Exciting does not describe the pure thrill of anticipation as we scan the series of events taking place at Central Market over the next few weeks. As we look through the multi-page flyer provided at nearly every check out counter at any of the market’s locations state-wide we get the feeling that Central Market has more than done their homework for the annual event that celebrates a different country each year. What a fantastic primer in geography, culture and cuisine and basically all things Spain.
For a greater appreciation of the event we implored the management of Central Market to allow us face time with some of the imported chefs. There are more than a few Spanish Michelin starred chefs milling about the Dallas Fort Worth area this week preparing for the Espana debut, and we were able to catch up with one of the more charming ones, Chef Isma Prados.
We met Prados just hours after landing at DFW. He had lost his luggage and had to tool around Dallas to find a few clothes to wear.
“Ahh Banana Republic, I feel like I am at home!” beamed Prados as we prepared for our few hour session.
Prados enjoys a certain amount of fame in his home in Catalonia not only as a highly visible chef but as a television host for popular cooking shows like “Cuina X Solters”(Cooking for Singles) and “La Cuina de l’Isma” (Isma’s Kitchen). Currently he is working on “Hoy Cocina Tú” (You Cook Today), a program he created and has also written five cook books. His flair and charm are evident and is often compared to Britain’s Jamie Oliver.
“Yes, I hear that. We were born the same year and have much the same values in cooking,” said Prados. But that probably isn’t the basis for comparison. Besides being an astute musician, this chef appreciates what we would call the farm-to-table movement, a term that could prove laughable in his home country because they no know other way of life.
“Catalonia is lush and we are very fortunate to enjoy great weather all year long. It is very small and we can go to the beach and just an hour away by car we can ski,” continued Prados. The diverse climate basks on the breezy Mediterranean climate off the coastal waters of Barcelona, and diversely the Pyreneean peaks and alpine climate that borders France.
When starting out in the kitchen the chef roamed a small handful of restaurants before finally landing at La Vinya del Senyor in Barcelona which the Prados describes as heaven. The restaurant is located on a beautiful touristy square with an amazing view, but even better the smallish restaurant serves boutique sausages and cheeses, local fresh duck and other fine dishes.
“It is like the vegetable garden of Jesus,” smiled Prados. “At the restaurant we went deeper in the marriage of wines and foods.” The chef believes in order to understand all aspects of his craft he needed to understand how wines were made to pair and use properly.
It wasn’t long before Prados had his own cooking program on television, and he appreciated the fact that everyone could make these simple dishes that required very little preparation once given the thoughts behind the process.
In asking what he anticipated to bring to the Central Market’s demonstrations and dinners Prados offered,”The best thing is to have an option of a different point of view altogether and to be close to the people with normal things. There are incredible processes that we do daily and we never take sense of that. So for me the experience is a base to show what it means to cook, how to design a recipe and to choose the ingredients which will take part. How to cook sauces that are not loaded with saturated fat for example. All those types of things are not so far away from what people can understand.”
“I am not coming here to make a speech. I am here to share my knowledge and have this experience with others. That is what this is all about”
There’s the Jamie Oliver comparison if you still needed one.
We are looking forward to seeing this amiable chef work his magic in the kitchen almost as much as he is anticipating meeting some of the other chefs that are in the line-up.
“I am excited to see Paco Rancero from Madrid. He has two Michelin stars and cooked with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, where I have not worked but did enjoy the food. Also I am happy to see Adrian Marin who I worked under at another Michelin star restaurant. There are so many others,” smiled Pradas.
Pradas will be creating easy-to-prepare dishes paired with classic Spanish sparkling and red wines from the Ferrer family of the Freixenet Group. His Catalonia menu includes: Scallops in Olive Oil Whipped Soup; Beef Cheek in “Marchant de Vin” Sauce; and Chamomile Pears, Hazelnuts and Catalan Cottage Cheese Cream.
Visit with Chef Isma Prados or one of the other fine chefs on slate May 11 through 24.