Dabiz Muñoz: "It takes a lot of courage to change things when people like them"

Javier Varela


The DiverXo chef talks about the creative process, creativity, and even his fears

When Dabiz Muñoz cooks at Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España, everything stops. Even when he is not cooking and talks about his cuisine, his creativity, his restaurants, his way of understanding gastronomy and life. "The hardest thing to explain is creativity, because I have always been obsessed with doing something unique. I still have a lot of hunger and ambition to achieve things, and I believe the best is yet to come," confessed the chef from Madrid in an interview with Benjamín Lana, director of Vocento Gastronomía, and José Carlos Capel, president of Madrid Fusión.

Dabiz Muñoz's cuisine cannot be understood without creativity. Recipes that change in a matter of hours, making it impossible to compile all his creations in a book, as other chefs have done. "I cook all day because creativity is also trained. It's like a muscle. If you spend all day trying new things and learning, your creativity increases", he confessed. He also revealed that he is capable of creating a successful dish without having tried it before. "I've tasted some of them two or three weeks after I made them because someone gave me a comment", he said. "I don't need to taste the dish because I've already tasted the food that goes into it”.

But creativity requires courage, and Muñoz boasts that he is brave. "I am brave, but I feel dizzy when we change things that already work. We make between 50 and 60 new dishes a year, and that means a lot of creative anxiety. It takes a lot of courage to change things when people like them", he confessed. "My big challenge every day is to do things we haven't done before and to reinvent ourselves", he added. And that is where he is now with his new project, with DiverXo, where the aim is to "change the DNA", but on a mental level it is very difficult.

Mental health is fundamental in every aspect of life, including the life of a chef. "It is very stigmatising to need the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist", says Muñoz. "For me, going to a psychologist is like going to a physiotherapist or a dentist. It's just another exercise I do, and one of the secrets of my cuisine", and the way his UniverXo works, where "human and team sustainability" is fundamental.

If there is one thing the chef from Madrid is clear about, it is that he cannot go back to the toxic relationship he had with his restaurant. "I don't know anyone who has achieved great things without making many sacrifices. If you want to lead, learn, and improve, you have to sacrifice a lot, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer. You have to enjoy the journey, and live in the present. You can claim to be the best if you enjoy the journey. In the last three years, I've been much happier than in previous ones", he confessed, when talking about this new Dabiz Muñoz.

Episode four

It is in this context of personal and professional renewal that we find the fourth episode of DiverXo, a project that even Muñoz himself cannot explain why he is doing it. "DiverXo has to be the restaurant of my dreams, and if it's not, I'd rather do something else. I want to redefine it 100%, and I want the moment I walk in the door and they see it, they'll say, 'What the hell, they've done it again!", he says with a laugh.

A project with an investment of between 12 and 14 million euros, so that on an experiential level, it will be "an amusement park for me and for the client". From a gastronomic point of view, the great challenge is that when the guests enter the restaurant, they find "the same level of excellence, creativity and uniqueness, but with the feeling that there is another chef behind it". "I feel I have nothing to lose. I have everything. I've achieved everything I've ever dreamed of", he admits, while stressing the importance of being well surrounded. "I try to surround myself with the best talent available to me in every area. And they are the ones who make me better", he said.

He also spoke about his new venture in Dubai, where he is about to open StreetXo, and where he is only giving up "the pork". "The rest will be as wild as StreetXo", he said. In a 40-minute talk to a packed, but too-small auditorium at Madrid Fusión, Dabiz Muñoz showed that he is a creative whirlwind, in and out of the kitchen, and that he has learned to break the toxic relationship with work.

"I have managed to set limits to my relationship with my profession, and now I have more time and more quality time to enjoy my family", he confessed. And to say goodbye, he revealed the three ingredients he would take with him to a desert island: "Olive oil, some vegetables to cook and grow, and chillies... I can't live without chilli peppers", he said, ending a talk in which he showed Dabiz Muñoz the way.






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