In October 2010, the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit invited guest chef Joan Gomez from Barcelona, Spain to cook at Tapas Y Vino and share his interpretation of authentic and modern Spanish cuisine. Chef Gomez was born in 1976 and has been cooking since he was 13 years old beside his father, who was also a chef. Chef Gomez was formally trained using French techniques by the St Pol De Mar cooking school in Spain, but incorporates cooking techniques from several disciplines he has learned through his travels and work experience around the world. This is his third visit to Bangkok as a guest Chef at the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit and Chef Gomez has worked professionally in Australia, London, and Spain. Chef Gomez has been the Chef and Beverage Manager at the Barceló hotel in Barcelona, Spain since September 2007. “I love to eat everything…and I love to come to Thailand and the Grand Millennium” proclaims Chef Gomez.
Chef Gomez uses only the highest quality ingredients and takes a light and healthy approach to cooking traditional Spanish cuisine. He produces distinct and clean flavors from the “sea and the land” that lets the food speak for itself. On October 9, 2010, I sat down with Chef Gomez for a tasting of his dishes and an intimate interview at Tapas Y Vino in the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit.
How would you define yourself, as a chef?
Chef Gomez: I would define myself as a “happy chef”. This is the thing that makes me really want to be a chef; I want to make the people happy!. It is hard work to be in the kitchen and you work very long hours, but I am a happy person and I love what I do. To be a good chef you have to enjoy it.
You started cooking at a very young age, and came from a family where your father was also a Chef. Who were your major influences in the way that you prepare food?
Chef Gomez: It is true; I have been working in the kitchen with my father who was also a chef since I was 13 years old. I was trained in school with techniques which are mostly French but my father taught me 100% Spanish, but I must say that my best and biggest influence is my mother. Of course you know that no one cooks like a mother. I may not have learned the techniques, or how to put food on the plate from my mother, but a mother always cooks with love. This is what I learned from her. When I cook for my customers, I cook it like that. I cook food the way I would for my family, and the way I would want to eat it.
What is your signature dish?
Chef Gomez: I do not like to have only one dish that I cook well. I like to think of cooking with “No Limits”. I am influenced by flavors I try from all over the world like Australia, the USA and Thailand. In Spain, I serve “Green Curry” tapas in my restaurant and the young people really love it, they are always willing to try something new. I am very proud of what I do, and that it is my own composition.
What inspires you when you create your menus and what are you hoping your diners will take away from the experience?
Chef Gomez: Good quality ingredients always inspire me. When you have good quality ingredients, you can cook anything. When I design a menu, I always think about the textures and the tastes. I am inspired by the textures and the flavors. When I am cooking, I am using all of my senses that I have. I am aware of how appealing a dish is to the eye and of the aroma, the taste,… everything. I want to make food that touches all the senses for the customer, so that they will be happy with the food they eat.
Spain is well known for producing some of the world’s finest wines, how important is wine pairing to the dishes you create?
Chef Gomez: In Spain we believe that it cannot be a really good meal without good wine. It is very important, but the wine parings are also changing. We used to say that red wine was only good for red meat and white wine for the white meat and fish, but nowadays wine is not matched by the color, but by the taste and how it compliments the food.
How is the restaurant and dining culture different in Asia than in Europe?
Chef Gomez: In fact it is not so different… it is very similar. One of the interesting things is that Thai people love to eat food, and Spanish people love to eat food. The culture of street food eating in Thailand is much like the culture of tapas eating in Spain. They are very similar because both Thai people and Spanish people are very proud of their food.
What are your proudest professional achievements?
Chef Gomez: What I am most proud of is when people enjoy my food; when I cook and the “restaurant is packed!” I believe that as a chef you have to get out of the kitchen and meet the people you are cooking for. It does no good to cook as a chef if no one wants to eat your food. I ask my customers what they like and what they don’t like. I take criticism and think, should I change the menu? As a chef, you have to do this; you are cooking for the people. I listen to what my customers want. I love what I do and I always try to have a good attitude, and I never give up. This is what I am most proud of, because I am happy when my customers are happy.