October 3, 2018
The stars shine better in the forest
Just reaching Nacho Manzano’s establishment in Arriondas is like a journey of initiation. Hidden among the woods in the mountains, this Asturian two-Michelin-starred restaurant is a place we should all experience, at least once in our lifetimes.
This landscape has been the home of this chef since he was a child; in fact, the restaurant’s origins lie in the small, family-owned grocery shop that sold all sorts of goods to the nearby villages, from cider to bleach, and from jams to animal feed. Nacho’s mother would sometimes cook for a passing traveller, and, over time, this became routine. Soon, these meals became the main income of the shop, and Nacho’s help was invaluable.
This creative chef was not the greatest student, at least not at school, but from a very young age he was already clattering around the family kitchen. At the age of thirteen, he created his first dish when he gave one of his mother’s recipes a modern twist by adding sautéed onions, a little Cabrales cheese and a free-range egg to a traditional torta (a fried maize flour flatbread that had always been served with minced pork). The result was obviously a hit because he’s still at the stove, and this dish is today served as an appetiser at his Michelin-starred restaurant.
Family ties are very important for Nacho; his parents are always somewhere around the restaurant, and his sisters are part of this ‘empire’ which, little by little, and with great effort, they have built.
His journey to the stars began with Esther. Together with his sister, he began to design Casa Marcial’s first menu; traditional cuisine with a good sprinkling of avant-garde ideas, and with the personal ‘Manzano’ touch. Their food has been elevated to the highest level: the croquettes and their rice and pitu (chicken) will go down in history and are the two dishes that have garnered the most recognition.
They are now involved in a number of businesses: The two-Michelin-starred Casa Marcial; La Salgar in Gijón (1 Michelin star); Gloria (eateries that are less ‘cheffy’ in Oviedo and Gijón); and the Manzano catering company. In addition, Nacho is the executive chef for the Ibérica project (5 restaurants in London, and one in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow), a group that continues to grow, and plans to open new premises. The energy Nacho has for all of this, and more, is astonishing – he is a veritable ‘commando’ of the kitchen.