`Rising Star Sees Big Potential for Olive Oil

Food & Cooking

Rising Star Sees Big Potential for Olive Oil

Jan. 5, 2014
By Julie Butler

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Madrid’s mohawked three Miche­lin-starred chef David Muñoz — known for his highly inven­tive Asian-Iber­ian fusion food — rates olive oil as the gas­tro­nomic ingre­di­ent with the most promis­ing future.

The youngest Spaniard to win the top Miche­lin rank­ing, Muñoz, just 33, believes olive oil will not only estab­lish a firmer foothold in North Amer­ica but take off in South­east Asia, where he has trav­eled widely and con­tin­ues to find inspi­ra­tion.

Muñoz told Olive Oil Times that the Mediter­ranean sta­ple is indis­pens­able in his restau­rant Diverxo, which has just set a Span­ish record by pass­ing from one to three stars in only four years.

Diverxo held its first Miche­lin star in the 2010 guide, two in the 2012 edi­tion, and will fea­ture three in the 2014 guide — the only eatery in the Span­ish cap­i­tal to do so and now one of just eight 3‑starred restau­rants in Spain.

Miche­lin recog­ni­tion for highly cre­ative fusion cui­sine”

Accord­ing to the guide, Diverxo breaks with estab­lished tra­di­tions” and its tast­ing menus offer highly cre­ative fusion cui­sine with Asian influ­ences.”

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Announc­ing details of the 2014 Spain and Por­tu­gal guide in Novem­ber, Miche­lin Guides Inter­na­tional Direc­tor Michael Ellis described Muñoz as a ris­ing star whose excep­tional cre­ativ­ity” pro­duced tex­tures, fla­vors and aro­mas that sur­prise and aston­ish.

The atmos­phere in the restau­rant is like the chef him­self, avant-garde, icon­o­clast and totally unex­pected,” Ellis said.

Kim­chie chip­iron with straw­ber­ries and duck dumpling.

Olive oil enhances Asian fla­vors

Muñoz said he has no prob­lem com­bin­ing the fla­vors of Asian food with Iber­ian ingre­di­ents such as olive oil.

South­east Asian food and olive oil are com­pletely com­pat­i­ble. For exam­ple, the fla­vors from South­east Asia are pun­gent, sweet, spicy and bit­ter, and olive oil com­ple­ments them well because it can also have these attrib­utes.”

A splash of olive oil on a Thai or Viet­namese salad is incred­i­bly good,” he said.

Kim­chi juice spec­tac­u­lar” with olive oil

But the com­bi­na­tion that most sur­prised him and is now one of his favorites is that of olive oil and Kim­chi juice.

Muñoz pre­pares an equal parts emul­sion of the juice from Korean sta­ple kim­chi — a prod­uct of the fer­men­ta­tion of Chi­nese cab­bage — and olive oil, which is then served with straw­ber­ries, sar­dines and yoghurt.

The kim­chi juice is very tasty, a lit­tle spicy and acidic, and when mixed with olive oil it’s spec­tac­u­lar,” Muñoz said.

Kim­chi and olive oil have rep­u­ta­tions as super­foods due to their var­i­ous health ben­e­fits but the rea­son olive oil is the oil most used in Muñoz’s kitchen is its taste and ver­sa­til­ity,” he said.

Olive oil the most ver­sa­tile

While he does use other veg­etable oils depend­ing on the dish being pre­pared, none has as many pos­si­bil­i­ties as olive oil.”

What we most use by far is olive oil. For us it’s the best medium for cook­ing, for sautes, and to fin­ish off a plate.”

We use dif­fer­ent types and grades of olive oil. We have Hoji­blanca, Arbe­quina, Picual, Ocal, and var­i­ous other vari­eties.”

We try to find what fits per­fectly with the taste we want to achieve with the dish. On occa­sions a Picual, for exam­ple, might be too intense, so we use a fruity Arbe­quina.”

In the case of his upside-down fried bacalao (dried cod­fish) — over which siz­zling olive oil is poured — a mix of Hoji­blanca and Picual was found to work best.

But he doesn’t use olive oil at home. Because I never eat at home.”

Lon­don and New York venues planned

Muñoz has not missed a sin­gle sit­ting since Diverxo opened six years ago and also runs a small bar, Streetxo, in a Madrid food hall.

Streetxo is styled on Asian street­side food stalls and is the brand Muñoz plans to export, start­ing with a venue of the same name open­ing in Old Burling­ton Street, in London’s May­fair, in May, and another in New York within a year.

The Lon­don Streetxo will share the con­cept of its Madrid name­sake but enjoy a big­ger, more spec­tac­u­lar” set­ting.

It will be like land­ing in a street in Bangkok,” said Muñoz, who plans to spend Tues­day to Sat­ur­day in Madrid and Sun­day to Mon­day in Lon­don, where he says olive oil will con­tinue to be an indis­pens­able ally.


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