Alberto Vélez and his Modern Basque Cuisine
Interview with Culinary Director at Beltz the Black, Gran Hotel Domine, BilbaoBy Isabel Gay Rodríguez
Attention to detail, great raw materials, and a total passion for Basque cuisine: these are the ingredients that Alberto Vélez’s uses to introduce innovative developments in his personal approach to the culinary arts.
Alberto Vélez has been Culinary Director at Gran Hotel Domine in Bilbao from the day it opened. He has also worked for other hotels in the Ercilla Group in Bilbao, as Head Chef and then Executive Chef.
What made you want to become a chef?
The first impulse came from home, my family loves cooking, especially my father, although the final push came with the boom of new Basque cuisine, thanks to the contribution of top Basque chefs such as Subijana, Arzak, Arguiñano…
Why do you think Basque Cuisine is so well-known worldwide?
I think this is mainly for two reasons. The first is because all Basque celebrations and gatherings involve hearty food. Secondly, because great importance is attached to the cult of good eating, and in the Basque country, there are nothing but good products and produce around us, the sea and good meat amongst others.
What dishes would you recommend from the Beltz the Black’s menu?
As a starter: tartar scallops with marinated salmon, for the second course: a red mullet off the bone with manioc and citrus fruits, and for the third course: partridge legs stew.
Basque cuisine is well known for its abundance, do you think there is room for innovation in a cuisine that is so traditional?
There are two things that must be taken into account here. One is that it is very difficult to create good innovative cuisine, and many chefs prepare these dishes without a solid base, which is what gives this type of cooking a bad reputation. And the other important aspect is that it has to be prepared with good products and it has to be seen as a way to enjoy food and new sensations, not only as a meal. A combination of care and quality products is the best way for this to work.
What other restaurants would you recommend apart from Beltz the Black?
If you are looking for a good and traditional restaurant then your best bet is El Zuluaga in Bilbao which has a great chef, and Boroa restaurant because of its great location, its cuisine and great atmosphere.
Chef Tsang Chiu King