I arrived to Madrid in 1996. My plan to travel 3 months quickly changed to staying a year after accepting a job. That year ended up being almost 15 years. During that time I witnessed a huge change in Spanish cuisine and culture. With the passing of time after Franco Spanish borders opened to outside influence on a day to day basis. Mass immigration from Latin and South America, Morocco and other European countries became common bringing with them new foods, new customs and new faces. In 1996 not only was it impossible to find fresh lemongrass in the mercados few knew what it was. Spanish cuisine based on the quality of the product uses few spices that would mask the favor. Even fresh herbs were hard to come by if you didn’t have a garden.
What I did find was a culture that as a whole had not lost the fine art of where eating was a pleasure. People could still go (and still do today) to the “pueblo”of their family and get delicacies from that region. Matanzas (the fall ritual of butchering livestock..usually pigs) were and still are a family/neighbor tradition. This centuries old rite is one of the reasons why Spain has elevated their hams and charcutrie to an art form. Not only does every region have specialties but even from family to family there are differences. There is a profound respect that has been instilled in the Spanish from generation to generation for quality be it produce, fish or meat.
Changes in Spanish cuisine were becoming more obvious. In 1996 a small, elegant restaurant in Roses with its young chef Ferran Adria was already a hot bed of activity. He had turned away from the ground work previously laid by former chefs Jean-Louis Neichel and Jean-Paul Vinay and was forging a new path of creativity. Meanwhile in Madrid and elsewhere, Spanish cuisine continued its slow but ever evolving rhythm. You could still find Cocido Madrileno or Callos on most menus. Segovia was still the place to go for cochinillo at Meson de Candido below the aqueduct. Rice dishes were still mainly a Mediterranean coastal item and Sangria was sold to foreign tourists who were flocking to Spain.
If you want to taste Chef Cole’s Cuisine, head to the Fat Goose located at 125 Wythe Ave at North 8 St in Williamsburg.
Want to make Chef Cole’s dishes? Check out the video below.