Quique Dacosta: “Hunger is humanity's worst disgrace”
Interview with The Objective
This is one of those interviews that leaves a very good taste in the mouth and a sense of positivity and solidarity. Quique Dacosta is a self made man.
From an early age he knew everything he wanted to be, he would have gain through hard work, dedication and consistency. His first contact with the world of cuisine was through washing dishes at a bistrot to earn some money for his family. Nobody then suspected that this you man who had travelled to Denia to be a DJ would become one of the best Chefs in Spain, awarded three Michelin stars and on the list of the 50 Best Restaurants in the world. “That would have been beyond my wildest dreams when I decided to dedicate my working life to feeding people within the restaurant environment", confesses Dacosta. Sophisticated, elegant and classical, some have already named him the dandy of Spanish cuisine.
Many claim that the shortest way to the heart is through the stomach, and the three Michelin star chef seems to be well versed in this theory. Cooking the Mediterranean, once again Dacosta has joined the Restaurants against Hunger campaign – the most significant solidarity initiative in the Spanish catering industry promoted by Acción contra el Hambre [Action against Hunger] – to fight against infant malnutrition, serving ‘dishes that provide the most nourishment’ and, thereby helping to prevent, diagnose and treat malnutrition.
The gentleman of the Spanish stove opens the doors to his restaurants and heart.
What payback do you get for collaborating with a project such as Restaurants against Hunger?
I am not seeking any sort of payback, I think it is a duty, a responsibility. And if being a godfather to this project means there are more of us, then that would make me very happy. There is a lot that needs doing.
We participate at all 4 restaurants – in Denia and Valencia–: Quique Dacosta Restaurante, Mercatbar, El Poblet and Vuelve Carolina. We collaborate with our full solidarity menu ate each restaurant.
When was the first time you felt the need to help someone?
I don't recall a specific moment. I believe helping others comes as standard. The family values you are brought up with means that its a feeling that surfaces when others are in difficulty.
“We amplifiers and have a responsibility to society”
Tell us about a situation or experience where you were grateful for the help of others. The fact that some one is interested in you each day, and your well-being is something to be grateful for. Being able to count on family and friends, who can give you hand when you need it is a treasure that we often do not appreciate.
What would you say to caterers to encourage them join the Restaurants against Hunger campaign? It is rare we have the opportunity to change the life of someone in difficulty. We are stronger together and our collaboration can reach many more people. Each day we serve many people at our restaurants, who are attracted by our work. Lets help many others to sit at a table with their families to eat also.
According to the Federación Española de Hostelería y Restauración [Spanish Catering and Restaurant Federation], Spanish restaurants waste over 63,000 tons of food a year. Is the catering and restaurant sector in our country really aware of the need to fight against hunger? I think we first need to raise awareness about many other things, which will then help society realise that certain things cannot be tolerated in the world we live. Hunger, as I see it, is humanity's worst disgrace. I place my trust in education and that a society that is aware that wasting food is totally unnecessary will surely progress. But the problem is a lack of global thinking, we don't want to realise that our action affect the rest of society. But at the end of the day I am an optimist, which is why I join campaigns like this. They are a device, not just for raising money but also for education.
Over 800 million people in the world are undernourished
Italian chef Massimo Bottura, considered to be one of the best chefs in the world, took advantage of the recent Rio Games to raise awareness about food waste and poverty on Rio's streets, is there a growing commitment to fight huger? I believe there is a growing sensitivity and willingness to do more than being a mere donor. I continue to believe that the problems are a lot worse than we are led to believe. I also believe that doing something is better than doing nothing, and that anything we do to alleviate this terrible situation will reduce the suffering for some people. But at the end of the day, the idea is to do something that will bring change. The Refettorio Gastromotiva led by Massimo will touch many consciences and open doors. We are amplifiers and we have a responsibility to society, which has legitimised us to do so.
Over 800 million people in the world are undernourished, The FAO urges people to eat insects to combat hunger, could this be the solution to combat undernourishment and the lack of food? Are insects a nutritional and healthy food source? I think that in extreme circumstances this could be a good solution if it is supported by nutritionists. I am not sure if it is a great food source. I do not cook insects and honestly have never been interested in them. I have tasted them, some of my fellow cooks use them, some for adding an exotic touch to their dishes, whilst for others it is ingrained in their culture. I support solutions that respect the traditions and even the tastes of each culture. But I believe the solutions to this terrible problem go far beyond the consumption of insects. But if they are part of the solution then great.
Three Michelin stars, listed amongst the 50 Best Restaurants, Best European Restaurant… Have you gone as far as you wanted to go with your cooking? In terms of recognition, it is been beyond my wildest dreams when I decided to dedicate my working life to feeding people within the restaurant environment. However, I am a competitive person. I want the best for my project, which is my team. Therefore we will continue working to seduce diners from around the world, and who travel to Denia to experience the most important gastronomic experience of their lives.
Teamwork is essential in a profession such as yours. What is your "recipe" to get our team involved and join the search for a particular objective? It is fundamental that they are made to feel part of the project. Listening to their ideas, working with them in developing new things strengthens the team. Encouraging them and loving them. Teaching them and learning from them. In short, mutual respect.
How will Quique Dacosta surprise us next? We are going to continue exploring new horizons in the search for unique dishes, placing home ground and its products centre stage, those that are unique and in many cases unknown. One of our tasks is to discover what this special place hides, and with a purely evolutionary intent: to place it on the international gastronomic stage, giving it the same solvency as products from any region in the world already enjoying prestige.