One day inside our chef’s creative process

With an very unusual 2020 coming to an end, there are other projects that are just starting. During the past few weeks of confinement and restrictions, including the closure of restaurants, David Marsal – Lumine’s director of gastronomy – has not stopped for a moment. David has been designing the gastronomic offer of the resort for next year and we desided to join him in this exciting process, and learn how the delightful dishes that can be tasted at the clubhouses or on the shores of the Mediterranean at the Beach Club come to fruition.

The day begins with a visit to one of David’s favorite suppliers in the heart of the fishing village of Cambrils where, after greeting the staff, David explains what kind of product he is looking for:

 

 

We look for a product that is as fresh as possible.

For example, on the Costa Dorada you can find all the sand crab or all the whitebait necessary to prepare excellent broths and fish bases. You can also find excellent rockfish. I personally love rockfish, such as red mullet, which is a fantastic fish to prepare because of the intensity of its flavor. Its meat acquires an intense seafood flavor because it is precisely what it eats, the prawns, the crabs that are in the bottom of the sea and that flavour and texture is transmitted to the meat. And us, chefs, with a minimal preparation, can offer a final product that has that intensity and flavor. 

The importance of freshness in a fish is essential for the chef, who offers a tip on when it comes to selecting the freshest fish at the market.

The first thing you have to do is look it in the eye. Check if the eyes are bright and thick, they are not dry,  and make sure they don’t have a white inner point (as that means that it has been stored cooler than it should). Then the scales, gills and fins have to be fresh, check that they are not dry, that the exterior isn’t dry. With seafood it’s exactly the same, it must be bright and smooth. Those are symptoms of freshness and quality.

 

 

Once the best pieces have been selected, David says farewell to the manager, with whom he maintains a very close professional relationship. To be able to prepare a varied and high-quality menu, a good relationship with the best suppliers in the area is crucial.

The importance of the proximity in supliers is essential. It’s the one of the keys to achieve excellence in gastronomy. It is absolutely necessary to have the supplier close by to react to product changes during the seasons. This means, for example, that if a farmer works a product with great care the restaurateurs will benefit from this and at the same time contribute to boost the local economy. It is not the same to have to call Cádiz to get some sea nettles as to have them delivered from a fisherman from the Serrallo, Tarragona’s fishing port. And that gives you continuity for a lifetime. Cooks have often survived thanks to local suppliers who offer us products that we didn’t know. That makes gastronomy greater.

As we go to the Mercat del Camp in search of fruits and vegetables, David continues explaining the importance of planning in gastronomy.

Everything has a planning process , which is key to have a menu with the best product in the area, a product with which we can surprise our guests with. Then we start to do some tests with that same product, transforming it into the dishes, using different types of cooking techniques and, of course, the final visual presentation.

Many times, you start with the product because you go to the market to see what you have in the season and from there you start working on it. But sometimes, you find yourself with a lot of very interesting product, but that does not fit what you want to offer your customers. Then we work with the team on the elaborations until we reach a finished and satisfactory dish. But that is still only part of the process. I’m always pushing our dishes a little further. I will never be completely happy, no matter how much the clients congratulate me, because wewill try to give it one more spin. In the first three or four weeks a menu will always change, with the same product and the same presentation, but there will be certain things that will change.

Once in the market, David goes straight to his trusted market stand where he knows that he will find what he is looking for.

We seek the best quality in fruits and vegetables, the temporality of the product is essential, because it is when they are at their best, in their optimal state of maturation.

After wandering around boxes of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, David inspects some impressive chanterelles as he continues to praise the benefits of the economy of proximity.

And not only the quality is improved. This year, for example, it’s a very good mushroom year because we have an outside temperature that does not drop below eighteen, nineteen degrees. We had rain from time to time, which causes a lot of humidity in the subsoil and there are a lot of mushrooms as a result.

Finally, the chef explains to us how technique and knowledge of the product work together to create incredible dishes.

Nowadays what we have to do is to continue to incorporate new techniques to give an evolution to the dishes. I love spoon dishes, for example. The techniques of our mothers and grandmothers have to still be applied because for a certain product, it is how it should be done, but there is always room for improvement and innovation. It is not the same to eat a smooth vegetable with the right cooking point, as to eat it the way my grandmother cooked it, that would melt in your mouth.

 

With a smile on his face, David admits that he is enjoying this process enormously as it has allowed him to rediscovered the cuisine of the Costa Dorada.

Well, the quality of the product here is still to be exploited. What I have found is that I have rediscovered ingredients from of my childhood, my day-to-day life at home back then. And I have found it thanks to the Mediterranen sea, to its fishmongers, because when I was in Madrid, I couldn’t find that. It is all about that precise product, something very exclusive, something that is available in very little quantities and therefore remains in small circle. This has brought back that charm to my kitchen. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t stopped making fish broth at home. I buy only handfuls of products and I do it with great affection, with a romesco base and the local  recipes from Tarragona. And with that base I make perfect soups that my girl from Madrid falls in love with. And the galleys, the whitebait, the tiny monkfish… those things. In my house, when I was a child, It was like this every week because my father had a fisherman friend who gave him fresh fish every day. When I make those soups I tell myself: I would love to bring this to Lumine. But there are times when it can’t be, or yes, we’ll see…