2 July, 2019
Interview with chef Alfonso de la Dehesa
For this post, we had the pleasure of speaking to the chef Alfonso de la Dehesa, a customer and friend of Fagor Industrial. Alfonso de la Dehesa is a corporate chef at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba resort (Playa del Carmen, Mexico) which was recently voted the second-best resort of the Riviera Maya in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards.
We have included the interview below so that you can find out a bit more about this great chef and ambassador of our gastronomy around the world.
- When did you decide that you wanted to be a chef?
I cooked with my mother from a young age, and I loved it. After my father passed away, I began to study gastronomy at the Escuela Pública de Madrid. I loved it and I began to work for free for several years. I was lucky to be able to work first with the chef Antonio Montoro, who taught me the basics of cooking. Then, I went to Arzak with Juan Mari which was a unique experience alongside the great master and his great team. This is where my passion for cooking began. Watching Juan Mari in the kitchen and seeing how he moved around the restaurant was very special. Everyone adores him.
After, I was lucky enough to work at Bulli with Ferran Adrià and his great kitchen team, thanks to a recommendation from Juan Mari. I learnt a great deal there and it is something that has significantly marked my career. From there, I went to Dubai, to one of the most luxurious hotel chains in the world, Jumeirah. Afterwards, I went to Mexico, to the Four Seasons at Punta Mita and then I was promoted to the Geneva Four Seasons (Switzerland). After my time in Geneva, I returned to Mexico with Banyan Tree Hotels in Acapulco, which is a Thai hotel chain based on hidden luxury, and they gave me the chance to go to Thailand which is where the chain was born. After 2 years in Phuket, I returned to Mexico to Banyan Tree Mayakoba, which is a real paradise, and I’ve been here for over 2 years.
In total, I’ve been working for over 24 years in this wonderful profession as a chef.
- Are you born a chef, or do you become one?
You’re born a chef. It’s a job that you have to be passionate about since it requires a great deal. It is very hard, stressful and, as Arzak would say, you need to be a bit crazy to keep pace. You know when you start but not when you finish, with hours and hours, you miss family events, anniversaries, your holidays are always at different times to those of your friends… The truth is, I’ve seen people quit because they can’t deal with that pressure. As I said, food is my passion.
- What do you like most about your profession?
First of all, seeing customers smiling as they leave the restaurant. For me, this is my number one objective —the customer is the most important. Then, having the best chefs at my side, since you accomplish nothing by yourself. You always have to work as a team and know the people. For example, I have a client I have served on numerous occasions in Dubai, Thailand and Mexico, and there is a very strong connection. It’s very rewarding because they always ask for more and more.
- How would you define your cooking at the moment?
I love product-based cuisine. I always seek the best for my customers. Quality is the most important and cooking as simply as possible, trying to do everything homemade and buying the minimum. I also love Asian food, such as Vietnamese, Japanese or Thai cuisine. Here, at Banyan Tree, our signature restaurant is Saffron, and we bring the most important ingredients from Thailand so that they have an authentic flavour. I also have two marvellous Thai chefs in my staff. Although, for me, the best cuisine is Spanish cuisine, nowadays, with the great chefs that we have such as Jordi Roca, Juan Mari, Ferran Adrià, Albert Adrià, Oriol Castro, Quique Dacosta, Paco Roncero, Jose Andrés, etc. These chefs have raised Spanish cuisine to unimaginable levels, and they are also humble and humane people, which is the most important thing.
- Which part of the kitchen is the most valuable to you?
For me, having a good salamander grill helps a great deal when it comes to cooking and finishing gratins, as well as having good burners and a good convection oven.
- Which product is never missing from your kitchen?
I always have to have good olive oil, Iberian ham and, most of all, I love having products that the farmer or fisherman brings to you with the same passion that you work with.
- Do you have any advice for young people who dream of becoming professional chefs?
For me, the most important thing is to persevere, work hard and always be with the best, to not be afraid of failure and be a good person, not get desperate and read cookbooks (you can find everything online now) and, above all, to always keep your feet on the ground, never think you’re something special because you’re in for a hard fall.
- What do you value most about Fagor Industrial as a supplier of catering equipment solutions?
The truth is, I’ve been lucky to work with you for over a year and it has been wonderful to receive advice from great professionals. Here at the hotel, we are changing all the kitchens and it has truly been a pleasure to be alongside great professionals who are selling you a product as if it were for themselves, without deceiving you, and with the very best in order for me to give my customers the best.
- In terms of the product, what would you say the value proposition of Fagor Industrial is?
The truth is that Fagor Industrial produces incredible kitchens, made to measure like a tailor, always at the cutting edge with incredible quality and, above all, first-class steel, which is extremely important for kitchens. Besides that, Fagor Industrial is professional in all aspects —handling, the service provided, etc. In short, I’m very happy to be working with you, I’ve never seen a service like it.