Paco Morales worked as sous-chef at Mugaritz before bursting onto Spain’s culinary scene in 2008 as chef at Senzone, in Madrid’s Hospes Hotel. He quickly won Madrid Fusion’s award for Best New Chef, and followed it in 2009 with another for Best Chef of the Year. Today, he is chef of Restaurante Paco Morales in the gorgeous Hotel Ferrero in Bocairent. There, surrounded by gardens and orchards, he demonstrates nightly that although he clearly knows his way around a liquid nitrogen canister, technique is always subordinate to product. “There are so many restaurants where, if you were eating blindfolded, you wouldn’t be able to tell where in the world you were,” he notes. “I want my cooking to reflect my environment.”
Was there a task at elBulli that you particularly disliked?
I hated the piñonada [removing fresh pine nuts from pine cones].
And one that you liked?
I loved making the cotton candy.
While you were working there, what was your impression of Ferran?
He was the guy who was always in his kitchen—that really impressed me. He oversaw every detail. And he was always obsessed with the idea of family of products. At one point during the summer, when we were working on an egg dish, he kept trying to see the birds who laid them. I remember he was always asking me which came first, the chicken or the egg.
And of your colleagues?
Eduard Xatruch [chef de cuisine in charge of production] was incredible—an impeccable guy who never let down his guard and was always working at the top of his game. Oriol Castro [chef de cuisine in charge of creativity] made hard things look easy. He always gave you this sense of calm and security. And then there were those hard services with Albert Raurich at the pass…he’s an exceptional person.
Is there a recipe that you serve now that owes a debt to elBulli?
Maybe the fresh walnut dish. At elBulli back then we were always working with fresh almonds, fresh pine nuts. At Ferrero, we have 200 walnut trees on the grounds; so I guess I’ve invented my own version of the piñonada.
What was your favorite family meal?
The cuttlefish with cinnamon-scented meatballs always transports me to Roses.
How would you summarize what you learned at elBulli?
Disciple, how to be systematic, organization, creativity