Rafael Panatieri – chef with Michelin star experiences
What motivates a Brazil chef with Michelin star experiences and different experiences in Italy and Spain, to open his own Pizzeria in Barcelona?
For Chef Rafael Panatieri it is the challenge to make people happy in any restaurant be it a pizzeria, a hamburger restaurant… and to bring the best products in a very simple way. “Our mission as chefs is to think sustainable”
And the trends in Barcelona’s culinary world towards a much more responsible cuisine and how to cook with what nature provides us and how to look for the best ingredients in their environment.
As Senior Sous Chef at the Roca Moo, in Barcelona, you gained Michelin star experiences. How did this time influence you?
At Roca Moo I spent two years as sous chef and R&D chef, in this period I was dedicating myself and learning about the style of cooking and the philosophy of the Roca brothers.
How did your culinary journey start?
My culinary journey began the day I was born, from a very young age I had a very direct contact with the kitchen at home, mainly with my grandmother who sowed in me the taste for cooking. As a child I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but destiny changed, and I decided to dedicate myself to the kitchen professionally when I was 18 years old.
Which culinary school did you attend?
Once I decided not to become a veterinarian, I found a cooking course that caught my attention in Curitiba – Brazil, “Central European Cooking School”, it was in this school where I had my first contact with professional cooking, with games, with discipline, with cooking basics and it was where I knew I wanted this for my life.
What surprised you most once you started out as a chef?
I think that when you become a Chef, the surprises are not very big anymore, because you are preparing so much for years to do this that for me the change was very natural. But one of the things that surprised me is that you stop exclusively cooking and you must dedicate more time to other tasks such as the human factor, forming a team that I think is the most difficult and essential to run a kitchen and be successful in it.
What is the best part of being a chef?
The best part of being a Chef for me was being able to demonstrate and do what you have studied and learned during all these years, is to put into practice all the learning you have absorbed in various houses to create your own style, put your passion to the test and make your team also understand what you want to transmit.
You worked some years as chef in Brazil. What are the similarities of the Brazil and Spain cuisine?
In Brazil, after I finished school, I was working 2 years and a half as a cook, but there are many similarities between the two kitchens, I think it can also be by European immigrants who came to Brazil. I see much similarity in the stews, both meat and fish, the way to cook them with simple ingredients but great taste.
What are the major differences?
The main difference is in the ingredients used, Brazil is a tropical country with very fertile soil and that is very noticeable in fruits and vegetables.
What are the reference points for a Brazil/ Spanish cuisine?
An obvious reference point between the two cuisines are the concentrations of flavours, for me in both cultures there are intense, spicy flavours, they are cuisines with a lot of personality.
Later you worked as chef in Italy. How did this time influence you as a chef?
In Italy I was working in Sicily, Rome and Florence, it is a kitchen that I have had with me since I was a child since my family are Italian descendants in Brazil. I went to Italy just to prioritize this kitchen that I love. in Italy as a cook I learned to value and love the products, to work with little manipulation. It is an apparently simple kitchen that has a very strong cultural and emotional charge. And that’s what I always carry with me.
Sicily, one of Italia’s culinary heard for excellent ingrediencies. How would you describe the soul of Sicilia’s cuisine?
Sicily is spectacular, it has a beautiful gastronomic culture, the ingredients are very fresh with a very marked temporality. I believe that by the climate that, the soul of the Sicilian cuisine is in the sea. Something that is very noticeable is the love and respect they have for their cuisine.
After this time, you moved to Barcelona, where you worked eight years in different positions and great locations as chef. What makes Barcelona to such a fascination culinary hot spot?
I was travelling to Barcelona in a few Christmases and five days were enough to fall in love with this city. Barcelona, the cosmopolitan city there are people from all continents, has a very bold cuisine and rooted in time. What fascinates me is that there is a magic in Catalan gastronomy.
After so many different culinary experiences, how would you describe your own culinary style today?
My culinary style is based on simplicity, on the temporality of the products. For me there has to be a great respect between human and nature. I am very purist and I try to transmit that when I cook. As a cook I feel the obligation to help and preserve what is in my environment. I think it is possible to cook with what nature gives you in the time it defines.
Recently you opened your own business with Garden Pizza by Rafa Panatieri. What is the concept behind?
Garden Pizza by Rafa Panatieri is a Pizzeria that we are solidifying and building with its philosophy every day. It is the place I chose to do something I love and I return to the past that is cooking. Something accessible to everyone in a very traditional way, using only the fire “wood oven” and reusing the local product and respecting its temporality. With the passing of time I want the Garden Pizza to be totally self-sufficient, that it has its own orchard, that we produce our own sausages and that we make our own mozzarella. That is something we are already working on and the first results are beginning to come out. It is very gratifying when cooks produce or take care of the ingredients they are going to use, it is a way of understanding the environment and where we want to get.
Please do not misunderstand this question: you are such a well-trained and experiences chef; why do you “limit” yourself to Pizza?
You’re not the first person to ask me this question, but the answer is very simple. For me being a chef goes much further than cooking in a gastronomic restaurant, my challenge as a person is to make people happy in any restaurant be it a pizzeria, a hamburger restaurant…etc and to bring the best products to them in a very simple way. “Our mission as cooks is to think sustainable, that’s the only way we’ll make things last.”
Pizza; it is a science. What is the secret of a good Pizza?
The secret of a good pizza is in the dough and the ingredients you use.
How can you compete/ distinguish yourself/ your Garden Pizza by Rafa Panatieri; among the “thousand” other Pizzerias in Barcelona?
I don’t like the word compete very much in catering, I think we are not in a race to see who makes the best pizza or who is the best restaurant, or the best cook, this is very relative. I don’t look to distinguish myself from others. I look to do something that I see that can bring something to people that in a certain way people can identify with my way of seeing the world, that they see that what is close is also good, and that everything we need is around us and that we can live in a sustainable chain, healthier, more natural world. And that we can preserve the environment much more and help the world to be a better place for future generations.
How many sorts of Pizza do you off permanently and how many/ how often do you offer different types?
Our menu has 10 pizzas, but we always have one or two pizzas out of the menu as suggestions.
Which one is your signature Pizza?
The 10 pizzas I have on the menu are made with a lot of love, I wouldn’t know how to choose one in particular.
Can you share one of your last creations with us?
My last creation is not really a creation, it’s something that already exists but I’ve been researching it for a long time and trying different ways of doing it, which is the burrata and the mozzarella that we’re going to start making in the Garden Pizza, with cow’s milk from an organic farm in Catalonia.
What are some of the lesser known spices and vegetables you use for your Pizza?
I already used some different herbs that are wild, are found in Catalonia as beldroega, pimpinela.
Which unique cooking technique have you mastered?
For me a primordial technique for a cook is the most ancestral, that of mastering fire and temperatures.
What are the current trends / developments you see in the Barcelona’s culinary world?
I think the trend is towards a much more responsible cuisine with the future, with quality, purer products and minimal human intervention.
What does work mean for you?
The job? There’s a phrase that I identify with, “do what you like and you’ll never have to work”.
What is most important in your life?
The most important thing in my life is my family.
What do you do if you want to treat yourself to something special to eat?
When I want to give myself something to eat, I make myself a good steak, it reminds me a lot of my childhood in southern Brazil, where meat is our main food.
There are lots of trends in the international culinary world. What are the real important developments you see and would like to become more important?
There is a worldwide tendency to be sustainable, to improve the quality of food, to use food without agro-toxins, to eat better and fresher. I think it is something that is being developed mainly in the Nordic countries and that the world should use as an example.
Did your career as a chef change you as a person and if so, how?
I had a change when I understood that it felt good to feed people something, valuable. I put passion into, and I understood that food is a way to transport a culture in an easier way. I can cook in Asia and make people feel to sit in Brazil, that’s great.
Any place in the world you would like to work as chef one day in the future?
I wish one day I could go back to Brazil and life my cooking style there.
If you would have the time to write a cookbook, what would it be about?
If one day I write a cookbook, I would like to spend my culinary experience, transmit how to cook with what nature provides us, how to look for the best ingredients in their environment.
Lots of cooks are interested to work in Barcelona. Do you have any tips or recommendations for them?
The advice I can give to work in Barcelona or in other gastronomic centres around the world is to look for places where you can learn and fight for a position and never give up.
Thank you Rafael Panatieri.
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