Chef Rodrigo de la Calle is developing a following with cuisine that focuses on vegetables that are "out of fashion and nearly in danger of extinction" in Spain, a land that he says is better known for "T-bone steaks, croquettes and Iberian ham."
The chef, whose Restaurante Rodrigo de la Calle in Aranjuez earned one star from Michelin, is taking his "green revolution" to the kitchen of Madrid's Hotel Villa Magna, where he will become executive chef on Oct. 1.
The focus going forward will be to continue developing the "green kitchen, where the important thing is the product and respect for nature," demonstrating that "haute cuisine is not fighting with the healthy kitchen," De la Calle, who has developed what he calls "gastrobotanics," said in an interview with Efe.
Gastrobotanics will show that you can "excite diners with some peas, some strawberries, a seaweed salad or an asparagus cocktail," the chef said.
De la Calle, the son of a farmer, tilled his first vegetable garden at the age of 8 and his life follows the seasons in the countryside.
"Falls in Toledo to pick corn, winters in Jaen to pick olives and plant the summer greens, and spring in Aranjuez for the vegetable garden and the grains planted in winter," De la Calle said.
The chef said that unlike many kids, he ate "vegetables like crazy" as a boy.
De la Calle developed gastrobotanics with biologist Santiago D'Ors in 2000, traveling around the world to introduce people to his culinary discoveries.
"There are many mornings when I get up and pinch myself to see if everything that is happening to me professionally is for real," De la Calle, an expert on rice, said.
The chef, however, admitted that he was not a vegetarian and "once in a while" his "fangs" come out and he enjoys a suckling pig at Casa Duque in Segovia.
Fast food and junk food are another matter for the chef.
"Eating is an act of nutrition and if I have to choose between staying home or eating badly, I'd rather stay home," De la Calle said. EFE