it big.

Choosing the right location, near a large population of people so that you have a big customer base.

You make use of a lot of fresh and local produce in your restaurant. What role does it play in heightening the flavours of your dishes? 

Over 95% of our product in the restaurant is local - being true to the concept of 0km farming. We are very lucky in Castellon that we are located in a mountainous region with a special micro climate so we have amazing products nearby like truffles, wild mushrooms and lamb. We are also 10 minutes from the harbor and so have access to amazing fish and seafood. We even have a local seal of quality called Castellon Gastronomica.

Q. For Chef Ignacio Solana Perez: Secret behind the success of your restaurant Solana? 

A. Humility
Daily learning
Positive attitude 

Word of advice for new restaurateurs to make it big. 

All of the above.

Your family has been actively involved in cooking and hospitality. One most significant advice you have inherited from your family.

The best advice they ever gave me was to be humble.

Q. How was your experience at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai?

A. Chef Ignacio

This has been a hugely enriching experience on every level. We've met lots of very talented new people, encountered new ingredients, aromas and spices. These hotels are legends and have great culinary offerings. By the time we leave India, we will have learnt so much about the culture and its gastronomy with the Taj Hotels. That is priceless. 

Chef Miguel

This has been a very positive experience. The level of professionalism and dedication amongst the staff is inspiring. We feel very privileged to be able to work in both these iconic Indian hotels. The Chefs, the F&B staff and everyone at the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai and Taj Mahal Delhi have been most supportive, creative and warmly welcomed us.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi brings to the Capital the culinary stars and the conquerors of the finest in contemporary Spanish cuisine. So make the most of this Michelin experience and make your weekend happening with this Spanish food festival!


About Deeksha SarinAn eccentric foodie and a die-hard falooda lover, Deeksha loves riding scooty in search of good street food! A piping hot cup of adrak wali chai can make her day bright and shiny!

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