Chef Andres is a professional chef with over 2 years of experience working in some of Bilbao’s top restaurants. Growing up in the city of Jakarta (his hometown) provided him with opportunities to learn about unique culinary settings.
Find out more about our Chef of the Month.
- When & Why did you decide to become a chef?
My mother was and still is an amazing cook, she would always try to surprise us with different dishes and cakes. I would usually help her with some of the steps and always enjoyed being in the kitchen at a very young age. Being a hyperactive kid, I couldn’t see myself working in an office in front of a computer all day, I had to find a job that is dynamic and provides an adrenaline rush as well as the freedom of being creative. When I was 12, my father was a partner in the opening of a Spanish restaurant in Jakarta, that is where I would have my first experiences in a real kitchen helping out during weekends.
- Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?
I studied in the Basque Culinary Centre of San Sebastian where I graduated with a degree in Gastronomy and culinary arts with a major in Avant-garde cuisine.
- Where and how were you trained?
I had the opportunity to apply what I had learnt during my four years of university into the “real world” in a restaurant. My first internship was in La Vina del Ensanche, one of the most famous restaurants in Bilbao. My second experience was in a 1 Michelin star restaurant in the centre of Bilbao, Restaurante Zarate, known for its exquisite fish. The next year, with the Covid-19 pandemic I was forced to stay in Spain and had the opportunity of working in Restaurante Al Margen, which at the time was a small restaurant, with a tight knit team. There I learnt how important it was to be organised, how to multitask and deliver quality food in a short space of time.
In the final year of my degree, you are required to complete a thesis, in my case, I had the chance to work with Euskal Museo or Basque Museum, located in Bilbao’s Old Town. They had planned to restructure the museum and include a space in which they wanted to include a gastronomic experience. My role was to design the menu and the experience in relation to the Basque Country’s traditions.
- What is your signature dish? What do people love about it
Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style fried rice) is a dish I have always identified as my comfort food since a very young age. Living in Jakarta, the streetfood culture is very important as many people don’t have a kitchen. Coming back to Europe, I love making this dish and surprising anyone. It’s usually done with a day old rice, sweet soy sauce, soy sauce, shallots, garlic, pulled chicken and eggs. A very simple and versatile recipe that you can use with anything lying in your fridge.
- Name the three kitchen tools you can’t do without?
In my opinion, the most important kitchen tool is a good sharp knife, which inspires you with confidence when you hold it tightly, because a dull knife is the worst thing you can hand a chef.
My second most important kitchen tool would be a sauté pan, ideally non-stick.
The last kitchen tool that I can’t do without is an oven. During my years of studying, I lived in a student residence as well as a small house where an oven wasn’t available. At first, I thought it was going to be fine and that I could cook without any problem, but as time went by, I realised how much I would use the oven and how important it is especially if you are cooking for many people.
- Which chefs do you follow on social media (or admire their work and career in general)? Explain why.
I follow loads of them to be honest. But every time I come across content from Restaurant Racine’s chef Kazuyuki Tanaka, I’m always mesmerized by the flavours alongside the level of detail and precision of all of his dishes.
- What is the most stressful situation you have had while cooking professionally?
Probably when I was working in a small kitchen where I was responsible for the starters, desserts as well as dishwashing. There would be a point in the service where you would need to organise yourself well so that you can send out every dish the way it’s supposed to be sent and putting the clean dishes in it’s place.
- What do you do to stay current on new trends? Describe two or three of the most interesting industry trends.
Thanks to the impact social media has had on gastronomy, nowadays you can always find content that is trending by scrolling through with your mobile phone. I enjoy reading through Noma Projects posts as they always have very interesting discoveries to share which can inspire other chefs and foodies. Coming from Indonesia I’ve always loved tempeh which is a staple food made from fermented soybeans inoculated with Rhizpus mold. But the way different Michelin star restaurant apply this mold is fascinating, doing tempeh with other ingredients resulting in different flavour profiles and textures.
For me the most important trend that has to continue to go viral is sustainable cooking. Knowing what is seasonal, cooking with local ingredients and being conscious about what you are feeding yourself with and limiting carbon emissions is the key to being able to thrive on this planet for many more years.
- How do you describe your overall cooking philosophy?
I wouldn’t say I have a defined cooking philosophy; I try to learn everyday and never close any opportunities. Personally, I’m fonder of classic cooking rather than molecular cuisine. As a chef/cook you need to be open to all cultures because the more you open yourself up the more flavours and techniques you can apply to your kitchen.
- What is an example of a springtime menu you would prepare?
I would go for a starter around peas with a puree of asparagus stalks, grilled asparagus tips and a vegetable dashi broth. For a main I would have to go with a slow roasted pork Butt or neck, with sauteed fennel and grilled endives on one side topped with pork jus. For dessert, I would opt for a simple but delicious apple and rhubarb tarte Tatin.
I hope you will enjoy it!