December 20, 2019
Chef of the green sea
When José Álvarez, chef at La Costa (Michelin*, El Ejido), talks about produce, he refers to the two seas that offer their bounty for him to cook with: the Alborán Sea, whose fish and seafood shape the core of his cuisine; and the ‘green sea’, as this chef from El Ejido likes to call the sea of plastic that is part of the landscape where he grew up, where he works, and where he gathers the fruit and vegetables that go into his exceptional food.
José Álvarez was born in El Ejido in 1971. He is a chef by tradition and by vocation. Self-taught. When he was a child, he would swap textbooks for books on gastronomy, oenology and restaurants. He learned the basics of the trade from his father, but above all a respect for produce and tradition, which he now combines with an innovative twist to create food that is respectful and elegant.
José Álvarez’s career and that of his restaurant are closely linked to the flourishing agricultural sector of El Ejido, known as the ‘the vegetable garden of Europe’, as it is the largest ‘pantry’ providing greens to this continent in winter. José Álvarez has found a bastion in all the innovation that has arisen around vegetables, one that now focuses on organic farming and recovering the flavours of yesteryear. In fact, he receives new varieties every day. These are developed by the main seed companies, but he also works with small local suppliers who painstakingly grow heirloom and sought-after varieties, such as the true Raf tomato.
Not a cook who follows trends or fashions, José Álvarez loves his land, his produce and, above all, believes in the know-how of El Ejido’s farmers. That is why he has always defended the quality and safety of the way the locals grow vegetables under plastic, upholding this belief via his cooking, and in a most diverse range of forums.
He started out young. After working in every part of the family restaurant, at the age of 16 he decided delve into cooking and, from the kitchen itself, give the business model a more gastronomic slant, and always with the enjoyment of his diners in mind. His work began to reap success, and in 2006 he was awarded a Michelin star, which he has kept every year since then.