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Vet-turned-chef Luis Martinez serves the best of Spain in Manila

The Manila food scene is spoiled with chefs who have taken their professional training and practices from abroad to give local foodies a heightened gastronomic experience. But chef Luis Martinez of the hit Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant Terraza Martinez does it differently.

To Terraza Martinez's loyal patrons, it might be surprising to find out that the very same chef who created their delicious meals used to be an animal doctor.

Terraza Martinez executive chef and founder Luis MartinezTerraza Martinez executive chef and founder Luis Martinez

Terraza Martinez executive chef and founder Luis Martinez

“I was a vet in Spain but now I make food for people,” the young chef said in a recent interview at his restaurant.

Even more surprising is the fact that he never had formal culinary school training.

“I never studied culinary arts, I never worked in a kitchen before. My first kitchen was Siargao three years ago [with his restaurant Alma Siargao] and now Terraza Martinez.”

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What he lacked in formal school was compensated with the lifelong cooking lessons he got from his family.

A native of Valencia, Spain, Martinez said he practically started helping out in the kitchen as a kid.

“I came from a family where we all cook and our gathering is around the kitchen. Even at Christmas, we don't sit at a large table to have proper dinner, we all surround the kitchen where cook and drink wine.”

Fast forward today and Martinez is serving a fusion of Spanish-Mediterranean feast in his restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, while also preparing for the reopening of Alma Siargao.

“My idea with the menu here is to give guests the feeling of like having lunch or dinner in Spain, with the same kind of ambiance and of essence — you have a little kind of tapas, paella, mains. I want people not only to enjoy the food but the company of their friends as well.”

Interestingly, Martinez admitted he had to make adjustments to catch the palate of Filipinos who make up 90 percent of his clientele in Terrazza Martinez.

“The salt I put in my dishes here is a little bit less than what I'd normally put in Spain. I also put just a little bit more sugar because you guys like it.

“When I opened my first place, customers complained that my food was a little bit salty for their liking and that they were expecting a little bit more sweetness. That's why I needed to adjust my menu.”

Gazpacho, ‘Terraza Martinez Style’Gazpacho, ‘Terraza Martinez Style’

Gazpacho, ‘Terraza Martinez Style’

Cured Snapper CarpaccioCured Snapper Carpaccio

Cured Snapper Carpaccio

Presa Ibérica de CerdoPresa Ibérica de Cerdo

Presa Ibérica de Cerdo

Manchego Cheesecake with pomaceolive oilManchego Cheesecake with pomaceolive oil

Manchego Cheesecake with pomaceolive oil

This adjustment proved to be a success as Terrazza Martinez is always filled with happy customers.

This month, patrons will have more reasons to come back as Martinez collaborates with olive oil brand Doña Elena to bring a special four-course menu.

Martinez considers every meal as an expression of passion and love, so using a superior olive oil is a vital ingredient in his repertoire.

“I truly believe that we are what we eat and I think olive oil is the healthiest of all. Aside from health benefits its pleasant taste, smell, and texture that enhance all the flavors of a good recipe, my type of cuisine revolves around the product. Everything is based on that, on the absolute respect that I have for the product.

“Using good-quality olive oil reminds me of my childhood wherein my breakfasts were based on a simple toast with extra virgin olive oil and salt,” the chef said.

For the exclusive Doña Elena four-course special menu, Martinez described the combination as “perfect” promised to transport diners to the coastal regions of the Mediterranean.

The culinary journey begins with a Gazpacho, a traditional cold soup made from blended olive oil and canned diced tomatoes. The recipe is taken up a notch with sautéed garlic prawns, tomato tartar, crispy capers, croutons, and anchovies. The result is smooth and creamy but the added twist of textures make it a unique take on a classic.

The second course is Cured Snapper Carpaccio. Delicate without being overpowering, this dish consists of thinly sliced snapper fish, marinated in olive oil, crushed tomato, fried capers, and lime zest. The fish is tender and fresh, and the marinade provides a zesty and aromatic touch. The dish is served with rosemary crackers that add a crunchy contrast.

Glazed and charcoal-grilled, the Presa Ibérica de Cerdo takes center stage for the main course. The hearty ibérico pork loin, served with truffle mashed potato, olive oil caramelized shallots, wild fresh mushrooms, and demi-glacé sauce.

To conclude the Spanish culinary voyage, the tangy smooth Manchego Cheesecake has a light touch of Doña Elena pomace olive oil. The cheesecake is also topped with blueberry jelly and mango slices that add some sweetness and juicy flavor, for a fresh spin on this well-loved dessert.

“The special menu we created for Doña Elena is a refreshing and simple menu that showcases the Mediterranean style of cooking using the brand's products. We use fresh fish, meat, and vegetables that are lightly cooked to preserve their natural flavors. It's a perfect menu for enjoying with friends and family in a cozy and elegant atmosphere,” chef Martinze finally said.

The special menu, priced at P1,950, is available at Terraza Martinez for the whole month of September. For reservations, call 09667005801.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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