Grace M.W. Wong
How long have you worked with Ferran Adria? 'I first met him in 1998, when I went to El Bulli as a customer. Since then, I've been working with Ferran on various projects and sometimes worked at El Bulli as a guest chef. Ferran has also served as a culinary consultant at my research laboratory, El Taller de La Terraza del Casino, where I create molecular dishes. Ferran and I share similar views about culinary philosophy and concepts, and about the ways to understand cuisine and interpret it.'
How is your chain, Estado Puro, different from traditional tapas outlets? '[Visiting] tapas bars is a way of life in Spain. I love tapas because they remind me of going out with my parents as a child. Chefs cook with their memories. Tapas are an important starting point for bringing Spanish cuisine to the next level. Estado Puro aims to recreate traditional tapas using new techniques while respecting traditional methods of preparation. For example, my signature tapa, the XXI century Spanish omelette, uses typical ingredients, such as eggs, potato and onion, but the ingredients are restructured using different food science methods. I present the omelette in a cocktail glass with caramelised onions and egg foam at the bottom and potato foam on top. Other tapas include spherical olives and liquid ham croquettes.'
Why are you so interested in experimental olive-oil dishes? 'Everyone knows olive oil is indispensable in Spanish cuisine, so I chose to extend its functions beyond frying and marinating. In my restaurants, I offer a complete tasting menu of dishes based on olive oil, such as olive oil noodles and chewing gum.' What are the essential characteristics of a pioneering 21st-century chef? 'They must have a modest attitude and be humble when learning from others. They must be passionate about the world. And they must love fresh produce and care about how ingredients are grown and used.'
What are you doing in Hong Kong? 'Ferran was on an Asian tour, but I was unable to travel with him to Beijing and Shanghai and could only join him in Hong Kong. This is the first time I have visited Hong Kong and I have been working at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel's Tosca Restaurant [a placement that has now finished], presenting dishes from my restaurants in Madrid.'
What do you make of Chinese food? 'I have always been fascinated by Asian cuisines. My first contact with an Asian cuisine was Japanese, but the future of ground-breaking Asian cuisine lies in the hands of Chinese chefs. China is a country unknown to Spanish chefs. I don't have any favourite Chinese dish because I don't have in-depth knowledge about the cuisines. Chinese dishes in Spain are adapted to Western palates, so that's why my priority [while in Hong Kong] is going to as many authentic, traditional Chinese restaurants as possible.'