While the Spanish hospitality industry tries to get out of the water and asks the Government for responsibilities for being the sector most affected by the pandemic crisis, the great Spanish chefs continue to garner the most noble recognitions. Tono Perez (Casar de Caceres, 1961) is the sixth chef in the country to receive the prestigious Grand Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine. Enjoying a meal at Atrio, a Relais & Chateaux establishment, which he has run since 1986 in the wonderful Monumental City of Caceres, embodies excellence.

–What aftertaste does the Grand Prix de L’Art de la Cuisine have when it is cold
–They are one of those prizes that you see from afar, a recognition of a career, and you value it even more in these difficult times. In Spain only five fellow travelers who are number one had received it.

–Do you feel like an ambassador of Extremaduran cuisine in Madrid and of Spanish cuisine in Paris or London

–When you make a life project, a personal kitchen, at a national level I feel with my own identity, deeply rooted in the raw material that we enjoy the extreme ones. We have one of the largest pantries in the country, wild products and the Iberian pig pasture are jewels and allies.

–And is there a moral commitment to your environment
-Of course, we have that commitment with the territory, the suppliers… A nutritionist recently told me that excessive meat consumption is not sustainable, and I replied that there is nothing more sustainable than the breeding of the Iberian pig in the dehesa, how it feeds, how it lives, how it pulls an environment, a way of life, a people. If I have that moral commitment and everything that I can return to them is little, it gives meaning to our project.

–Is there as much corporatism as it seems in haute cuisine

–Yes, yes. I have just been with Quique Dacosta in Madrid and I invited him to come to Extremadura to see my projects. We are in the same boat. We share more things than appear on the public scene. When Angel Leon makes a despesque to protect the seas, we are all there.

–Now is the time to knock on the door of the Administration.
-The Administration has the obligation to respond to the hospitality industry and tourism, they have punished us a lot. The hotel industry has been so punished… it seems that they have made us responsible for the Covid, and our sector has taken great care of the premises, spaces, we have complied with the measures. The spread has been more in private gatherings of family and friends. The pandemic has swept away many projects and illusions and the Government must be there, support them. Our projects are life projects, they are SMEs that create many jobs and give a lot of meaning to our territory.

–And do you perceive that colleagues from other countries feel more supported by the Administration
-In Germany, Belgium or the United Kingdom they closed the establishments of the branch but the Governments have reviewed the previous income statements and contributed a minimum to be able to survive. In Spain, many people in the industry have had to close down and at 50 or 60 years of age it is difficult to get out of the unemployment line. They are autonomous and have nothing, nothing.

-Covid-19 has forever deprived some infected of taste and smell. Even cooks. Can you conceive of a greater act of cruelty for

yourself – Uffff, I think they will end up recovering it, in two months, a year or two years. There will be treatments to exercise those senses, although it’s all so new… For me it would be a tremendous problem, of course (laughs). And with how intuitive I conceive the kitchen…

-What the pandemic has changed is another sense in many professionals, sight. The way to see this business so sacrificed. What about you

The Covid has taught us that we are very fragile and that we have to take advantage of every minute.

–Meanwhile, your mind is like a mill of ideas that are also shaped. The Torre de Sande, for example, is a celebrated nod to the stove.
-We have a very large staff, which is the jewel of our house. And opening Sande’s Tower was the way to keep her on the team in this far from ordinary time. A concept of gastronomy more casual, more direct, more product, stew. People are happy and thank us for Caceres. It is a 13th century tower, patio and garden, we are taking its pulse. It’s not easy, it’s another segment.

–And other projects in progress

–The expansion of the Atrium with the Palacio Paredes-Saavedra, adjacent to our establishment and from the 13th-14th century, eleven suites. It is a wonder. We have had to rehabilitate it for another 300-400 years (laughs).

–What do you say to those who think that cooling down the avant-garde and returning to the essence is an alibi to reduce costs

–In no way is it like that. The avant-garde and the essence must coexist. Innovation and tradition coexist and one does not make sense without the other.

-Globalization forms more lovers of gastronomy. Does the diner feel more sassy at the table

-That’s culture, it’s a two-way street. It is even good for us that the people who sit at the table are increasingly educated.

–You have reached unknown points with the Iberian pig. Is there anything left to discover about

His possibilities are endless. In this world, everything is work, work, work.

–When some possible recipe resists you, do you leave it, or come back in a while

–The Alcantara-style partridge, a very sophisticated 16th-17th century monastic cuisine dish. I wanted to evoke that cuisine from those cultural centers like Guadalupe and Alcantara, with those spices that came from America, and I was never satisfied. This year a very cool elaboration finally came out. If it’s something that really interests you, you take it out.

Previous articleTenth anniversary of ‘Tu tiempo’ Roberto Brasero: “Now they ask me for more ‘selfies’ than forecasts”
Next articleHere is the program of the Bonino-style Radicals pro Forza Europa in the center-left