1. What is Virginia’s favourite meal that you cook for her?
Virginia loves simple Spanish food, so anything well executed and traditional always makes her happy. One of her absolute favourites is braised oxtail.
2. Who is the boss, you or Virginia?
Easy question. Virginia is the director of Cuca. I am the chef. I play a role as all the staff do in the big movie of Cuca, but Virginia's job is to direct and make sure everything gets done and done well. You cannot compare the two jobs. Virginia is very good at conducting the orchestra and I happen to play an instrument well.
3. Favourite curse word in the kitchen?
"Hostia". The first word I learned in Spain when the chef of Arzak dropped his helmet on his foot. It hurt and he said "Hostia". We use it in Cuca's kitchen because no one understands it and we love our team and would never say anything to offend them.
4. Secret ingredient you love to work with?
Chilli. In large amounts it creates heat but in small quantities it gently warms the mouth and makes food exciting. Playing with spices like chilli is our weapon of choice.
5. Who influenced your cooking style the most?
Daniel Boulud. His food is delicious. Delicious food is the most important aspect of cooking. Everything else is wallpaper but taste matters the most.
6. A Chef whose cooking style you really admire and why
Christian Puglisi. He uses only a few ingredients to create a dish. I respect that, it shows maturity, confidence and respect for ingredients. It’s not easy to make very little, very good.
7. Worst kitchen nightmare?
Oh, where to begin. Today, this week, last month, or when? It must be when I forgot and overcooked a sole fish in Arzak. It was my birthday and Chef Pello put me in charge of cooking for a journalist table. I just tried to do too much and totally forgot about the fish in the oven. He spent the entire day yelling at me, literally a whole day. Just when it was time to go home he said “I bet you will never forget this birthday” he was right. Thanks Pello!
8. Favourite midnight snack?
Cereal. I love cereal. How not to enjoy the texture and excitement of it.
9. One culinary trend you wish would die already
Decoration without purpose.
10. Modern kitchen gadget you couldn’t live without
Blender. We love to puree things in a blender. Couldn’t live without it. If you took it away I wouldn’t even leave my house.
11. What do you do to relax?
Sleep. It’s a luxury now and has always been. Plus it’s free.
12. Future plans for Cuca (expansion into other locations/cookbook etc)
We will have another project next year in Asia. The location and details are coming soon….
13. Why Bali?
Because it has magic and we as everyone else were just totally drawn to it. Plus Indonesia has a huge bounty of amazing ingredients to play with.
14. What do you love most about the island?
The people. They have such a balance in life and are genuinely happy. Very rare to see. Lots you can learn from Indonesian people about how to see problems and solutions.
15. A secret skill no one would believe you had
I used to rap. Like open mike freestyle rapping with my buddy. He actually ended up doing pretty well with it. For me now it’s just shower acoustics.
Whisky or wine? Wine
Sugar or Spice? Spice
Peanut Butter or Jelly? Peanut butter, love bitter flavors.
Surf or Swim? Swim, surfing requires time and skill, both of which are clearly lacking.
Apple or Android? $15 Nokia, takes a beating and never dies