Michelin star Chef Rubén Arnanz from Villena Restaurant in Segovia Spain, is in town this week for the second installment of the “Dressed Up 2016” Michelin Dining Experience, a four-month long event happening at the Le Royal Méridien Shanghai. Throughout the week, he’ll be hosting masterclasses, dinners, galas and brunches. We caught up with him over the weekend for a quick chat.
Hi Chef Arnanz. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. First off, how did you get started in the restaurant trade?
I first stepped into the hospitality industry as a waiter, waiting on tables at small local restaurants while studying Fine Arts. As I realized my passion and interest in cooking, I started to observe and to learn how to cook as a real chef. In my perspective, each plate, each dish should be a work of art. I enjoy infusing artistic concept into my dishes, serving to diners who appreciate what they are served. After a couple of years imbibing typical regional stews and roasts, I decided to make my way in Madrid and continue exploring.
For those of us less informed, please tell us something we should know about Segovian/Castilian cuisine.
Segovian food, like most Spanish cuisines, is renowned for its seafood delicacies and there is plenty of fish, crabs, prawns and mussels in the waters bordering the city of Segovia. People living in Segovia are health-conscious and a lot of food made here reflects that. Some of the special seafood varieties of Segovian cuisine include bogavante, langsota, cigala, calamar, ostra, navaja, etc. We’re known for thousands of popular dish recipes, some inherently Spanish whilst others borrows elements of French and Western cooking style, for instance the Segovian Friend Artichokes, of which tender baby artichokes are dipped in flour and egg, fried and served as a side dish.
You led Villena Restaurant to gain its one Michelin star and to become probably Segovia’s most successful restaurant. Tell us about what this journey has been like.
Located in the Chapel of the former convent of Capuchins, on the north side of the walls of the city of Segovia, Villena Restaurant is a renewed commitment of the Segovia kitchen. Working with a young and enthusiastic team, we strive to transform local produce of small producers bold and entertaining, to enhance the sectors we represent the essence of the Segovian kitchen. We have been making the best out of the locals, which is being culturally sustainable, and this is something we’ve been doing well in so far. The Michelin star was a great recognition of what we are doing, and the attitude the whole team has been holding towards food, culture and the society. Villena Restaurant is on its way for the second star!
Tell us what diners can expect at your dinners at “Dressed Up”: the dinner, the gala and the brunch.
Diners will have a unique experience of Spanish cuisine, typically Castilian style with cultural touch. Both dinner and gala menus contains popular seafood and poultry in my hometown, in unique cooking style. Liquid salad and light Veloute with trout caviar will definitely give everybody a good start of their evening. As Allure, the main venue, is a French fine dining restaurant, I also infuse the dishes with French elements, such as Pigeon on the Clay. Salted Fish in Verdejo Sauce hake Sous Vide at 63º will also be a highlight. For brunch, since Le Royal Meridien Shanghai has been well-known for its La Vie En Rose Sunday Brunch, I am honored to have this opportunity to add some specialties in this occasion. I will do my best as I do for dinners and gala at Allure to promise every diner a Spanish food tour at my station.
What are you looking forward to eating in Shanghai?
It is not my first time visiting Shanghai. I have tried local Shanghainese food such as the marinated pork (Hong Shao Rou), sweet and sour rib (Tang Cu Xiao Pai), Yan Du Xian, etc. I was impressed by all the cooking methods of Shanghainese cuisine. Some of them are complicated and time-consuming, but all paid off for amazing presentation and taste. This time I would love to try hairy carb as I know it’s almost the crab season, and Shanghai is the only place for this typical type of crab. So I am looking forward to that.
Do you still cook at home? What do you eat at home?
Of course I do. Although it’s my everyday job, I cook for fun for everybody, also for myself. At home, I cook anything depending on what I get from the market, like Spanish paella and stews. I also try to cook things I don’t cook at work, such as Mexican food, nachos, quesadillas, tacos; Chinese fried noodles/rice; Vietnam spring rolls, etc. There is a lot to explore in my own kitchen.
If you could choose someone to come and experience your food, who would it be and why?
I would like my new-born nephew to experience my dishes for him although that’s impossible for now, but definitely in the near future when he is able to. I want him to eat well and stay healthy from the very beginning of his life. There is a saying “You are what you eat.” I hope his eating habits can be well cultivated, so he can pursue and gain what he wants from his life.
What’s next for you?
I would like to extend my journey to more cultural destinations. I will travel. Maybe I will come to Asia for certain period of time, get to experience domestic food cultures, and apply to my cooking to make my dishes unique and unbeatable. In the long run, I would love to be able to open a culinary art museum for food-related art pieces. Attached to the museum, there will also be an artisanal fine dining restaurant where visitors will be able to enjoy the finest artistic dishes.
masterclasses, dinners, galas and brunches
at Le Royal Méridien Shanghai.