We talk to the man behind Restaurante Alejandro del Toro – an elegant Michelin starred restaurant which currently serves some of the most innovative and exciting Spanish food in Valencia.
How did you begin your career as a chef?
I’m the third generation of a family dedicated to the hospitality industry, so becoming a Chef was a natural progression for me. My parents had a typical bar serving homemade cooking, so I was brought up between the stoves. I then pursued a degree in Tourism and did cooking courses. I started work as a professional chef when I was 21.
What is the strangest experience you have had in your career?
Six months into the opening of the restaurant, they started the works for Valencia’s underground. It was total chaos and one day there was a black-out in the local area. There was no electricity and I ended up cooking with 2 gas rings and candles! I was lucky that the customers understood the situation and actually saw this as an adventure!
Have you met and cooked for many celebrities over the years?
I have met national and international politicians, football players, actors, and fashion designers. The most recent one was the president of the Lincoln Centre in New York. I do think, however, that the success of a restaurant cannot be measured by how many famous people visit it. I take pride in having many patrons, from all walks of life, tasting the passion I put into my cooking whether or not they’re celebrities.
Is there anything that really drives a chef crazy?
Cooking times! Diners sometimes don’t understand that certain ingredients have to be cooked in a certain way to better appreciate the flavours. So if a dish that is supposed to be served medium rare becomes well done this can kill the optimum taste of the dish.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Achieving a Michelin star in 2003 and opening my restaurant aged 27.
What is your signature dish?
A soup made with Raff tomatoes (an especially tasty variety from Almería in southern Spain) with basil and prawns.
Which ingredients would you take to a desert island?
Olive oil, vegetable seeds and rice. These thee ingredients are an integral part of the Mediterranean culture and the food of Valencia.
What are the three things in Valencia a visitor shouldn’t miss?
The Albufera freshwater lagoon and the Malvarrosa beach in Cabanyal, which is a typical fishing area of Valencia and also where I come from. Last but not least, the Mercado Central, an architectural joy for your eyes and also an ideal place to find local produce of superb quality.