Juanjo López Bedmar – the owner and head chef of Madrid’s La Tasquita, a restaurant with a very loyal clientele located close to Gran Vía. Pleasantly updated French-inspired cuisine that changes every day according to seasonal availability.
The Best Chef: Chef, first of all, thank you for welcoming us, let’s get started right away. Tell us about your beginnings.
Juanjo López Bedmar: The story is very simple. My father began here 50 years ago, many years ago. I was working in an insurance company, I was the general director of the company, but cooking and culinary products were in my blood. I decided to come here and follow the history of my father. I was 23 when I started in a restaurant.
Our philosophy is very simple: I love products, I love ingredients. The most important thing for me is the product. Our dishes only have two or three ingredients and our philosophy is – less is more.
The Best Chef: True, it’s hard to disagree.
Juanjo López Bedmar: Many, many people think that simplicity is easier, but no… Many times, simplicity is very difficult because you need to know the product very well. The product tells you what should be made of it.
The Best Chef: Tell us please about the menu in your restaurant.Juanjo López Bedmar: We don’t have a menu. We change our menu every day. The first thing I do every day is go the market. I choose the best products. I have small meetings with Nacho to decide what to make on that day. It is emblematic of the menu ensaladilla, los callos -cod’s guts. This is my father’s recipe and these are the only two dishes which are iconic. The rest changes every day. We have clients who come twice a week and we cannot bore them.
The Best Chef: Has anything changed in this profession since your father worked as a chef? How do you see chefs nowadays?
Juanjo López Bedmar: When my father was a chef, chefs weren’t very popular. It was very hard work. This work had many dark sides. Now it is changing. Chefs are more popular, but work is the same – it’s hard work, day after day. You have to work a lot every day. All in all, it’s still the same for me, only the mental perception of chefs has changed.
The Best Chef: Your restaurant is full of art. It’s amazing. Tell us more about it please!
Juanjo López Bedmar: I love art, I love music and I love art. From the beginning, I thought the restaurant is my home, and all my clients are my guests. I want them to feel like at home. My home is very artistic because I love art. Many of the pictures are gifts from my clients, many artists come here. I have very special relationships with them. I am very proud of all pictures. People who come here love it because it is different. We have been creating this restaurant for twenty years. We change it every day, piece by piece, when I add a little element on the wall – I change it. It is very little, but my soul is here.
The Best Chef: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Juanjo López Bedmar: I travel a lot. I believe that my inspiration is in other companies, in other chefs, in books, in my travels, in products. When I see a product, I wonder what I can make of it. when I see a product, this is the moment of inspiration. One day we will prepare a product in one way, another day in a completely different way. There are no rules here.
The Best Chef: Do you know your suppliers well?
Juanjo López Bedmar: Producers are very important. Their work is in the final dish.I visit him every day. I talk to him everyday. He tells me what is best on the day. Many days we get nothing: “Today we don’t have anything”… I depend on them absolutely.
The Best Chef: How do you see Madrid and its direction of development when you think about gastronomy here?
Juanjo López Bedmar: I love Madrid. I was born in Madrid. My father was born in the province Asturias and my mother in Andalusia. I was born here and I love this city. I actually think that Madrid is the centre and gastronomic capital of the world. All restaurants are open, people are happy, I think Madrid is the best gastronomic capital. We have very big chefs: David Muñoz DiverXO, Paco Roncero, Ramon Freixa. Many, many chefs in the city – it’s very good.
The Best Chef: Great to hear you promoting Madrid!
Juanjo López Bedmar: Madrid is an open city. All the people who arrive here are very welcome. I think Madrid’s future is maximum growth. All the people who come here decide to open a restaurant. I believe that in two years it will be the most wonderful city in the world. I love Madrid.
The Best Chef: What about the cousine in the rest of the country?
Juanjo López Bedmar: I love the Span, I believe that we are very rich. From the north to the south… everything is very different. Gastronomy is very important throughout the country, not only in Madrid – in the north, in the south, in Catalonia. I believe that it is very important to respect all the varieties of cuisine in Spain. They are all needed. People from all over the country come to Madrid – from Barcelona, Asturias and Andalusia.
The Best Chef: What do you think about the influence of modernity on cousine in Spain?
Juanjo López Bedmar: Avant-garde is very important because nowadays many restaurants represent it, but I think tradition is also very important. I believe that they can interpenetrate and coexist. Both are important. It is impossible to separate one from the other. I believe in practicing traditional cuisine, but we are dreaming about new technologies taken from modernity to prepare many dishes. I believe that new techniques and tradition work together. One cannot exist without the other.
The Best Chef: Who are your customers?
Juanjo López Bedmar: My clients are diverse, many people are not from Spain, many come from outside Madrid. The clientele is changing. I see every day that our clients are younger than it was in the past. Five years ago, the customers who came here were older. Everything changes very quickly.
The Best Chef: Do the social media have a big impact on restaurants?
Juanjo López Bedmar: That’s possible. Social media change everything. It was different ten years ago. Instagram, Twitter… all the restaurants are there. It is very important. Communication in restaurants and about restaurant has changed. People need to know more then in the past.
The Best Chef: Do you think these changes are dangerous?
Juanjo López Bedmar: t’s difficult. I believe social media can be dangerous because there is a lot of pressure. I think is better to follow the principle – ‘poco, poco’ (slowly, slowly). We should control social media. Otherwise, it’s dangerous. Fame can be a killer. All I believe in is working with my team and meeting my clients – the rest doesn’t matter for me. The social media can cause madness. I prefer not to believe in it.
The Best Chef: Are there any big changes coming?
Juanjo López Bedmar: No, I don’t want changes. Nacho is the future in La Tasquita. The philosophy is still the same. It is better not to change many things in life, it is even necessary to follow the same ideas. I love classic.
The Best Chef: Perhaps you’re a neoclassic?
Juanjo López Bedmar: It is possible. (laugh)
The Best Chef: Who is Nacho?
Juanjo López Bedmar: Nacho is my chef, he is my right hand, he is the future of the restaurant.
The Best Chef: What do you think about sustainability in gastronomy?
Juanjo López Bedmar: Today you need to feel everything you are working with, sustainability is one of the most important pillars in our work. In the future it will be more important. All products, which we are work, are from sustainable development.
The Best Chef: What is the most important for you at work?
Juanjo López Bedmar: What is most important for me? For me, good people are most important. It is not important whether they are chefs, architects, doctors. It is important whether they are good people. I look inside people, into their souls. I need to work with good people. It is important for the team. When people aren’t good, the job becomes too difficult. I see if people are good, when I look into their eyes.
The Best Chef: What is your advice to young people who want to work as chefs?
Juanjo López Bedmar: This is difficult so I’m going to explain. I think that young people want to work and like the kitchen, but they need to be patient. They need, like in other professions, to live that process and mature with time. That’s what, to my taste, they’re missing. They come and work in a rushed way. You’re a doctor when you have a path, you’re an architect when you have a path, you’re a good journalist when you have a path, and nowadays we want very young people, twenty, twenty one or twenty two years old, to be great chefs. And I say: why would this profession be any different? No. You need maturation, experience and you need to coexist with chefs of other ages to be able to move forward. To me that’s the issue. The rush that young people have to become great chefs. They need to be patient. You need work, you need preparation. It’s not easy to be twenty and being a genius, it is impossible. You will have a problem in the future. Your head will explode. It’s normal. You cannot change life.