Last December, Spanish chef Dani García shocked the food world when he announced that he was going to shut down his eponymous restaurant in Spain’s Andalusia region. Much more so because one month before he had earned his expected third Michelin star. Garcia, however, had been emphatic: 2019 would be the last year of the restaurant's operation in Marbella.
The food-related media went wild: countless reports were published echoing the announcement, focusing on the fact that the restaurant had recently received the famous French guide's highest accolade, which, according to Michelin, is “given for the superlative cooking of chefs at the peak of their profession”. And at his peak, Garcia decided to permanently close his fine dining restaurant.
Nitro detox gazpacho
He had a reason — or many of them — but the main one was not to jeopardize the freedom to do new things, after 20 years dedicated to haute cuisine. At the time, the chef stated that he couldn't continue to devote the focus needed to maintain a three-Michelin-starred restaurant through the phase that the restaurant group he is a partner in was going through: international expansions, new concepts creations, broadcasting professional commitments.
Now, García is finally ready to say goodbye. The restaurant's last service will take place tomorrow, when Dani García, the restaurant, finally closes its doors. “There is no nostalgia, no sadness. I close this cycle with the deepest sense of accomplishment”, he says.
Fine Dining Lovers talked to the chef last week in Basque Country, where he joined chef Josean Alija, from Nerua, at Ongietorri, an event the Basque chef organizes to promote four hands dinners with other acclaimed cooks. García talked about the last days in the kitchen, the fine dining scene and, of course, his future plans.
Caviar stew beef tongue
The farewell dinner
“During this last night, we are welcoming our families, friends and other cooks. I have no doubt it will be an emotional and beautiful night. I look back and have no regrets because we always knew what we had come for and we needed to do it: it was a very thoughtful decision to end one cycle to start another - chef García says - It was a very strange year, in the sense that everyone came to the restaurant in 2019 simply to enjoy. The fine dining world is very critical. In Spain even more. When you reach a peak, it is easier to receive negative reviews than positive ones. People come into your restaurant thinking: ‘let's see if this is really worth it.' Because of the announcement of the closing, that totally changed. Diners came into the restaurant with the desire to have fun and enjoy, to have a good time, to eat well. If we thought that restaurants have an ‘expiration date’, people would enjoy their experiences much more when visiting them”.
A goodbye to fine dining
"I think it is normal that people were curious about it, that the press wanted to cover this topic. And we felt good with that, it was proof that people cared about our work. There is a time during the meal when people go to the kitchen to taste some dishes there" the chef argues.
García also insists on the fact that people have been asking for months why he decided to close: "After we explained, people understood and wished us luck. It was also very important to be able to have this close moment with our clients, to receive this support from them.” “I am a cook and I like to cook any kind of cuisine - says García - I spent two decades in haute cuisine, which was very important for my career. I have no strange feeling about closing a fine dining restaurant that was very successful. I see it as a person who has come to the end of his job and will start another one. I would be upset if I said goodbye to a restaurant with a lot of things yet to do, but I feel grateful for what we achieved”.
But now, what about the future? “We worked more quietly in 2019 because we wanted to respect the moment of the restaurant and also to enjoy this very last year of operation. But we were already cooking new things" chef García explains.
He has openings scheduled in the USA, in Qatar, in Paris, and London. Chef García explains: "It was a better year than we expected and we will open more venues than we had planned, which is great. This means that we will have the expansion of our concepts already established [Bibo and Lobito del Mar], but we are also creating new concepts, such as fast food, that we have been developing for some time now. But I can't say that I will stop doing haute cuisine: for me, everything is haute cuisine. And at Madrid's Four Seasons, for example, our project is a more elegant Brasserie, with more gastronomic dishes. I want to keep cooking things that make me want to do it."