Spaniards prefer having their own regional dishes, but this does not mean Basques never cook cocido madrileño (a stew from Madrid), or a family in Barcelona don’t enjoy merluza en salsa verde (Basque-style whiting) for dinner.
The United States usually views Spanish cuisine within the context of tapas. We have a variety of entrées, tapas, and paellas all rooted in the diverse cooking traditions of each part of our country. If I have to cook a dish of rice with fish and seafood (i.e. paella) in San Sebastián, I would prepare “arroz con almejas en salsa verde” (brothy rice with clams in parsley sauce), making the rice creamier and using parsley over saffron. In Barcelona, I substitute saffron for squid ink and fideos (Spanish pasta) for the rice.
I define my current cooking style as “interpretive Spanish regional cooking with urban sensibilities.” Obviously I am inspired by traditional foods but I’m also marked by many lengthy travels to other European countries and Latin America. I have friends from all over the world in NYC, and my wife is Korean, so I’d be lying if I said I’m not influenced by these cosmopolitan experiences.
When I came to America, my notion of cooking was more Euro-centric. Two years went by and I returned to Spain to work in Martín Berasategui’s three Michelin-starred restaurant. Working in other kitchens with one and two Michelin stars brought me up to date with Spain’s revolutionary culinary scene happening in the late ‘90s. I returned to NYC to open Meigas with an idea of introducing Spanish New Wave, playing with foams and gelatins. After Meigas closed, I consulted for Suba and delved into the “Nuevo Latino” trend, and later saw the rise of farm-to-table dining, which made me pay close attention to Spanish-Mediterranean cooking.
My cooking style today at Salinas can be seen to have evolved alongside what’s happening in Spain and within the US.