Chef Manuel Bentabol exchanged his studies of Dentistry by the stove. After passing through the School of Hospitality of Seville, he moved to San Sebastián to practice in the kitchen of Arzak under the tutelage of Juan Mari and Elena. This period allowed him to get his first contract at El Celler de Can Roca, with the luck of being able to travel to Singapore with the Roca brothers. Subsequently, Bentabol practiced at the Alicia Foundation to return later to Seville, to the Tribeca restaurant, where he continues to cook today.
This young man from Malaga presents himself at the regional final’ Iberian and Mediterranean Countries’ of S.Pellegrino Young Chef pulling his roots. The Viña AB 2019 Soup is a very personal version of the classic Malaga recipe. “It has always been cooked in my family and is very special to me,” says the cook. “The recipe I have followed is the one my grandmother used to write, written in her handwriting,” he says.
This is the first time you have appeared in this contest, how did you discover it, and what motivated you to participate?
The truth is that I had ever heard about the contest, but I didn’t know him at all. One day, Pedro Giménez, my boss and mentor, proposed that I introduce myself and I didn’t doubt it, I knew I had to.
We had a little time against it, but still, I did not lower my arms and put all the effort possible to try to get a beautiful and exciting result with a recipe at the height of the contest and identify with the method as much as possible. For me, it is a privilege to be among the chosen ones and to have come here and, above all, that it is with this recipe, such a Malaga dish and that means so much to me. My grandmother cooked it a lot.
Your initial interest was medicine, how did you switch to the kitchen?
Indeed, when I finished school, I began to study dentistry, but little by little, I realized that it was not my thing. I was not motivated by what I was doing, and I was not excited, I was lost. At the end of the third year of my career, I decided to give my life a total turn. From the first moment I stepped in a kitchen, I knew that this life was for me. For the first time, something excited me and motivated me. I found my way, and I was clear. And this is when I started at the School of Hospitality in Seville.
And how did you get to the Arzak restaurant, one of the best in the world?
Getting to Arzak was an accumulation of circumstances. I guess when you give your all and put all your ambition for something, only good things can come. It was one of those times when you have to be in the right place at the right time. The truth is that at the beginning, it was not easy, starting at a three-star Michelin restaurant; after all, it was practically the first professional kitchen I was on. In spite of everything, it went very well. It was a great experience in which I learned a lot from cooking and also from life.
Then you went through El Celler de Can Roca, Alicia Foundation and now in Tribeca, in Seville.
Thanks to the recommendation of Juan Mari and Elena, I was able to go to another temple of world cuisine, the Celler de Can Roca. I was hired and, in addition to learning and daily work, I was lucky to go to Singapore to give an event with the Roca brothers. In short, another incredible experience, every day I learned something new, everything was measured. Even the smallest detail was taken into account, the perfection of perfection.
Then came the opportunity to go to the Alicia Foundation, a somewhat different experience a day from a kitchen day, but it was also exciting. I could see that the kitchen goes beyond fires and commands, investigating and discovering how food can become something else, how they can improve people’s lives and how science and art come together in the kitchen.
And back to Seville, to the Tribeca Restaurant, where I am today and where the best product and tradition go hand in hand. The result is a subtle, delicate, and excellent cuisine. For me, it is a luxury to have learned and to continue learning so much here. It is good luck to work with such a product.
You will bet on a recipe from your land …
Yes, the Viña AB soup, a classic recipe from Malaga, which is sadly being lost. Very from my house, very from my childhood. My grandmother, a lover of good food and a magnificent cook, did it a lot when she was little. I have been inspired by his recipe, written in his handwriting. It is an honor and a privilege to present such a method from my land and that it means so much to my family and me in a contest of such magnitude.
The original recipe is a fish broth emulsified with mayonnaise, which has been a gazpacho. In this case, peas, cooked potato, shrimp, clams, and hake are added to this soup. Finally, a trickle of a piled wine, the Viña AB wine. Hence the name. My grandmother gave her personal touch, adding Iberian ham taquitos.
How will you present it to the demanding jury of this edition?
In my version, I add a shrimp powder at the base of the dish. Then, I put some points of sherry vinegar mayonnaise and others of pea emulsion, accompanied by some cubes of purple potato. Then, I put some nettle rocks, on which I lay, on the one hand, a steamed clam that carries a thin layer of Iberian ham bacon; and on the other side, a hake cococha confit in Iberian ham oil. Next, I add a few strokes of an air of the Viña AB wine and, finally, a fish broth infused with sodium.