Omar Allibhoy - Leading the Revolution

by Neil Morris

Omar-AllibhoyThe revolution is coming...

It starts with the distant echo of a Spanish guitar, strumming a rhythm of serious intent. Then, on the horizon, a dark shadowy figure emerges from the mist. As he approaches, he defiantly plants his national flag into the ground and then reaches under his arm to draw his weapon of choice - a book. A book that he hopes will shape the future of an entire nation. The man is Omar Allibhoy, the book is Tapas Revolution.

Young, talented and charismatic; if anyone is going to bring a Spanish food revolution to the UK, it is this passionate prodigy from Madrid. With his rock star looks and preacher-like verve, Omar Allibhoy is on a one man mission to convert the UK masses to the delights of Spanish Cuisine – and we are right behind him.

Revolution

So where did it all begin? What was the catalyst for this culinary journey that led to the creation of a Spanish food manifesto? Omar recalls his first food memory, watching his mother "command the kitchen" back at home in Madrid: “I remember watching my mum cooking when I was 2 or 3 years old. She was cooking a flan (creme caramel) and even though I couldn't reach above the stove to see it, I remember the burnt caramel smell.” With these words, he reveals the secret to converting the uninitiated to the delights of Spanish food; whether it’s a seductive aroma or a memorable flavour, you have to give someone that first memory - that moment of epiphany.

All those early experiences of cooking with his mother certainly paid off and it was not long before the wide-eyed young chef was attending cooking classes after school to develop his own skills. This led to an inevitable career in professional kitchens that really took off when he trained under legendary three-Michelin-starred chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame. Omar describes this experience as: “The making of my career, learning from a chef so meticulous, passionate and gifted as Ferran was a dream come true and I really came into my own element.” Soon after, he left for London to work at some top restaurants such as Gordon Ramsey’s Maze and eventually he became Head Chef at El Pirata de Tapas in West London.

After working with so many great chefs, it was interesting to find out who had been the biggest influence on his career to date - Omar had no hesitation in explaining: “Karlos Arguinano has really influenced me in my career; I used to watch him on TV when I was a kid. He taught me a lot and made me love cooking more than anyone else.”

Despite his experience working in some of the world’s leading fine-dining establishments alongside some of the most technically gifted chefs, Omar’s food still reflects the accessible simplicity of Spanish home-cooking. Quality ingredients are the key and he describes Olive Oil as the most important of all. “Olive Oil is the link between the rest of the ingredients in any recipe.”

Revolution

As well as working as Executive Chef at El Pirata de tapas, Omar has also opened two of his own Tapas Revolution restaurants in London and with the accompanying book now flying off the shelves, the revolution is fast becoming a reality.

Tapas revolution is a book that is destined for success and will be a source of inspiration for many aspiring cooks, but which books have influenced Omar, and which one is his favourite? “1080 Recipes by Simone and Ines Ortega is a great book which covers pretty much every possible Spanish recipe, this book has influenced me a lot, but my favourite is El Gran Libro de Cocina by Alain Ducasse,” explained Omar.

As for the best meal he has ever had, well it was not a Spanish chef that impressed him but one of the UK’s finest - Heston Blumenthal. “I had a tasting menu at The Fat Duck - everything was outstanding.”

Tapas Revolution reflects the passion of a chef who is proud of his country and proud of his cuisine. If Spanish food needs an ambassador in the UK, Omar is the man for the job.

As he reflected on the positives of life in the UK he also gave a clear indication that the revolution is set to continue: “My favourite part about living in the UK is doing what I love - using my passion for food as my career and business, but of course, I miss my family and friends in Spain very much.” And the next stage of the revolution? “I will be opening a new Tapas Revolution restaurant in Shoreditch early next year!”

With one fist raised triumphantly in the air, our revolutionary turns away and marches onwards to his next destination with a new band of disciples in tow.

¡Viva la revolución!

Get your copy of Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy

Read our review of Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy

Visit the Tapas Revolution Website

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