`Interview with Chef Firo Vázquez

Food & Cooking

Interview with Chef Firo Vázquez

Jan. 19, 2012

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Firo Vázquez is the owner and chef of the restau­rant El Oli­var de Moratalla and olive oil pro­ducer.

With Span­ish cui­sine on the peak of world­wide gas­tron­omy, olive oil has a unique oppor­tu­nity to posi­tion itself ahead of all other edi­ble fats. How­ever, not all the national chefs export­ing their tech­niques to other coun­tries are capa­ble of tak­ing max­i­mum advan­tage of this very Span­ish prod­uct. Among those who do have a mas­terly com­mand of this art is Firo Vázquez, who not only applies it to his recipes, but also makes his own under the brand name Flor de Cuquillo. This chef from Sala­manca who lives in Mur­cia has always been seduced by any project in which the extra vir­gins take the lime­light. Which is why he was the first chef on a long list to demon­strate his sup­port of OLIVARAMA right from the very begin­ning.

Multi-faceted. Per­haps this is the adjec­tive that best describes this chef. Firo is full of sur­prises, a fact that becomes obvi­ous as soon as we scratch the sur­face of his pas­sion­ate life his­tory to dis­cover facets as unusual as they are unlikely.

Apart from being an out­stand­ing restau­rant pro­fes­sional, this man who always has a ready smile and a fond word for those around him, both pre­sides over and trains in the bas­ket­ball club of his town of res­i­dence. He stud­ied med­i­cine for five years, but a spon­ta­neous pneu­moth­o­rax put an end to his voca­tion. In exchange, this set­back allowed him to actively par­tic­i­pate in the edi­tion of Firo Vázquez y la cocina de El Oli­var de Moratalla and Cam­i­nando entre oliv­eras, two works which in their day received the first and sec­ond prize respec­tively, in the Gour­mand World Cook­Book Awards.


And the sur­prises don’t end here. Any­one who has seen the film Women on the Verge of a Ner­vous Break­down, almost cer­tainly still remem­bers the cof­fee-maker ear­rings sported by María Bar­ranco in the film. They were designed by Firo!

Oli­varama: Just over a decade has gone by since you opened your restau­rant El Oli­var de Moratalla, an estab­lish­ment that pays homage to culi­nary excel­lence through sur­pris­ing cre­ations. How would you define your cui­sine? What gas­tro­nomic pro­pos­als do you use to seduce your din­ers?

Firo Vázquez: In my kitchen, I try to delve into my gas­tro­nomic mem­ory and com­bine it with extra vir­gin olive oil. My dishes are always rec­og­niz­able, sim­ple, abun­dant and with slightly mod­ern and sur­pris­ing touches. I like my clients to play and enjoy while eat­ing and, to make that hap­pen the use of edi­ble papers or opti­cal illu­sions are always very effec­tive tools.

You your­self have admit­ted that extra vir­gin olive oil is the axis that all your recipes turn on. What ingre­di­ents do you nor­mally pair it with? In this sense, what cri­te­ria do you use to com­bine your dishes with your wine menu?

I can’t for­get the Calas­parra rice, the local pig chato mur­ciano”, apri­cots, Mar­cona almonds, wild mush­rooms, black Mor­tadella truf­fle, the local veg­eta­bles, salted fish, and many, many other prod­ucts. How­ever, I believe that pick­les in all of their shapes and sizes rep­re­sent the most char­ac­ter­is­tic dish of El Oli­var.

On the other hand, my recipes pair well with all sorts of wines. When seek­ing har­mony, I always try to enrich char­ac­ter­is­tics such as strength, sub­tlety or sweet­ness.

The most pro­fane among us believe that the use of extra vir­gin olive oil in the kitchen is lim­ited to fry­ing foods and dress­ing sal­ads. What other ways can it be used in the domes­tic set­ting? Could you tell us any sim­ple culi­nary tricks to use at home?

When­ever a recipe calls for the use of a fat, we always use extra vir­gin olive oil. Peo­ple for­get that this prod­uct can be used in mul­ti­ple ways and that while we can cer­tainly fry and dress dishes with it, we can also taste, sea­son, pol­ish, pickle, roast, emul­sify, impreg­nate, infuse, mari­nade, con­fit, stir-fry and stew with it, to men­tion but a few of its appli­ca­tions.

As for the tip, let me tell you about one very easy appli­ca­tion at home. For this, all you need to do is cover a piece of meat with vir­gin olive oil which we have pre­vi­ously mixed with lau­rel, oregano, equal mea­sures of hot chilli and sweet pep­per, crushed gar­lic and a few grains of pep­per. Once we have done this, let the com­po­si­tion rest in the fridge and, after a few days roast it at a high tem­per­a­ture or grill it. Quite sim­ply deli­cious.

Although we all know that extra vir­gin olive oil is the star ingre­di­ent of your cui­sine, do you think this is also the case in the Span­ish restau­rant sec­tor as a whole? Do the national chefs know how to get the most out of this prod­uct?

We chefs are a reflec­tion of soci­ety and, as such, we have advanced a lot in our knowl­edge of the oil cul­ture. How­ever, this does not mean that we have reached the level we should have given that Spain is the num­ber one pro­ducer in the world. There are still a lot of peo­ple who do not know the dif­fer­ence between ani­mal fats and veg­e­tal fats, or the reper­cus­sions of these on our health. The same applies to chefs, with the added dis­ad­van­tage that they are not always the ones to decide what to buy or to man­age the prof­its of the busi­ness they work for. And if we talk about the organolep­tic prop­er­ties or the vari­etals, then igno­rance is enor­mous. Only the true chefs are aware of the entire uni­verse that revolves around extra vir­gin olive oil.

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