Yolanda García, the chef of ‘wild’ recipes
It’s quite easy to create a surprising haute-cuisine dish in Almeria if you use red prawns from Garrucha, but doing so with a dish whose main ingredient is the cotton thistle is definitely a culinary challenge. However, curiosity, tenacity and a commitment to the environment have led Yolanda García to discover an entire universe of ‘weeds’ to cook with. She uses an innovative process that has resulted in interesting dishes, such as Rice with albacore, a sofrito of halophiles and shaggy ink cap aïoli, or a Herb velouté with kid leg.
Tired of the innovative techniques imposed by avant-garde cuisine, this chef – at the helm of the Michelin-starred restaurant Alejandro (Roquetas de Mar, Almería) – decided to begin a new era, revealing the DNA of her homeland and showing, in each of her dishes, what is taking place around her. She rediscovered long-forgotten walks in the countryside and drank from the traditional recipes of Almeria, discovering surprising flavours offered by a land with unique characteristics.
‘The exotic lies not so much in what is far away as in what I don’t know,’ Yolanda García often insists. Painstaking research with a multidisciplinary team has already catalogued about 30 ‘weeds’ to put new flavours on the table: these include wild plants such as sorrel, borage or shaggy ink caps, together with halophiles that grow in Cabo de Gata and have a pronounced flavour of the sea.
Born in the town of Oria, in the north of the province of Almeria, this cook recalls a childhood spent outdoors among the scents of thyme and rosemary, herbs her mother used in the kitchen but that the passage of time has erased from recipe books. This link with tradition is what prompted Yolanda García to introduce a wide array of wild plants into her cuisine, imbuing her dishes with character and opening up to us a world filled with culinary possibilities.
By Manu Balanzino