Flash-grilled: Javier Duarte

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Seabird head chef Javier Duarte

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant, Fine dining

Former Barrafina head chef Javier Duarte recently took over the stoves at Seabird, the swanky hotel restaurant located on the 14th floor of The Hoxton in London's Southwark.

What was your first industry job?
It was during the summer of 2004. I was 16 years old and I was a KP in a pub near Barcelona. My cousin was the owner of the pub and he offered me the job to work for him. That was my first experience of a professional kitchen and I have not stopped since.

If you were not in kitchens, what would you do?
I always wanted to become an architect. The precision of designing and the creativity that was required always fascinated me. I guess becoming a chef was another form of architecture.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
I have an admiration for my former teacher at the cooking school in Barcelona, Sergi Cocera. He taught me that the key to becoming a great chef was to master the basic fundamentals of traditional cooking techniques and methods and that only once the basics are mastered can you take on any concept, style and experiment as much as you want. This required a lot of patience, but thanks to Sergi, I persevered. 

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Shortcuts and laziness. Cooking is a labour of love and requires positivity, passion, and determination. 

What is the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
“I can taste the seafood too much in the seafood risotto”.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Traditional techniques with new flavours and colourful plating.

What is the worst review you have ever had?
​It is early days for me at Seabird. For the moment, the feedback has been very positive. 

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without? 
My knives and the thermomix. 

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Spaghetti bolognese.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Tasting menu. I like to try a wide range from the menu and understand the chef’s cooking philosophy.

What is the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
That is a tough question! El Cellar de Can Roca and Carme Ruscalleda pop-up at the Monopole in Monaco come to mind immediately. However, if I had to choose, I would say La Dame De Pic at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity. The food was extraordinary. I loved every course, from the amuse-bouche to the puddings and the service was impeccable. 

Favourite fast food joint?
Wagamama. I always order the chicken katsu curry.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. I admire them as people both on and off the court. 

What is your earliest food memory?
My grandma cooking for the whole family. She would spend all day cooking for us, and I remember asking her lots of questions about what she was doing. I remember helping her frying chips in an old copper pot. She used to make cod with Sanfaina sauce, a traditional dish from the Catalan cuisine.

Tipple of choice?
I am a big fan of gin and tonic. A year ago, I discovered Silent Pool gin from a distillery in Guildford, Surrey. 

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry? 
Learn as much as you can and work hard to be better every day. Unlock your strengths and admit your weaknesses.

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles, Chef

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