My Life in Food: Alejandro Bello
'I learnt to love caribbean food when I was growing up in venezuela'
Friday 28 September 2012
Alejandro Bello is head chef at Ceviche, the Peruvian restaurant in Soho, London, and the brains behind Platterform in London's Borough, which brings together chefs and mixologists with art and music. Platterform's latest project is a pop-up street market.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
My Thermomix is the most used thing in my kitchen. It is the perfect blender. You can make purées and coulis with it – and I just love the texture of things that have been through it, they are perfect to cook with. I've been using them for two years and I like them so much I have two – one for home and one at work. What is my least used piece of equipment? I'd say it is my small saucepan, the milk pan. I have absolutely loads of them but I never use them, as I'm never cooking something so small that it would fit in one of them.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
First of all I would buy some cheese. I very much like Neal's Yard, which is close to the restaurant, so I'd head there and I'd get something mature, like a Ticklemore. Then I would buy some fruit. I'd head to Brixton Market or maybe Dalston – the reason I would go there is because you can get good Caribbean fruit at both, things like green plantain.
What do you eat for comfort?
A nice stew. Probably Caribbean: pork with Caribbean beans. Growing up in Venezuela, I learnt to love this type of food. It is a big thing, Caribbean food – there is quite a large community. Otherwise, I am very passionate about chocolate. I think the Venezuelan chuao is the best cocoa bean in the world.
If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
I would definitely go for potatoes. You get such a fantastic range in South America, especially Peru. I love the black truffle potatoes, which are blue, and just about any others that have a nutty, earthy flavour. For me, bread is bread. I like walnut and raisin bread or maybe a good pumpernickel, but I prefer potatoes. I'm a big fan of baked potatoes and a big fan of chips as well. I like to triple-fry chips in goose fat.
What's your desert island recipe?
Sea bass ceviche. It is one of my signature dishes and it is perfect for an island because it only involves lime juice, salt, a good fresh sea bass and some yellow chilli from Peru.
What is your favourite restaurant?
At the moment it is Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain. I am a big fan of Andoni Aduriz. I think he is a genius. The way he draws inspiration from his garden, how he develops his ideas and how he puts them on the table – it is brilliant. He is very creative and humble about what he does.
What's your favourite cookbook?
On Foreign Cooking by Harold McGee. It is very interesting and very helpful. The perfect tool for a chef. If you want to know anything about ingredients and techniques that is the book to look at.
Who taught you to cook?
My grandmother, who was originally from Spain, taught me about that cuisine, about tortillas, chorizo and cured meat. She loved to cook and would include me in what she did. Her influence, and my mother's, is the basis of my cooking. I also learnt many French techniques from my first mentor, a French chef named Marc Provost. It was him, I suppose, who really inspired me with food.
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