We’ve been chatting with our chef Marc Segarra to find out what goes on backstage in the kitchens of Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine in the weeks before the hotel re-opens and how they get ready for each new season. Segarra also reveals the dishes he enjoys cooking during his holidays.
Christmas is usually a hectic period in other restaurants, but at Abadía Retuerta Le Domaine it’s time to rest. The hotel closed its doors for the year on December 21 and will reopen again next Monday. The whole team has enjoyed a well-deserved holiday, but the coming days will witness the start of the restaurant’s most creative stage.
“I have a notebook at hand all year round. I use it to write down changes or ideas for the following year, which is precisely what we are busy working on during this period,” Marc explains. It is virtually impossible to do these changes while the hotel is open, as the kitchen team duties extend beyond the Michelin-starred restaurant Refectorio to the entire hotel, including weddings and celebrations, and the Vinoteca restaurant.
“Over these weeks we have time to research and develop new techniques, to such extent that we can modify up to 80% of the menu, not only in the case of Refectorio, but also in the rest of the hotel’s cooking services,” adds Marc Segarra. “In most cases we continue to use the same core product, but with a little twist, a nuance, and we try to see what we like best.”
They also work on improving cooking and preparation techniques, as well as looking for new suppliers in line with the importance that Segarra and his team place on the ingredients in their dishes. “It can be a supplier of meat or nuts from the area. The great thing about this stage is that the whole team is deeply involved in the process and everyone demands a great deal from themselves.”
An example: liquorice macaron
One of the ideas they are experimenting with these days is a liquorice snack, a taste that Segarra believes is deeply attached to childhood memories. Some time ago they tried to make an infu-sion with this legume, but when they crushed it and inadvertently left it longer in the food processor, they found themselves with a sort of meringue.
Now they’re trying to make a liquorice macaron using other key ingredients of this classic French biscuit such as icing sugar and almond flour. The advantage of their small discovery over the traditional meringue is that they avoid the use of whites and, therefore, the final product will be suitable for vegans and for people who are egg intolerant.
The fun of the embers
We couldn’t resist asking Marc Segarra about what he eats and cooks when he’s on holiday. During his breaks, he likes to travel and visit restaurants to “taste and enjoy what his colleagues are cooking and check your level against the rest of the trade.”
When he is at home, Marc likes to go to the market and choose his ingredients directly. Last Christmas he remembers buying alfonsino at the fishmonger’s. “I bought a grill in a Chinese ba-zaar and grilled the fish”.
“I’m really into grilling over charcoal, much more than using gas or a standard oven,” he says. “The embers are alive and this sort of cooking is not an exact science. You have to monitor it and see if it needs to be stoked. Besides, I love the smell. If you have a good-quality product, its flavour is greatly magnified on the embers.”
When he is away, Marc admits that he misses the abbey and its surroundings. “It’s a fantastic place to work. Really unique. There are days when you are at work and you don’t get tired of looking at the abbey.”