|Executive Head Chef, Toni Valero – Ohla Tapas and Cocktails|
Chef Toni Valero of Ohla Tapas and Cocktails chats with The Yum List about life, work and Spanish cuisine.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
Maybe I just wanted to cook with the same happy mood my mum did for me when making rice every Sunday (typically in Spain we eat some rice on Sunday). This was one of the first things that touched me when I was young. Then I decided go to culinary school. After two days working there I saw that it wasn’t going to be as easy as cooking at home…
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
When I was working with the re-inauguration of Mugaritz (4th best restaurant in the world) three years ago in Donosti, an opportunity to cook for all the big chefs presented itself. Cooking for them after a few months of sacrifice working many hours per day to fix everything before the new opening was both exciting and exhausting. Seeing all the happy faces after all this work though is something that I will never forget.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The worst part for a chef is when you dont have any free time to spend with your friends and family. But you can forget any negative aspects when you finish a good day of service and you can see the faces of customers who have enjoyed good food and wine.
What’s the best thing about working in Ohla Tapas?
The best thing is having the possibility to explain to customers about Spanish food. I enjoy speaking with them about what the world of gastronomy means in Spain – it’s more than eating for feeding purposes, it’s our culture.
What’s your personal favorite meal/ drink at Ohla Tapas?
The sea food black rice. Every time I try it to check if is it done in the restaurant, I remember my mum in the kitchen doing the same.
What’s your favoured food and wine pairing?
I totally love the olives with one of my favorites beers, Moritz. In a small bar in Barcelona, the authentic sense of tapas is very special. But too, who can say no to a dozen oysters with a bottle of Cava?
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The craziest thing is the long hours people work. Up to 17 hours per day in a restaurant can be normal just because we choose this way to live by being happy making people smile with yours dishes and… still having a good mood to share a cold beer with yours friends after work. You must to be totally crazy to do that…
The perfect day off would be on a beach in Girona (Spain), a good aperitif with some tapas and a good conversation. It’s one of my favourite places to stay and relax. It has mountains, beach and a very nice gastronomy.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy my days off going for a walk, trying to enjoy in a good terrace or bar with friends or just staying at home listening to good music with a glass of wine.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at Ohla Tapas?
I’m so lucky because the customers who come to Ohla can see everything we do in the kitchen. We have an open kitchen so they can see and ask whatever they want. Even if they want to help me some day, maybe I can allow that too!
How do you select your ingredients and why?
I try to select the best ingredients for Ohla, especially the Spanish products we export from there. I try to explain to the customers everything about our culture, products and way to cook them.
What’s your view on the KL food/ restaurant scene so far?
I think Kuala Lumpur is a new city for Western food. Actually there are some new restaurants trying to bring here authentic foods such as the ones you can eat in Europe. The scene is growing but still has a long way to catch up with offerings that can be found in neighbouring cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. For local food, I think is a bit difficult to eat the nice ones without going out of the city center (where are the marjory of tourists). You need to drive 15 minutes at least to try some nice Malay restaurants.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
Soon we’re planning to change the Tapas menu, something new is coming and especially for lunch, we’re planning to open with another concept like a bistro.
See our full review of Ohla Tapas and Cocktails by following this link.