`An Interview with Juan Echanove

World

An Interview with Juan Echanove

Jan. 30, 2013
Olivarama

Recent News

My hum­ble rec­om­men­da­tion to Jaén would be to invest more in R+D and less in the bulk pro­duc­tion of cer­tain oils

The major­ity of Spaniards dis­cov­ered their dis­pro­por­tion­ate pas­sion for gas­tron­omy through the pro­gramme, Un país para comérselo. To date, Tele­visión Española has run two sea­sons of it. To deal with this pro­fes­sional chal­lenge, Juan didn’t need to rehearse any role, although he is accus­tomed to doing so because of his pro­fes­sion as an actor. On the con­trary, this time round he just had to be him­self. With­out any arti­fice. A task that was not par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for him, espe­cially when we remem­ber that he was the one to come up with the orig­i­nal idea, its direc­tor and the pro­tag­o­nist.

When Juan Echanove decided to embark on his lat­est tele­vi­sion adven­ture, he couldn’t even begin to imag­ine the trail of awards he would soon receive for the same both in Spain and abroad. In real­ity, these well-earned prizes are not for his work alone. Imanol Arias, his insep­a­ra­ble travel com­pan­ion, was also dis­tin­guished, as was the entire team accom­pa­ny­ing them on their gas­tro­nomic trip through the var­i­ous Span­ish regions.

Episode after episode, they all made every pos­si­ble effort to demon­strate that our cui­sine still holds many secrets, hid­den in the least expected nooks and cran­nies, and await­ing dis­cov­ery through the warmth of their inhab­i­tants.

Com­mit­ted to the cause, Juan has never fal­tered in his deter­mi­na­tion to spread the pecu­liar­i­ties of our raw mate­ri­als. Just a few months ago, he was named hon­orary ambas­sador for the cen­te­nary tree con­ser­va­tion project, Aceite y Olivos Mile­nar­ios del Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia, which we already described in detail in our last edi­tion of OLIVARAMA.

Nat­u­rally, Juan was not cho­sen by chance for this role. Not by a long shot. Like us, this actor orig­i­nally from Madrid, tries not to miss any of the gas­tro­nomic fairs cel­e­brated in our coun­try. Every time des­tiny has brought us together at one of these events, he has always shown his weak­ness for gourmet olive oils. So much so, that he didn’t hes­i­tate to wel­come our mag­a­zine and even pose with it. A detail we appre­ci­ate.

Advertisement

It would appear that Span­ish gas­tron­omy does not hold any secrets for you. This is so much the case that, among other things, you now have a per­sonal blog ded­i­cated to the plea­sures of the palate, you have pub­lished your own book of recipes, Curso de cocina para novatos; and you have directed the hit TV pro­gramme Un país para comérselo… Where does this love of food come from?

Well, basi­cally from the fact that since the age of 18 I’ve been jour­ney­ing the length and breadth of the coun­try with trav­el­ling troupes of play­ers.
Thanks to this, I’ve had the chance to meet all classes of chefs, who have been reveal­ing the secrets of their pro­fes­sion to me.

I imag­ine that when you were trav­el­ling with Imanol Arias and the rest of the team all over the coun­try to reveal the typ­i­cal gas­tron­omy of each region, you came across new and tan­ta­lis­ing sur­prises. If you had to choose one, which would you high­light?

The biggest sur­prise was to see how the pas­sage of knowl­edge from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion is so con­sol­i­dated and the fact that the influ­ence of the major inter­na­tional kitchens have already taken hold in Span­ish cui­sine. I would also under­line the strength of con­trasts exis­tent in Navarre. Specif­i­cally, between the green Selva de Irati and the desert of Bár­de­nas Reales.

I’m not sure whether in Navarre or some­where else, but I bet you came across some dish or other which because of its obscu­rity, or dif­fi­cult prepa­ra­tion or pro­duc­tion, does not have a guar­an­teed future ahead of it. Which dish to you think should be sal­vaged from obliv­ion for its gas­tro­nomic qual­i­ties?

In this case, I would choose the cod tripe and the fil­loas de san­gre (blood crepes).

On your TV pro­gramme, when you vis­ited Jaén some of the province’s pro­duc­ers did not fully iden­tify with the dated image of the oil indus­try in the province that was con­veyed. What is your real per­cep­tion of olive oil from Jaén in the cur­rent times?

The first thing you learn when you start to make a TV pro­gramme is that you can’t always please every­one. Apart from offer­ing Jaén all of my affec­tion and recog­nis­ing its efforts, I would humbly rec­om­mend they invest more in R + D and less in the bulk pro­duc­tion of cer­tain oils which, under the man­tle of extra vir­gin olive oil, do not actu­ally reach the min­i­mum organolep­tic qual­ity required. This is a rec­om­men­da­tion I would make to myself as well, as a Spaniard, in my field of work.

Chang­ing scene and trav­el­ling to the Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia, you recently took on the role of ambas­sador for the thou­sand-year-old olive trees of the region, located between the bor­ders of Aragon, Valen­cia and Cat­alo­nia. What does your role con­sist of specif­i­cally?

It con­sists of receiv­ing all of the strength and his­tory of these thou­sand-year-old olive trees and, there­fore, pro­mot­ing that unique beauty wher­ever I go.

What would you high­light about these majes­tic trees, their envi­ron­ment and the oil they pro­duce?

Regard­ing the trees and their set­ting, I would empha­sise the wrin­kles that mark the olive grove which remind us that his­tory is the end result of human suf­fer­ing. Regard­ing the oil, I would focus on its purity and Mediter­ranean aroma.

Do you use these or other olive oils in your kitchen? How do you use it in your every­day life?

Yes of course. Every day I have toast with oil for break­fast, and some­times I repeat the same as a snack. I almost always use oil from the Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia for this.

At present, it seems that if the Span­ish tor­tilla is not decon­structed” or if the ice-cream we have for dessert does not taste like black pud­ding from Bur­gos and brim with liq­uid nitro­gen, then gas­tron­omy can­not awe us… Do you agree with this ever-more fre­quent per­cep­tion? Is the tra­di­tional, every­day cui­sine at risk?

I have the soul of a child and have always adored sur­prises. There is as much risk in fly­ing too high as there is in hold­ing too tightly to tra­di­tion.

In your blog, I read that the episode of your TV pro­gramme ded­i­cated to Madrid regional cui­sine was one of the most com­plex to make. In real­ity, many believe that this region has lit­tle to offer apart from its tra­di­tional stew or offal. As a native of Madrid, how would you describe the cook­ing of your home­town? Does it use suf­fi­ciently high qual­ity raw mate­ri­als to com­pete with other regions?

Madrid, since it is the most obvi­ous –and unfair- image of cen­tral­ism, runs the risk of tak­ing on the role of becom­ing solely a great cen­tral mar­ket. Madrid is more than just a city with an air­port. It is an autonomous region replete with dis­tricts that pro­duce excel­lence.

Know­ing that we are a mag­a­zine that spe­cialises in olive oil and gas­tron­omy, what recipe would you sur­prise the OLIVARAMA team with if you had to arrange a din­ner party?

I would make some cod fil­lets cooked at a low tem­per­a­ture and I would place a bot­tle of olive oil from the Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia in the cen­tre of the table. A guar­an­teed hit!

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

An extra vir­gin: Rincón de la Sub­bética, by Priego de Cór­doba.
An olive vari­etal: Farga.
An olive grove land­scape: Ter­ri­to­rio de Sénia.
A restau­rant that takes a spe­cial inter­est in olive oil: His­pania (Arenys de Mar, Barcelona).
A dish with extra vir­gin olive oil: Sum­mer toma­toes.
A wish for olive oil: Pres­ence in the world.

Juan Echanove

Born in Madrid on 1 April 1961, Juan Echanove is a renowned film, the­atre and tele­vi­sion actor, as well as a proven gas­tron­o­mist. Proof of this lies in his nom­i­na­tion this year as an Aca­d­e­mic of the Span­ish Royal Gas­tron­omy Acad­emy and his dis­tinc­tion with the award, Pre­mio Conde de los Andes 2011, which he received in July from this same entity together with the Cofradía de la Buena Mesa for his role as the best artis­tic cre­ator in the field of gas­tron­omy.

In the­atre he has shone for his roles in El Cerdo, by José Luis Cas­tro; Alrede­dor de Borges, by Jorge Eines; Como canta una ciu­dad de noviem­bre a noviem­bre, by Lluis Pasqual; El Ver­dugo, by Luis Olmos; Plataforma, by Cal­ixto Bieito; or Desa­pare­cer which, also directed by Bieito, was played in both Spain and abroad.

He has par­tic­i­pated in over 30 films, under the direc­tion of some of the most pres­ti­gious Span­ish direc­tors. To men­tion but a few, he has worked on Tiempo de silen­cio, by Vicente Aranda; Div­inas pal­abras and Siem­pre hay un camino a la derecha, by José Luis Gar­cía Sánchez; Bajarse al moro, by Fer­nando Colomo; Madre Gilda, by Fran­cisco Regueiro; Mi her­mano del alma, by Mar­i­ano Bar­roso; La flor de mi secreto, by Pedro Almod­ó­var; Sus ojos se cer­raron, by Jaime Chá­varri; and Ala­triste, by Agustín Díaz Yanes.

He has also worked on a num­ber of hit TV series, such as Turno de ofi­cio, by Anto­nio Mer­cero, Manolo Matji and Echanove him­self; Chi­cas de hoy en día, by Fer­nando Colomo; Her­manos de leche, by Car­los Ser­rano; Pepa y Pepe, by Manuel Iborra and Un país para comérselo, together with Imanol Arias. At present, he is work­ing on Cuén­tame, by Tito Fer­nán­dez, Agustín Crespi and Anto­nio Cano.

In the course of his career, Juan has received numer­ous awards, such as the Span­ish Goya for Best Actor and Best Sup­port­ing Actor, the Sil­ver Shell at the San Sebas­t­ian Film Fes­ti­val, var­i­ous Fotogra­mas de Plata awards, the Van­ity Best New Artist Award, var­i­ous MAX awards, the Pre­mio Valle Inclán de las Artes Escéni­cas or the Her­ald Angel Award at the Edin­burgh Fes­ti­val, among many, many more.

Related News