Meet the chef: Jordi Gimeno talks about Gasztrip, Catalan cuisine and much more
Barcelona-based Chef Jordi Gimeno brings with him 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry with culinary trips around Europe, America and Asia.
During this long voyage he has worked in Michelin starred restaurants like the Fonda Xesc in Gombrén, Catalonia, and Palau Reial of Alghero, in Sardinia.
In 2012 Chef Gimeno conceived the idea of ‘Gasztrip’ under which he organizes Spanish and Catalan Food Festivals at hotels to give the guests a personalised experience of the exotic spread from the Mediterranean regions.
Thus he has held food promotions in countries like India, Tunisia, Hungary, Oman, Bahrain, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and more, and has worked with almost all the prominent hotel chains. The festivals always include”on-site” food preparation, which allows interaction between guests and the chef.
He has also penned an award winning science fiction novel, ‘El somriure d’un eco’ (The smile of an echo).
During his recent visit to New Delhi, I caught up with him as he was all charged up to present Catalan Cuisine at a smart address in Lutyen’s Delhi – ‘Sevilla’ at The Claridges Hotel.
The varied coastal cuisine at Sevilla that draws its influences from Romania, Morocco, Italy and its Moorish past acquired a new flourish with authentic Catalan fare by him.
Here he speaks about his region’s exclusive ‘Sea and Mountain gastronomy’, his philosophy of cooking and a lot more:
Tell us about your impressions of Delhi’s food scene.
Great and amazing. I’m visiting India since 2000 every two to three years and it’s always growing and getting exciting.
I conceived the idea of Gasztrip to give the discerning diner an authentic experience of the rich cuisine of Spain. Curating the special menu for Sevilla has been a delight and the appreciation and feedback during my interactive sessions with the visitors has been very enriching. I look forward to coming back soon with another repertoire for the lovers of fine food.
A dish from Delhi that you’d like to introduce in Catalonia…?
All the vegetarian choices, we have a lot to learn from you about that.
Which Indian dish is your favourite ?
Everything that is done in the tandoor.
What do you like most about India?
The people, of course, they are the real treasure of India.
What is your cooking philosophy?
Be honest and enjoy. A synergy of tradition and modernity. Share and make others happy with your food.
Which is your favourite cuisine ?
Catalan cuisine, of course where I’m coming from.
Tell us about the cuisine of Catalonia, what makes it different from its other Spanish counterparts?
Catalan cuisine is vast and varies from place to place within the region. Hence, you will find the same dish varying in taste and flavour depending on the area. The Pyrenees Mountains (between France and Spain) are well known for roasted meat and stews, while the Catalan coast is proud of its fish and seafood preparations.
Catalan cuisine stands out for its Sea and Mountain gastronomy. It comprises of special dishes that combine meat and seafood in one dish. We use wine as an important ingredient in many Catalan dishes as it brings out the natural flavours of meat as well as seafood.
Also ‘Picada’ is very significant for our Catalan cooking. It is like a magic powder, made with roasted garlic, bread, parsley, almonds and hazelnuts; we add it to get fantastic taste and thickness for stews. It originates from our traditional cuisine and chefs from across the world seem to have become very fond of it.
You have been a Professor of Catalan language and culture at University of Szeged, Hungary, and now a chef, so how has the journey been ?
Actually I was a Professor only for 5 years, my job before and after has been that of a Chef. I loved that stint as I am an explorer of new fields, new paths and new ventures!!
Did you enjoy more as a Professor or now as a Chef?
More as a chef, of course, but teaching was amazing as well.
What advice do you give amateur chefs?
Be honest, be yourself and make the guest enjoy with your creative preparations.
Tell us about the Book you have written?
It’s a sci-fi novel. Another one of my passions!!
Tell us about your inspiration for cooking? From where do you get inspiration?
My inspiration comes from a mix of traditions I experience and all my trips around the world.
Tell us about your idol in life?
I have too many idols in life, impossible to choose one.
Lessons learnt in the kitchen?
Be strong, never give up, and take your time for everything.
How do you like to de-stress?
Reading a book or writing.
What is your dream?
To live and work next to a small lake, have a small restaurant next to with no more than 10 tables, serving simple delicious food.
Last meal on earth, what would you choose?
I would choose a whole “Patanegra” cured in salt ham leg, I would cut very thin slices of it and I would eat it with “pa ambtomàquet” ( typical fare from Catalonia, slices of bread with garlic, tomato and extra virgin olive oil).