Flash-grilled: Mikel López de Viñaspre

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

 Mikel López de Viñaspre co-founder and executive chef of the Sagardi Group of Basque restaurants

Related tags: Sagardi, Mikel López de Viñaspre, Restaurant, Spanish cuisine

The co-founder and executive chef of the Sagardi Group of Basque restaurants on learning from his grandmother, the need for humility and a dislike of molecular gastronomy.

What was your first industry job?
My first job in hospitality was in a Zapiain sagardotegi, a type of cider house found in the Basque Country which is considered a temple for Basque txuleton. Years later, it became the very place that I used to train my Sagardi Basque Country chefs on the art of grilling.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I studied geography and history at the University of Barcelona specialising in American and African History because I love travelling and enjoy experiencing different cultures, so I´d probably say something related to that.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Our grandmothers that have protected the traditional Basque dishes with love and sensitivity. We learned not to fuss with ingredients, texture is everything and flavours are pure.

What's your pet hate in the kitchen?
Lack of cleanliness and poor hygiene.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
There are many, but most recently I had a customer tell me “these tomatoes have too much flavour!” in a negative sense. Maybe he wasn’t accustomed to the good ones.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
High quality ingredients, fire, sensitivity and Basque culture. 

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Always the last bad one, as we didn’t achieve our goal of making them happy.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Humility, patience and to have a consistent goal.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A good knife.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Marmitako, which is a Basque fisherman’s hearty boat stew during the summer season. It was originally cooked on fishing boats with the ingredients they had while catching white bonito fish. The recipe is simple but rich with fish, potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers (fresh and dry) and some tomatoes.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Always a la carte; it is without restrictions and gives guests the freedom to choose themselves.

What's your favourite fast food joint?
A pintxos bar: traditional, quality ingredients in small bite sizes, ready to eat there and then.

What's the most overrated food?
Molecular gastronomy.

What’s your earliest food memory?
Cooking and eating hake’s kokotxas with my father and brother in the txoko (Basque gastronomic society).

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
Every time I sit down in a humble fish grill restaurant on the Basque coast … you want to die of pleasure!!

Related topics: Chef, People, Profiles

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