The executive head chef of Fazenda Birmingham, Francisco Martinez brings a creative and rustic flavour to cooking forged in his home country of Spain as well as Germany, Spain and here in the UK
Tell us about your cooking
There are two sides to my cooking. The first relates to my background which means my food is creative, playful and sophisticated. The second is my rustic side – after five years with Fazenda I’m trusted to play with fire and wood, so now my style has evolved into a combination of both aspects. When it comes to designing dishes for the restaurant my main priority is quality, in both the meat and techniques applied to the ingredients to enhance the textures and flavours.
How did you become a chef?
My family has always been involved in hospitality and eating in a restaurant every day is a main memory of my childhood. I went to culinary school in Alicante when I was 17. After three years in college, I spent a season at El Bulli in Catalunya – a Michelin three-star restaurant – which taught me everything. After that, I had different experiences in Germany, Spain and China before moving to the UK.
What do you eat when at home?
My fridge here in the UK is always empty – I travel a lot, so not much cooking at home!
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
In the world it would be Ferran Adria who was my mentor and head chef at El Bulli. Birmingham has many great chefs, but I would have to say Glynn Purnell. Purnell’s is a chic, contemporary fine-dining restaurant.
Is the customer always right?
I use the word right in a different way as I believe our guests always have the right to disagree, give feedback or complain. Dining out is an experience and my job is to make the food as well-received as possible.
Share a cooking tip
It’s a buying tip. Spend your money on good quality proteins. If you start your recipe with the wrong ingredient then you probably know the outcome from the beginning.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Seafood rice, which we are specialists at in my area in Spain. It comprises a thin layer of rice with Mediterranean seafood, which sounds like paella but it’s not – this is precision in a big pan. I have my own secret recipe that I’ve never shared with anyone.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is seafood rice with my closest family and friends. Hell is seafood rice if I have it on my own because food for me is not just what we eat, it is the whole act of what, where and with who you dine.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Being in China for two years gave me the opportunity to have a big, big list of unusual things I’ve eaten…
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Probably an engineer as I’ve always liked to create and build. In a way Fazenda highlights that side of me, as we are always implementing new systems.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Picanha – our signature beef cut. It has the perfect balance on every aspect important of beef: tenderness, flavour and juices.