Fernando Martínez Tabernero
AS MEATY AS IT GETS. 越饕餮越有料.
I met Fernando, head chef at one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing, Migas, right after he hosted “El Asador”, new Saturday brunch, inspired by the traditional Spanish charcoal oven meat feast. (It already sounds yummy, doesn’t it?).
Fernando has just joined the coolest restaurant team in Beijing and works together with executive chef Aintor (whom I interviewed here) after he promised himself he would not be working in Spanish restaurants anymore. I guess you have to be flexible in life! With a full belly and lots of Codorniu Cava running in my veins, we had a lovely chat about food, food and even more food.
You wanted to be away from the Spanish community for a while. Then why join Migas, Spanish restaurant with almost 100% of Spanish staff?
Well, in general in life I like to be challenged – Spanish cousin is in my roots and I feel comfortable with its ingredients and cooking style. This is why I was looking for something totally different, wilder in a way. But then I realised Migas’ kitchen is actually a laboratory for experimentation – we work with new ingredients all the time and it’s perfect to keep my creativity in exercise. Moreover, also from a PR point of view, we always create new events where food is the main protagonist but also music, movies, even dance are involved. Even if Migas is a very established restaurant, we are happy to push our boundaries and have people coming for different happenings every single time!
呃，总体来说，在生活中我喜欢被挑战 －－西班牙菜是我的根，我对它的食材和烹饪方式如鱼得水。这就是为什么我在找寻一些完全不同的东西，可以说更奔放狂野的东西。然而随后我意识到，Migas的厨房其实是个实验室 －－我们一直不断地尝试新元素，这跟我创造力的实践可以完美结合。而且，从公关的角度来看，我们一直在举办新的活动，食物永远是主角，但结合了很多音乐，电影，甚至跳舞的元素在里面。尽管Migas已经是家有名的餐厅，我们仍然乐意去挑战自我，让大家每次来都能体验到新鲜感和新事物！
You were working in Michelin-starred restaurants before. How is it to be working in such a different environment right now?
Ah! It’s completely different – and so much more fun! At very established Michelin-starred restaurants it’s difficult to break rules – they have a winning formula and they are not willing to change it. Also the relationship with customers is pretty cold – as a chef you barely get to see them. Migas instead is a young pop restaurant where we only serve the best ingredients and where we care about our customers. The relationship with guests is a crucial part of my job now – I’m a very shy person so it’s sometimes hard for me to be out of my comfort zone. But I’m happy I’m actually getting better at it every single day!
啊！感觉完全不同 －－而且有趣太多了！在久负盛名的米其林餐厅里很难打破常规 －－它们有固定的成功模式并且不乐意去改变。跟客人的关系也比较冷淡 －－作为厨师你很难见到客人。然而Migas是一家年轻时尚的餐厅，在这里我们提供最优质的食材，而且我们关心客人。跟客人的关系是我工作非常重要的一部分 －－我是个害羞的人，所以有时从我的舒适区迈出脚步并不容易。但是值得高兴的是，我每天都在进步变得更好！
Where did you learn to cook?
80% of young chefs learn to cook at schools. But for me it was completely different. Only after 6 years spent in a restaurant kitchen in Spain to pay my rent, I realised cooking was my passion. I learnt everything I know by doing, by getting my hands dirty, by looking at more experienced chefs. And I keep learning every single day – this is an extremely exciting aspect of my job.
What if you need to cook an ingredient you’ve never used before?
I love the moment when new challenges come! I feel I need to prove myself and be creative! I lock myself in the kitchen and start experimenting. I use different pans, oven, burner, anything around me. I don’t come out until I’ve found a way to bring out the flavour of the ingredient in the best way possible. Then I keep working on that recipe until it’s perfect: cooking, presentation, sides. Only then we add it to the menu and we start getting feedback from our guests. And then it’s time to start working with a new ingredient!
As a chef, how important is your personality?
As in every single job, it’s extremely important. And I admire and appreciate those chefs who are able to instil their personality in every single dish they cook. Personally, I always put something very Spanish in all my recipes – these are my roots and I can never forget them. At the same time I like to use new ingredients and unconventional cooking ways. The mix of these two elements – innovation & tradition – perfectly defines my style and, somehow, my personality.
性格对每一份工作都无比重要。我崇拜并欣赏那些能把自己的个性融入到菜品中的厨师。从我自己的角度来说，我总是把西班牙元素带进我的菜谱里 －－这是我永远无法忘记的根。同时我也喜欢尝试新的食材和不因循守旧的烹饪方式。这两种元素混合在一起 －－创新和传统 －－完美了诠释了我的风格，从某种程度上来说，我的性格。
What is the challenge you are facing right now?
Mh. I’ve always found it extremely hard to trust my staff. Especially now that I’ve just joined a new team. But as a leader I perfectly know that this is crucial. Trust is the secret for a very harmonious kitchen team and, for me, to a happy and successful life, away from stress and pressure. I’m working on it.
What’s your wildest dream?
Definitely open my own place – but not in China. Probably in the US, where my wife is from. It doesn’t need to be fancy or big or right in the coolest place in town. I just care about the quality of the food and the whole experience. But I still need to work hard to get there – need to build my seniority. What scares me the most is the management of the dining room, marketing, HR, admin… For now I’ll just keep focusing on food!
那肯定是开一家我自己的店 －－但不是在中国。或许在美国，我妻子来自那里。它不一定奢华或占地很大或在市中心最潮的地点。我只关心食物的质量和整个体验。但我仍然需要为此而努力工作 －－我需要建立自己的资历。最让我恐慌的是餐厅的管理，市场营销，公关，人事，行政等等。现在我只需要专心于食物！
Fernando is shy and reserved – but he knows what he wants and he is well determined to get there. One meaty brunch at a time.
By the way, if you are in Beijing and you haven’t yet, then you should definitely go and try their brunch. Food stations with bread, soups, vegetables and plenty of tortillas options and yummy desserts (my favourite? A chocolate brownie to die for!). And the best part is these carts serving slow-cooked meat to serve each table. See you there next weekend?!
For the brunch at Migas I was delighted to wear:
Leather jacket皮夹克: Zara
Red skirt红裙子: Cos
Striped tee条纹T恤: Zara
Bracelets手镯: Angela Caputi
Bag手包: Louis Vuitton
Pictures # 1,2 were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.
For all the other pictures special thanks to Migas.
Chinese translation by Vivian Zhou.