How did you get started? 'I am an accidental pastry chef. My father took me to France with him when I was 12 years old. He was a friend of French pastry master Jean Millet - they met in jail during the Spanish civil war. He became my spiritual father. I returned to Spain when I was 25 and started my own business in Elda, Alicante.'
Some say you create edible jewels. Could you have been an artist? 'What I used to say to my collaborators and followers is that everything is already done, already created - you just need to know how to put it together in the right place. I love the creative process in itself. I could have been an artist of some other sort. I don't just create desserts. I also, for example, designed the tables where we prepare the food.'
Desserts are associated with calories and weight. Do you consider health concerns when designing your creations? 'My desserts are not fatty or high in calories because I watch the amount of sugar and care about the quality of my products. For instance, [in a dessert] where you may find 100 grams of sugar, I might only use about 25 grams. With the ingredients I use, almost everything has to be honest: as organic and natural as possible, without chemical products. This is the healthy way to eat.'
What has been the greatest moment in your life? 'It was when my son, Jacob, who was 23 years old at the time, called to say he had won the Spanish national pastry championship. He was the youngest person ever to win the title and he managed to do it while I was out of Spain. I have two boys; the other one used to work with Ferran Adria at El Bulli.'
Jacob works closely with you in your laboratory in Elda. Is it hard to work with your son? 'My son must become better than the master and different from him, at the same time. Jacob's biggest problem is having me as his father, but although he is my student, he has already shown that he has a strong personality. Let's not forget he was the youngest champion ever.'
You use ingredients not usually associated with pastry, such as smoked charcoal, curry and caviar. What do you say to people who don't like your creations? 'I would say they have not made an effort to really taste and understand it. We all have our egos, so I try to keep my head out of the stars and my feet on the ground.'
What does being a pastry chef mean to you? 'I don't actually see it as work, although I make a living from it. Every day I wake up and feel as if I never really go to work.'