Francisco Carrasco Cortés – Executive Head Chef at Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts
After more than 19 years of experience of being a Chef and several international stations as Chef, Francisco Carrasco Cortés now works as Executive Head Chef for IHG in Brussels. Francisco has worked with some of the best and made some crazy experiences while working at Harrods, London. But read for yourself.
Francisco Carrasco Cortés – Executive Head Chef at Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, IHG
Francisco, what makes it so special for you to work as a Chef?
In my case, it has been easy to hit the path of becoming a chef. One can say I grew up in the kitchen. My granddad was a chef, my day as well. So in my younger years everything around me was really just chefs and restaurants.
Which cooking school did you visit?
I studied culinary arts in one of the oldest schools in Spain CIPFP Costa Azahar in Castellon, Spain. I was lucky because I had a very good teacher who really prepared me for a long and successful career.
As a Chef, you worked for several years in Valencia, Spain. How would you characterize Valencian cuisine from a culinary point of view? What makes it unique?
The culture that people have about food is something very special in Spain. And I still have to find another country like Spain, where every single moment of the day or every celebration is behind food and traditions. It looks like the celebration or this moment of the day is just an excuse to prepare and eat food.
When we talk about the characteristics of food, the answer is very simple: product, product and product. The majority of classic dishes have no more than 5 or 6 ingredients and that’s because with a good product … simple technique is needed and less is more. The same scenario is the basis of most of the best restaurants in the country.
You worked as Chef de Partie in Valencia for the Michelin-starred restaurant RiFF. You were responsible for fish and meat department. Valencia has hundreds of good fish and meat restaurants – what was different about this Michelin starred place?
Well, this restaurant will always be something special for me as it was the first one I worked for that was not from my family. So I really learned how to work in a very serious and stressful environment, and for the first time with chefs of other nationalities such as owner and Head Chef Bern Knoller from Germany.
You worked as Senior Souse Chef in Valencia for a 4-star boutique hotel, where you organized the catering of private events and weddings with up to 800 covers per event. What was your biggest learning during this time?
In that case the key for me was the volume of business as we were making on the busy season more than 2.000 covers a week with so many outlets and need to be cover. Also it was my first contact with catering, weddings etc.
Your position as Head Chef in Switzerland for the hotel restaurant Toko – What experiences have you had with Swiss cuisine? Has it somehow influenced your style of cooking until today?
I worked for the first time as a Head Chef and also for the first time abroad. So you can imagine the situation – no knowledge of the French language or even English. Really the first time with a lot of pressure and responsibility, I had to learn quickly to keep up the pace of the business, which was really high, I have to say.
From Switzerland to London, where you worked for several years as Executive Sous Chef for the Aqua Restaurant Group. Is London a tougher place to work as a chef?
London is “the place”. I still believe that every chef has to work at least once in London. And anyone can do that. With goals, passion and the ability to work hard, there is nothing you cannot do.
My experience in the Aqua Group helped me to develop myself as a chef – in many ways like the executive side of the business, personnel management, planning, organization, etc.
And again, like years ago, when I was working at the RiFF in Valencia, I was very lucky to find someone who I think is one of the best chefs I know and I’ve ever worked for – Anthony Garlando, who has been Pierre Garnier’s right-hand man for years. So working together and the opening of the Aqua Shards in the Shard building was really an experience.
At Harrods, the famous retail shop in London, you worked as a Head Chef for more than 3 years. For customers, Harrods is a kind of magic. What has been your greatest learning working there as a Head Chef?
My greatest learning in Harrods was for sure that everything is possible.
It would take me 2 hours to explain how many crazy events we organized under the name of Harrods and how high our customers’ level was, from cooking in a $ 70 million yacht owned by Dan Snyder (owner of Redskins) in the middle of the Thames to doing pop-up restaurants for chefs like Tom Kerridge, Tom Kitchin or even Daniel Bouluds.
Also participating in this great group of chefs was like a school to me.
You work as Executive Head Chef for IHG in Brussels, another culinary capital in Europe. How do you think about Brussels cuisine?
Brussels cuisine was an absolute mystery to me, and I was very surprised when in the first few weeks I visited the restaurants throughout the city. The quality of the product really shocked me and some guys of the new chef generation are doing a really good job.
The business volume will rise in 2018 after two years of terrible terrorist attacks, because after that, tourism is indeed suffering from a severe recession.
“Everything in life is a circle and trendy things keep coming back, cooking is no exception.” – Francisco Carrasco Cortés
After so many different experiences – how would you describe your culinary line today?
Simplicity. I like to tell the new generation of chefs who work with me that less is more.
I really like to feel strong and clear flavours, natural textures and original recipes, without ever forgetting where I come from and what I’ve learned over the years, and always keeping one eye on the trendy lines that the customer is asking for every day.
As a passionate Spanish Chef you follow the culinary scene in Spain. What current trends do you see there?
We go back to our origins in a general line. After the last 10 years of technology, innovation, craziness and showtime, most chefs return to their roots. Everything in life is a circle and trendy things keep coming back, cooking is no exception.
If you had time to write a cookery book – what would it be about?
I would love to take all the recipes from my granddad and my dad as it was the first step in my career and I still sometimes go back to them to find some inspiration.
Is there a place in the world where you would like to work as a chef one day?
After almost 11 years out of my city, Valencia sounds like a very good idea.
Thank you very much, Francisco!
Click here for some more creations of Francisco: @cheffranciscocarrasco
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