Flash-grilled: Raul Diaz

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: Steven Joyce
Image credit: Steven Joyce

Related tags: Sommelier

Sommelier Raul Diaz, whose new book Wine & Recipes was published last year, on his favourite food and drink pairing, why steak can be overrated, and being an amateur musician.

What was your first industry job?
A boutique hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina called BoBo. I worked as a Sommelier in this posh little hotel that had only seven rooms. The atmosphere was great - I was part of a young team and learned a lot about wine and food very quickly.

If you weren’t in hospitality, what would you do?
Musician. Actually, I’ve been a very lucky amateur musician that had the chance to play lots of gigs during my life. 

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Steven Spurrier is a real gentleman in the wine industry. He’s always been such a big inspiration for me. I’m so happy that he wrote the foreword of my book alongside Michel Roux Jr.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Big ego. I don’t like arrogant people if you are part of a team. 

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
This is a 100% real story. A guest ordered a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 and then asked me: "Can you bring a bottle of Coca Cola, please? I like to mix it with my wine."

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Mediterranean soul with Chilean roots, simple and delicious. 

What’s the worst review/toughest critique you’ve ever had?
Normally, when you serve wine you don’t have big issues if you are on time with the service and you know what you are doing.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A proper knife. It’s the best tool for me when you need to prepare simple recipes in a short period of time.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Chilean seabass ceviche with mango and avocado, paired with a beautiful bottle of German riesling.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Tasting menu as long as it is fun and exciting.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
A casual lunch - fresh fish, grilled meat, beans, salads, tortillas, etc -  in a very humble eatery in Cozumel, Mexico. The flavours of those dishes were so incredible. Proper honest food. I was eating surrounded by workers in a large outside area full of trees. Great memory.

Most overrated food?
Steak or expensive meat in a restaurant. I always prefer a delicious piece of meat from a Parrilla (grill) restaurant. 

What’s your earliest food memory?
Smelling and then eating delicious arepas filled with chicken and avocado in Venezuela. My grandma used to prepare them for us. They were so tasty!

Tipple of choice?
Top quality German riesling. 

Favourite food and drink pairing?
Bottle of pinot noir from Burgundy with saganaki - fried feta cheese with sesame seeds and honey. This is one of the top pairings from my book 'Wines and Recipes'.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
I would recommend studying a lot about wine, food and service first. Get some knowledge to start and don’t improvise. Then, get lots of practical experience. Try to work in good places where you can learn from good mentors and colleagues. Also, it’s very important to know how to manage the pressure of the service. Don’t hide from it!

Raul Diaz’s new book Wines & Recipes is out now. To find out more, click here​.

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