Innovative Spanish cuisine that nods to tradition is the hallmark of Executive Chef Jorge González at Hotel Ritz, Madrid
Executive Chef Jorge González
The grand lobby of Hotel Ritz, Madrid leads to Goya Restaurant, which sits in belle époque resplendence as one of Europe's most historic and elegant dining rooms – a place where diners continue to be wowed by the cuisine. At the helm is Executive Chef Jorge González, who has built his culinary career on achieving a balance between tradition and innovation. For the past 12 years, he has ensured that Goya remains one of the Spanish capital's most prestigious and sought-after tables.
Hotel Ritz, Madrid
González formerly worked in legendary two-Michelin-starred kitchens in France, including Chez Vanel in Toulouse and Les Ambassadeurs in Paris. As a result, his philosophy at Goya is based on delivering Spanish cuisine with French influences, featuring the best seasonal produce.
Perfectly trilingual, but modest with it, González – who hails from Irun, near the culinary mecca of San Sebastián in the Basque Country – explains why Spanish food is so good. 'In general, in Spain we're lucky with our fresh produce – we have very good meat, fish and vegetables. We care about the nutrition and condition of our animals and want to preserve the identity of food from our different regions.'
On a menu that is frequently avant-garde, one of his signature dishes is carpaccio di carabinero; in other words, a carpaccio of red deep-sea shrimp in its own oil. The discs of shrimp are delicate – almost translucent – but retain the flavour of the sea, while micro greens, nuts and sesame seeds add texture to what is an exceptional display of creativity.
More maritime marvels come in another González classic: wild hake from Cantabria (a region on Spain's north coast), accompanied by a green-pepper sauce and Iberian ham vinaigrette. With crisp skin, the fish is a masterclass in technical execution, while the green pepper and natural saltiness of the ham serve as the perfect seasoning counterpoint.
Arguably, the best is saved until last, however, in a breathtaking dish that is still as relevant to the menu at Goya more than a century after it was first created. The cochinillo asado (roasted suckling pig) involves eight hours of cooking on low heat in an oven before being finished with spinach, plums and salsify. And the plating is decidedly contemporary, spare but beautiful.
As González explains, 'We try to play a bit with our guests. Most of our dishes are traditional and, of course, we respect our history, but we also experiment with textures and colours, presentation and tastes.' Spectacularly tasty and impeccably served, the dish is emblematic of Hotel Ritz, Madrid's dedication to timeless luxury, while keeping an eye firmly on today.
A selection of dishes from Goya
This lack of complacency is underlined by the fact that Goya is set to undergo a discreet renovation, along with the rest of the hotel. It's clear that one of Madrid´s most cherished historic dining rooms will be refined rather than dramatically changed.
González is excited at what the next chapter will hold. He will continue to host chefs from around the world in a spirit of culinary co-operation and shared learning, for which Mandarin Oriental hotels are renowned. This year, he welcomed to the hotel the celebrated Mexican chef Susana Palazuelos, who brought a touch of Latin American spice to a special menu during her week-long residency. And it's clear that many more chefs from around the world will seize the chance to work in one of Europe's finest dining rooms – alongside the talented González.