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The Chef Who’s Putting Los Gigantes on the Spanish Gourmet Map


Occupying a small, unassuming corner behind the plaza in Los Gigantes is Restaurant El Rincón de Juan Carlos. From the outside you might not give it a second glance, passing it by in favour of a table in the plaza, but to walk by its door is to pass up the opportunity to sample some of Spain’s finest gastronomy. And that’s not just my opinion, that’s official.

On March 29th 2012, at the BCN Vanguardia conference centre in Barcelona, six young chefs drawn from across Spain will compete for the title of Cocinero del Año 2012 (Chef of the Year 2012) at the IV Concurso Cocinero del Año (CCA), and one of those finalists will be Juan Carlos Padrón, the chef who lends his name to the family restaurant.

Last week, Tenerife Magazine went along to Restaurant El Rincón de Juan Carlos in Los Gigantes, which is considered by many to be the best restaurant in the Canary Islands, to meet the rising young star of the Spanish gastronomic world and to find out what it takes to become a top chef.

As I entered the bijou restaurant, tucked onto the corner of Pasaje de Jacaranda, I was struck by the complete lack of pretensions in the dining room. Were it not for the menu outside and the knowledge that there was a maestro at work in the kitchen, I might have mistaken it for any other restaurant in the resort. The simple, lemon décor, white linen and original artwork (Juan Carlos” wife is the canvas artist in the family) made no attempt to detract from the reason you enter that doorway ““ to enjoy truly excellent cuisine.

How to grow a top chef
Occupying a table in the corner of the restaurant, I begin to ask Juan Carlos about his career as a chef and how he came to be such an accomplished culinary artist.

Juan Carlos tells me that cooking is in his blood and just about everyone in the Padrón family tree for the past three generations has worked in the production and preparation of food. His grandfather was a fisherman, his grandmother and mother both cooks and his father a chef. Growing up in the family restaurant, Juan Carlos” culinary training began when, as small boys, he and his brother Jonathan were given a pot with carrots and potatoes to play with.

“When I was a small boy my father placed crates for me to stand on so I could reach the sink to wash dishes,” says the ever-smiling chef. “As I got older I learned to give out the menus to customers, to take the orders and to serve the drinks. Then I started to do some flambés supervised by the chefs, and to clean the fish and serve it.”

Since leaving the family restaurant to train as a chef, Juan Carlos has worked in Michelin starred restaurants in mainland Spain and France as well as in the restaurant El Drago in Tegueste where he worked alongside Carlos Gamonal. Attending seminars in El Bulli with Feran Adria and in El Celler de Can Roca with the Roca Brothers, gastronomic influences on the young Tinerfeño chef have been at the very cutting edge of the world’s most creative cuisine.

The best chefs in Spain
Now on its fourth edition, each CCA final takes two years during which 60 professional chefs are selected from more than 1,000 applicants drawn from all parts of the Spanish mainland and islands to compete in six semi-finals. The winners of each heat then compete in the final to find the Cocinero del Año (Chef of the Year).

The chefs have to prepare a balanced menu with the correct amount of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre, all for under €16 cost. The three courses are judged on flavour, composition, presentation, creativity, texture and aroma as well as the professionalism of their preparation. Juan Carlos was the only chef from the Canary Islands to be selected to participate, and he went on to win his semi-final which was held in Malaga on 1st June 2011.

On 29th March 2012, at the BCN Vanguardia conference centre in Barcelona, Juan Carlos will join his fellow semi finalists; Victor Manuel Rodrigo, Juan Jiménez, Marco Varela, Sergio Bastard and Javier Estévez, in the final which will be hosted by three Michelin stars chef and President of the CCA, Martín Berasategui.

The menu
Amazed at the €16 cost tag as the criteria for the menu in such a prestigious competition, I ask Juan Carlos what his winning Malaga menu consisted of.

“The starter was Steamed Parmesan Ravioli in a Lentil Reduction with Onion Petals; main course was Fillet of Parrot Fish with its Livers in a Seafood Sauce and for dessert, Warm Apple Terrine with Cinnamon Ice Cream.”

Since the competition, the parmesan raviolis have made it onto the menu at El Rincón de Juan Carlos and I can vouch first hand for their sublime flavour and texture ““ they’re like fairy pillows of soft, parmesan down that melt on the tongue. The ‘classic’ menu at El Rincón de Juan Carlos features dishes which combine taste and texture in a way that doesn’t just delight the palate, but that also provoke experiences and feelings. For those who appreciate top notch gourmet food, El Rincón offers a tasting menu which affords diners the chance to sample some of Juan Carlos” most creative dishes.

As we chatted, the tables of the restaurant began to fill and I asked Juan Carlos what the menu specialities are at Rincón de Juan Carlos.
“We don’t have specialities,” he tells me earnestly. “Every dish we do is a speciality and the menu changes frequently to incorporate seasonal ingredients.”

It’s a family affair
Now in its ninth year of operation, El Rincón de Juan Carlos has continued the Padrón tradition of being a truly family affair with Juan Carlos and his brother Jonathan in the kitchen and their wives front of house, quietly and efficiently waiting on tables, describing the dishes for customers and providing wine and menu recommendations with a wealth of knowledge and winning smiles. Their father now sadly passed away, the boys” mum still works alongside her sons in the kitchen.

One of the most down-to-earth and unassuming people I have met in a long time, chatting to Jaun Carlos it’s difficult to imagine the world he inhabits when he competes; a world filled with Michelin stars and Repsol soles where he rubs shoulders with the likes of Martín Berasategui. To me, he and his brother are like Tenerife’s answer to the Roca Brothers whose El Celler de Can Roca is officially runner up to the best restaurant in the world. Of all the famous chefs he has trained and studied with, I ask Juan Carlos which he admires the most.
“My father,” he says, unhesitatingly. “The best chef in the world was my father. When I cook in the final of the Concurso Cocinero del Año, it will be for him.”

Posted in Featured, Food & Drink, NewsletterComments (2)

Interview with Carmen Gil González, Carnival Queen 2012, Santa Cruz de Tenerife


I”M standing in the hot sun of a Santa Cruz afternoon, looking over at the face of Carmen González, newly crowned Carnival Queen 2012, who’s chatting to Mayor of Santa Cruz, José Manuel Bermúdez (below, left), and Councillor for Fiestas, Fernando Ballesteros (below, right) in the garden of the Hotel Mencey. After the photo calls come the interviews and Carmen smiles through endless takes with a TV camera pointed at her and a microphone placed before her. Without the ornate make-up of last night’s Gala Election, the beautiful face of the 18 year old model betrays her tender years. But she’s beginning to look pale and a little uncomfortable.

“Carmen is feeling a little dizzy,” says her agent as she links Carmen’s arm and helps her to walk towards the shade of the hotel. “She’s going to get something to eat and then she’ll be back for your interview.”

The fact that Carmen is tired comes as no surprise to me. When I left the Gala Election at the Recinto Ferial at 1.40am today, Carmen was still on stage, in her full make-up and costume, mobbed by TV cameras and flash bulbs.

Looking refreshed and more relaxed when she returns, I ask Carmen what time she finally got to bed this morning.
“At 3am,” she tells me. “But at 6am I had to get up because I had TV and radio interviews.” In fact, she hasn’t slept much at all in the last two days, she admits, nerves keeping her awake the night before the Gala Election too. I”M sympathetic to her lack of sleep but she shrugs it off. In the excitement of the last 48 hours, being tired is a small price to pay she assures me.

Tall and slender with straight, long dark hair and the sort of face any aspiring model would kill for, Carmen Gil González has a grace and ease of movement that comes with her profession. Still in her final year at school, Carmen is hoping to combine a successful career as a model with her studies. Modelling since the age of 13 years and turning professional at the age of 16 years, it’s an ambition that she’s managing to balance well at the moment.

When the judges gave their long awaited decision 13 or so hours ago and the name of Carmen Gil González rang out around the vast stadium as the 2012 Carnaval Queen, it was an emotional moment for Carmen and the tears flowed. I asked her if she had managed to come back down to Earth yet:
“I”M not quite back on Earth yet,” she laughs. “I”M still getting there!”

Carmen’s winning costume was ‘Imperio’, a stunning interpretation of the splendour of the Roman Empire, designed by Santi Castro (with Carmen, above) which combined elements of a chariot and centurion helmets in luxuriant feathers of the palest blue radiating out from a gold and silver chariot adorned with sapphire and diamond costume jewellery, lions and the Imperial eagle. Like a cross between Boadicea and Helen of Troy, Carmen rode her chariot from its epicentre, dressed in an elaborate gold and bejewelled headdress, some strategically placed jewels in gold braid, and very little else. Although the event was held indoors, I couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t been just a teeny bit, well, freezing.

“Yes!” she admits, her face animated by laughter. “At first when I put my costume on backstage I was really cold but once I had the full costume on I forgot about the cold, and the emotion took over,” she says. “I have bruising here and here.” Carmen points to her hips where the harness with which she pulled her costume sat. “But I felt neither cold nor pain, nothing!”

Weighing in at an incredible 300 kilos (over 47 stones), it seemed to me that the stage at the Recinto Ferial must have seemed like an awfully large space for a slight young girl to pull that weight around and the bruises would seem to confirm that fact. I ask Carmen how much of a struggle it had been.
“Yes, it’s a very big stage to pull a costume around,” she confirms. “Imperio is a big costume and I was worried about being able to pull the weight successfully around the stage. But on the night, with the emotion, the audience and the applause, it felt like no weight at all.”

The ability to “Wear’ a costume as if it weighed nothing at all is one of the most important aspects of being a candidate for Carnaval Queen and the girls who are chosen to represent the designer and the sponsors have to be able to move as if they are a part of the costume and to look happy and relaxed as they do so.

The spectacular show which surrounds the election of the carnival queen in which the 12 candidates are introduced to the audience and the panel of judges, is a cabaret of epic proportions spanning almost four hours. As candidate number one, Carmen was first to appear on stage. I ask her if that made for a very long night.
“Personally, I was glad to be the first onto the stage,” she tells me. “I didn’t have time to get too nervous, you know. It only felt like a long time waiting for the second time to go out because I had to wait through all the other candidates and the whole show. But I liked being first.”

As an only child in her home in La Laguna, Carmen is used to being first, and now that she has realised her dream to become Carnaval Queen, she has a busy year of engagements ahead of her, representing Santa Cruz de Tenerife in events and promotions both at home and abroad. I have no doubt that Carmen will be an excellent ambassador for Tenerife, she’s a delightful young woman who’s beauty goes deeper than her flawless surface and here at Tenerife Magazine we wish her the very best for her year ahead.

Posted in Featured, Fiestas & Festivals, Interviews, NewsletterComments (0)

Interview with Damien Vergez of Fastfokus.com


At the still-hot-and-sticky end of a long summer, Damien Vergez of FastFokus.com came out to Tenerife with a team of mountain bikers and all his camera and video equipment to film some of his favourite riders getting to grips with the unique landscape. Thanks to Matt at Sorted Sites, a mountain biking enthusiast who was on hand to help the film crew with their work, Tenerife Magazine caught up with Damien to find out what had brought him to Tenerife.

Many thanks to Manuel Faster Rodriguez and to Damien Vergez for these amazing images :)

TM: Watching your incredible video of freeride mountain biking on Tenerife, I can see that you and the riders all had a brilliant time trying out the island’s tracks and trails. What is ‘freeriding’ and who are the top riders currently in the sport?

Damien: First, Freeride mountain biking is a state of mind, it’s type of mountain bike riding style. Freeride usually involves large drops, jumps, and manmade stunts. The trails are often accessed by shuttle or ski lift but can be pedaled as well. Freeride bikes usually have large amounts of suspension travel (180mm and more) and you can ride everywhere.
You have a lots of very good top riders in this sport and it’s difficult for me to give you names”¦ but riders like Darren Berrecloth, Thomas Vanderham or Matt Hunter are some of my favourites

TM: Can you tell us how this project came about, where else you have filmed in the series and how you came to be in Tenerife?

Damien: It’s been almost one year since I began work on this project. I came up with this crazy idea to travel to different countries and film some amateur riders with their favorite professional rider in some of the most beautiful trails on the planet. Who hasn’t dreamt of spending time with their favorite rider/player? Regardless of our nationality, it’s something we all think about.

There is less and less snow in Europe and this sport is taking a large market share in the ski resorts. Tenerife is an ideal place for mountain biking. Weather is always good, you have big mountains, lots of awesome landscapes. Mountain biking is an incredible way to see the island of Tenerife! The island has huge potential to become a must in Europe!

TM: How much work do you have to prepare the ground for filming?

Damien: It depends on the country and the place I am filming in. Normally I don’t need to prepare and work the trails I film because most of the time I film in ski resorts or places known worldwide like Whistler in Canada. Here in Tenerife you don’t have special “freeride” trails, only pedestrian ones.

TM: How did the bikes cope with Tenerife’s volcanic terrain?

Damien: The Tenerife ground is very difficult for bikes and especially for tires. You need to be careful because if you go too fast you can fall directly inside a cactus”¦ hahah :-D

TM: Can you tell us where on Tenerife you did the filming and how long it took you?

Damien: More than 70% of the island is covered by national parks. Each national park has its own restrictions. Some, like Teide National Park, we were forbidden to use for our purposes. It was difficult to find the right places with so many restrictions. Most of our images where taken in “Parque Rural de Anaga” and “Bike Park Tenerife” (a private park in Tegueste). The filming was done over one full week.

TM: Which area of Tenerife did your riders like most and why?

Damien: Parque Rural de Anaga is really nice for mountain biking because at the same place you can find volcanic and forest trails. We also toured the island by car, and I must admit that we liked almost all places on the island. La Punta de Teno, El Teide, Vilaflor, Los Gigantes, Playa de Socorro… After mountain biking you have so many good places to visit!

TM: Would you recommend Tenerife as a good venue for freeriding and for mountain biking in general?

Damien: For sure I will! And it’s already done! I also recommend Tenerife for your holidays. Sun all the year, beach, mountains, forest”¦ and it’s cheap! You can find pretty much all you want in the same place. It’s heaven, no?

TM: What’s your next project?

Damien: I have lots of great projects but I can’t say too much at this time. But I’m always looking for partners and customers, so if you need films or photos for action sports, feel free to contact me at fastfokus.com

TM: Thanks for chatting to Tenerifemagazine.com, Damien, and good luck with continuing to spread the word about freeriding! :)

Damien: Thanks to Tenerifemagazine.com for this interview. I hope to come back soon in Tenerife, it’s a wonderful place!

Faster Croquetas – EP5 from FASTFOKUS on Vimeo.

Posted in Featured, Interviews, Newsletter, Other SportsComments (2)



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