In this new post, our focus will be on someone who is a leading light in avant-garde cuisine: and this person is none other than Jean Marc Sanz, our resident chef at Hotel Servigroup Montíboli. This professional of the culinary arts, who has now been with us a mere 25 years, never fails to astound his customers on a daily basis with the creativity he brings to his work. And he always does so under the premise of innovation, and being able to offer our customers his best dishes.
Jean Marc Sanz began in the world of cooking in France, whilst still very young. Right from the start, he demonstrated immense enthusiasm for gastronomy, and has always worked hard with one crystal-clear goal: to offer the best creations, to innovate and to surprise his customers.
What made you choose cooking as your profession?
I always had a very special interest in cooking and knew at a very young age that this was the career path i would follow. I worked for many years for the Relais & Châteaux Group, and in different restaurants with 3 Michelin stars. I was very eager to learn and I decided to travel, trying my hand in different restaurants, even at festivals and film fairs.
How would you define signature cuisine?
For me, signature cuisine is something very personal that involves a great deal of technique. It’s not market cuisine where everything is more standardised: it involves a much more personal way of working, where each chef brings their own creativity and where a distinct kind of product should be offered.
Quite often, signature cuisine is directly associated with small portions of food. Is there any truth in this?
Many people think that signature cuisine means small portions of food, but the truth is that when a customer goes to a restaurant serving signature cuisine, in the majority of cases they do so more for a food-tasting experience. In these instances, yes, these are modest quantities of food. But even though they are small portions, together they can add up to a considerable amount. If a customer wants a specific dish, however, the quantity doesn’t always have to be small. Everything depends on the type of dish requested.
This kind of cuisine isn’t one that people resort to specifically for sustenance: tasting menus are more about appreciating a series of sensations, and, ultimately pure enjoyment.
In my case, I often chose a product as a starting point to which I later give form, I extract fats from it, I add something crunchy, and bring subtle nuances. It’s all about communicating something with my dishes. In a nutshell, it's about offering a product that has been purified with certain subtleties later added to it.
And what is the type of cuisine you offer your customers at Hotel Montíboli?
At Montíboli Hotel we have gone through different phases. Currently, in the Emperador Restaurant, we are offering a more market-type of cuisine, dishes created with local produce, and always fresh. For example, if I want to get hold of red shrimp, I buy it directly from Villajoyosa Fish Market, never from fish farms.
Do you think Mediterranean cuisine is overrated in relation to other types?
Mediterranean cooking is highly valued because it is exceedingly healthy, but there are other types of quality cuisine. In my case, for example, I started off in this industry working with another style of cooking that in my opinion is excellent, that being traditional classic cuisine. Here, many other products are used that are not seen in Mediterranean cooking, such as butter. It’s interesting that butter is badly regarded in Mediterranean cuisine. But be that as it may, in the northern half of France it is very common and fashionable.
Mediterranean cuisine is a type of regional cooking that offers very healthy products and which is excellent, although there are many other types that are also good and very healthy. These days, the moment belongs to fusion cuisine, which consists of bringing together different types of cuisine. Here a lot of work is done with market cuisine, with fresh, seasonal, local produce, but always through the lens of innovation and experimentation.
What qualities do you think a good chef needs?
Primarily, passion. Any young person who wants to be a cook must be someone who is passionate. They must feel a genuine vocation for cooking and mustn’t mind sacrificing a large part of their spare time.
Nowadays, it’s difficult to find youngsters who are willing to give up their weekends and holidays. When you’re a cook your social and family life goes out the window. It may be that they love cooking, but if they’re not ready to make a sacrifice of this kind, it’s because they’re lacking passion. You have to fully commit yourself, and this involves giving up many things.
Curiosity is also another essential attribute: you need to have the enthusiasm and desire to be constantly learning. You have to keep abreast of the latest developments to recycle them with new dishes and ways of working, etc. Having curiosity about everything is absolutely essential.
Do you also produce fusion cuisine at Hotel Montíboli with regional produce and dishes?
It is most important that the customer, when they sit at a table in a restaurant and open the menu, knows where they are. For this reason, we offer regional dishes, although always approached from a perspective of reinterpretation. We create a fresh take on local cuisine to which we always bring new, subtle nuances.
There are many types of regional gastronomy in Spain. What do you think of the contrast that exists amongst the dishes we have here? Do you think it’s balanced or is there more gastronomic quality in some areas of the country than in others?
I love the differences. I travel to Segovia a lot, where a different style of cooking exists that we don't see so much here, and I really enjoy it a lot. They offer and eat a lot of roasts and charcuterie, that are very much what we have here, but they deliver a different type of offering, which is also very compatible.
A few years ago, everything was much more diversified: we had good Mediterranean cuisine, good La Mancha cuisine, some styles more from the north and some from the south. Now, with the rise and proliferation of the Internet, everything is somewhat mixed, as everything reaches everywhere and this is one further incentive to work with fusion cuisine. The result is that the roots are disturbed because everything is mixed up. It’s likely that in La Mancha you’ll find rice dishes that weren’t there before, or dishes from the north in our region, etc. Even so, the most important thing should always be to remain true to these roots.
For a long time, the fact has been noted and criticised that Spain and the rest of Europe are becoming Americanised. Do you think that now measures are starting to be taken against this by once again extolling the virtues of the Mediterranean diet?
Yes. It's a way of remedying bad habits. Now in many geographical regions they are giving special importance to olive oil, whereas before it used to be completely banned. As a result of this oil receiving such good publicity, attitudes are becoming more moderate and what before was not the done thing is now starting to become more fashionable.
The future of Mediterranean cuisine is good, but with the drawback that there is increasingly less fish and many quality restaurants are having to resort more and more to fish farms.
Should the cuisine offered in a restaurant, in the strictest sense, be different to that of a hotel?
Totally, because in a gourmet restaurant you always know what you're going to eat and more or less what you’re going to pay. But in the restaurant of a hotel, the customer doesn’t know what they’re going to find. And it's conceivable that a hotel restaurant specialising in a certain style always has to be more open to other types of dishes. It may happen that a customer who has been staying for a week at El Montíboli at some point feels like eating an omelette. And a hotel should provide this to them.
And to round off, what would you say to young people who want to follow in your professional footsteps?
Primarily, that they hold on to that passion and dedicate time to their career. If they’re not willing to do that, they’d be better off doing something else.
All the same, I believe that the profession does need to change. You have to work many hours and at weekends, plus during holidays. Young people are looking for something else, and the upshot of this is that there are dwindling numbers of young people who want to pursue a career working in a kitchen. In many cases, the hospitality industry is a means of escape, as there’s plenty of work to be found there, but once they learn the profession they end up changing to another that is more satisfying and that offers them more free time. For this reason, you have to feel a true passion for cooking if you decide to embark on a career doing it.
As you can see, the love, vision and passion felt by Chef Jean Marc Sanz is transmitted in his delicious creations, dishes that can be savoured in the Emperador Restaurant, Hotel Montíboli’s fantastic restaurant with stunning sea views.
If you are already familiar with his cooking, then pay us a return visit, as you know that there’ll always be something to surprise you with his innovative and enticing creations; and if you aren’t familiar with Chef Jean Marc’s cooking, don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate his 25 years of love for cooking, and also the 50th Anniversary of Hotel Montíboli. We promise you that you will be spellbound!
Congratulations Chef Jean Marc for your 25 years dedicated to your passion!