This is the chef who works miracles with liquids. He distills the essence of each product, listens to the whispering of vegetables, fruits or fish, searching for the soul of every ingredient that enters his kitchen. The talent of Ricard Camarena (Barx, Valencia, 1974) has won him two Michelin stars, and he showed why at Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión this Monday. He reaches complexity via astonishing simplicity, as could be seen from the four dishes of his taster menú that he produced on stage. He states that flavour is the essence of his cuisine, with which he aims to appeal to all five senses, offering his diners “a unique experience”.
“Cooking is something he was born with”, says José Carlos Capel of this chef for whom “moisture is essential”. “Our work”, says Camarena, “is to observe the product and learn from its virtues and shortcomings, above all showing respect.” He acknowledges that today his work focuses on liquids, a topic that gives him plenty of food for thought.
Artichoke with a hollandaise sauce of eel, baby eel and tarragon; tomato with tuna belly; a three-phase dessert made of pumpkin; and amberjack, caviar and “crémeux” of caviar were his four proposals. Their common denominator is extraction of the essence, of the juice from each product, wisely combined in a search for contrasts and surprising alliances between flavours and textures. He extracts the collagen from the eel, gives salted fish the texture of fresh fish, makes pumpkin ice-cream, and salmon roe that tastes like authentic caviar.
Camarena is a non-conformist by birth. He welcomes his customers in the kitchen and tells them the life story of each product, where it comes from and all the details of the preparation process. This is the destination of a path that began in his orchards and market gardens and led to a laboratory in which he works his gastronomic alchemy with five members of his team, aiming to “rediscover what we already have”.
He supervises the chain from the garden or the fish market to the dish. The fish and shellfish he offers come from Cullera and are of “special quality”. But he works with them differently to “rediscover them”, cooking them and combining them in unusual ways. His aim is to “generate a new context for a normal product”.
In this search for the essence, Camarena tries to reach the soul of the product before presenting it on the dish. His kitchens give birth to creations such as turnip and radish with herring roe, onion with anchovy and black garlic, potato with eel and almonds. Their apparent simplicity stems from conceptual complexity, of which there is no sign in the case of dishes such as his salad of organic tomato, belly of tuna and chilli pepper which his audience at Madrid Fusión was delighted to see him prepare.
Camarena won the second Michelin star for his restaurant in the centre of Valencia, Bombas Gens, and was declared Best International Chef by Identità Golose, the great Italian gastronomic institution.