Teresa Mas de Roda is the conceptual chef
Professional cook, creative artist, traveler and restless. Teresa Mas de Roda is the conceptual chef, she creates her dishes from concepts, from edible stories that tell the life of an artist, the lines of a painter, the notes of wine, the story of the epic voyage of the first round the world of explorer Magellan.
Her creations are based on research, and then she gets carried away by her instinct, she doesn’t measure quantities of ingredients and doesn’t try dishes before presenting them to her clients, is like a painter who draws her work, with flavors, textures, and colors, guided for her experience and for what she wants to express.
Some of her gastronomic works are the dinners: “La Primavera de Claude Monet”, “Kitchen of the opera stars”, “Libra horoscope”, “The golden blue coast 50 years”, Carnival Ancient and Modern Greece: you will drink and live”, “History of the Torres wineries”, “The 500 years of the first round the world”. Then, let’s know a little more about her.
By Fabiola Gálvez
How did you start your career as a chef? What school did you attend and what led you to cook professionally?
I have been an artist in every way, I have always drawn, the typical girl who draws well, creative. As a teenager, in my family, there was a lot of social life and I helped to cook and I loved it. I started to create dishes and I saw that there was going well, but I decided to study graphic design in Fine Arts and then, from studying and working, from living in New York, I decided that being in front of a computer was not for me. I needed to work touching things, and I chose a job that would make me happy and make others happy and decided cooking. Then, I made up my mind and studied to be a chef at Luis Irizar’s school, in 2002, it was two years, where you work at the same time, it is mandatory and there I started working in parallel in San Sebastián, in recognized restaurants like Berasategui and the traditional ones. In Barcelona, I worked at the Casa Fuster Hotel Galaxó, and then I used to be in charge of the kitchen at the Cinc Sentits when we won the star. I have worked in Australia, France, Italy, and many other places.
What did your visit to these countries add to your cooking?
In Australia, Thai cuisine is very similar to the Mediterranean in regard to the balance of using fresh herbs, and it is very combinable. We have lemon, they have lime, but it is very similar. I went to Thailand for 2 months to learn how to cook Thai and I love to combine it. Right now I do private events for old school clients in Barcelona. Here I have to cook more traditional but I love fusion.
How would you describe your cooking style, your philosophy?
I call myself a conceptual chef. When you learn graphic design, you learn a work methodology and project creation. First, you receive an order and you have to do a study of the type of audience, what will have the packaging, everything you want to transmit and then, in the end, you have a result. Well, I cook very similar, I choose a theme, for example, it can be an artist like Dalí. I do all the study of this artist, his pictorial career, a characteristic of food, where he lived at the time, and I synthesize all this information creating a menu inspired in that artist. In a philosophical concept, in a season or colors, all kinds of conceptualizations.
Do you have any slogan for this concept? Something you always repeat yourself
I am super creative. I have worked in restaurants where I have created dishes for chefs, and new dishes came out in magazines with their names. And I didn’t care because I have infinite creativity, each menu is a new semester, and each menu has five new dishes. Maybe my slogan is that I have infinite creativity. Every month I create at least five new dishes.
How do you create the menu, such as dinner, for example, inspired by the 500 years of the First round the World?
It is essentially research, of the 500 years. My partner suggested it to me from a celebration we went to the Command of the Navy in Barcelona, and they talked about this voyage. I said: “Wait, I think it’s a difficult thing to investigate.” Think that every month is a new topic, I can not dig deep, but enough to have content. I rethink the topic to build a menu from the stops that the boats of this adventure made, and the ingredients that they carry in the original boats, and from there, I was building it, always keeping the Spanish air in the dishes.
I’m seeing it on your website, even in the welcome drink
Yes, everything, I even choose the wines.
Do you also play with the drink, not just with the food?
Yes, I kind of make pairing depending on certain ingredients, and also the menu itself invites you, like this one of the 500 years. Chamomile was drunk in the port from which the boats leave in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the appetizer is very easy in that case. Even the foie gras is marinated with Jerez because they left from Jerez. They also made a stop in Tenerife and foie gras went well with a sweet wine.
And what does your diners tell you when they test your creations?
Well, the truth is that I work alone in the kitchen, I have a waiter and I see their reactions when I explain it, when they eat it. They are surprised at the creativity as I have been able to connect one thing with the other because then, in the end, the result has to be a balanced menu. It also has to be within a budget and they say: how can you make a menu that meets the requirements of the concept, that has the ingredients and that the flavors combine. Some clients call it a complete experience.
On your website, you have services where you have created menus with concepts of wine, world, and art. How is this classification?
I have made many menus inspired by artists, I thought it could be a service that I offered to art galleries or artists when they make a vernissage, I can create a cover inspired in the artist, I study the artist and create a tapa that they can eat in the opening of an exhibition with a glass of cava, and also the theme of the winery because I have collaborated with the Torres Wineries and they always asked me to make a menu for these five wines, they are the family’s special wines, because I went to the winery and did the tasting with the sommelier of the winery and they gave me all the description and from there I created an ideal dish for that wine, not only for the organoleptic tasting but for the history behind the bottle, of the family, why it was created, for whom and how. Then, from there it was an exclusive tapa for that wine.
Who are all these services focused on?
From art, to all galleries and artists. And for private dinners and sometimes I offer you a menu of such an artist and I do it. The theme of wines basically for wineries or wine producers. And there are more abstract menus where I put all travels, philosophical concepts, and loose things.
My attention is drawn to the way you create a dish from the notes of the wine, it is generally the opposite
Famous sommeliers do it. I think the sommelier of the Roca brothers, Pitu, I think he chooses a wine and the kitchen creates a dish for him. It is not usual, it works the other way around. I love it.
What helps you get inspired?
Eating out is helpful, not to copy the dishes. There are many people who go to be inspired by the dishes but I go to choose the flavors. I create a file of flavors in my head and with those flavors I can create new aromas and textures. Something a chef has to do is eating out a lot, taste flavors and have that file.
I was inspired by the concepts and from there to investigate. If he is an artist, he lived in Provence, and there he ate a particular cheese, and the artist painted in orange colors, I put orange to the cheese. It is a way to associate concepts. I never prepare the dishes that I cook in these menus, I invent a dish, send an email to my clients and on the same day of the service I invent how to place it, how to combine the flavors and how to do it.
Do you work with small producers?
I usually buy at the Boqueria market and I have my selected small stalls, and there are also small shops in my neighborhood, it depends on what I need. Every menu is different, and every month I have to find different things. I don’t work with suppliers because I do very small events and always change the ingredients.
Do you have any special ingredients that you always use in your kitchen? And if that was the case, do you know the name of the person who sells it to you?
I bought the olive oil from a friend of mine named Davalia and it is an oil of extreme quality and is from Arbequina de Lérida.
If you had the opportunity to write a cookbook, what would it be?
Big question. Everyone asks me to write cookbooks, recipes, and I refuse because I don’t usually repeat any dish, and don’t control the quantities, I cook by instinct, so it would be quite complicated. I do have a traditional Christmas dish, I have customers who ask me for cannelloni, but I have not measured it, otherwise, I could make a recipe book. I am an artist, I think I would make a creative process book.
Now that we are ending the year, what are your next goals?
[Laughs] I feel like creating more than cooking, in fact, I am already getting this event every month with a new menu and this is enough for me, before I made private events in houses with people and I am leaving that little by little.
Maybe also some kind of creative advice. Even to a restaurant that will open, to create the menu, advise the chef, cook.
What do you think gastronomy is art or art is gastronomy?
As I am very creative, to me cooking is art. Art means to express yourself, you can do it by painting a picture, which I also do, I also sing, write, I do professional photography, I do exhibitions, everything is art. Everything that allows you to express yourself as a person is art, cooking as well.
And the haute cuisine?
Much more art. If you make a menu of the day in a restaurant which is great, but it is not art for me, it is artisanal. But the more creativity is involved in the cooking process, the more art it is.
What dessert would we end the interview with? Could you create one?
[Laughs] Wow! As I just ate, I would have a citrus dessert, some combination of citronella, lime, make a sorbet or something creamy, a pastry cream infused with citronella and lemon slush, and a bergamot sponge cake.
I’m going to write it down so I won’t forget [Laughs]. I just made it up.
Thank you very much, Teresa Mas de Roda! Happy holidays, from CookConcern!