For the head chef Alfonso Yufera-Ruiz, less is more and flavour is king. He recalls his foodie beginnings and tells us cooking is in his blood
Tell us about your cooking
My cooking is rustic and I like to keep things simple. For me, as both a chef and a foodie, the flavours have to be on the plate before anything else. After that, two or three ingredients is enough. It might sound basic, but for me it’s finding the flavours that fit together. That is the true art of cooking.
How did you become a chef?
Most of my career, I have been front of the house. I’ve been everything from waiter to restaurant manager, but cooking is in my blood, so I decided to get back to the kitchen. I went to catering school in Madrid where I gained an NVQ in Catering. I attended Stratford College under Alan Deegan and Birmingham College of Food with Rob Smith. I worked in great places at the time, learning from the best of the best, both in the kitchen and in the restaurant. Having a food education from my early days was vital and helped me develop a better understanding of cooking. My influences are British Mediterranean mainly.
What do you eat when at home?
It depends on how much time I have! Some of my go-to meals include everything from butter bean stew to omelettes. Recently, I’ve been wishing for warmer weather, so any fish a la plancha or a quick burrito have taken my fancy.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
It’s too tough to call who the best in the business is now, but in the Nineties Keith Floyd and Marco Pierre White were superb to me. And who’s the best in Brum? I don’t know yet, but it will be somebody who cooks for the customer, not for the picture, and does so with passion and honesty.
Is the customer always right?
Not always right, but their opinion is always very valuable.
Share a cooking tip
Slice a ciabatta bread, toast it. Chop a beef tomato with half a garlic clove, some oregano and olive oil and blend all together. Pour mixture on the toasted ciabatta, with a pinch of Maldon salt. It’s the perfect quick snack!
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I was a terrible eater when I was younger, so hot dogs and burgers made my day back then.
Food heaven and food hell?
Beef or tuna tartare for heaven. Anything cooked with carelessness can be a hell.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Definitely grilled lizards and fried birds! They were so popular in Madrid and Granada back in the day. Fortunately, it is forbidden now.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A struggling actor! Haha.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Grilled artichokes to start, swordfish a la plancha with salsa verde to follow, and then strawberries poached in Pedro Ximenez to finish.