Diego Guerrero, with his rebel spirit he breaks the rules of cuisine

He’s one of the protagonists of the culinary scene of Madrid and will speak at Identità Milano, on the 24th March

05-03-2019 | 10:00
Diego Guerrero at the pass. He’s the chef at D

Diego Guerrero at the pass. He’s the chef at DSTAgE, two Michelin stars in Madrid. But we’ll see him in Italy too, at Identità Milano 2019, where he’ll speak from the stage of the Auditorium on Sunday 24th March at 5.15 pm (see the programme)

Diego Guerrero has a very interesting personality. He’s one of the most important representatives of the contemporary Spanish culinary scene and he will speak at the next edition of Identità Milano 2019 from the stage of the Auditorium, on Sunday 24th March at 5.15 pm (see the programme). When you chat with him, it feels like you’re speaking with a musician, or an artist, or anyone with a strong creative energy; and even when at work by the pass, he’s focused but keeps his laid-back and friendly mood, very communicative. He looks both relaxed and restless.

He now lives in Madrid but was born inVitoria, País Vasco, in 1975. He’s a chef partly by chance, partly because of his rebel spirit. As he told us a while ago, «I didn’t think I’d take this career. Or better: I had and have many other interests, like music, art, communication... When I turned 18, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, so I started to think: firstly, I wanted to become a journalist, and a painter. Becoming a cook was another option, the third and last: after all, they were all ways of expressing myself. I discussed this with my parents, and what they said, more or less, was: “Do whatever you want, but don’t become a cook". Of course, I became one».

Excellent choice. His DSTAgE, a tailor made universe with a retro-industrial look opened on July 1st 2014 in the Spanish capital, in Las Salesas. It conquered the second star in 2017 Michelin Guide. It’s a successful project (some time ago, Guerrero estimated he had served 29,000 clients, compared to 65,959 online requests. Even these days you have to reserve a table at least 4 months ahead), to which the patron-chef arrived after a career that saw him work at Martín Berasategui in Lasarte and at Goizeko Kabi in Bilbao and Madrid; he’s been working in the capital for 15 years now. And here he had already conquered two stars at El Club Allard, which he left in October 2013 for this new project.

The lounge at DSTAgE

The lounge at DSTAgE

Guerrero’s stylistic choices are never banal. He mixes Spain with constant inspirations that can come from anywhere, from South America to Asia. His cuisine is cosmopolitan and very technical. He often uses collagen as a channel for taste – sometimes even too much. One year and a half ago, when we met him at Turkish congress Gastromasa he said: «Cooking is a universal language and it all boils down to the same bricks, which are basically proteins, fat, water. They are the same pieces that shape food, and give it texture and flavour. Think of collagen [a protein] which preserves the flavour of an ingredient. Fat is also an excellent vessel for aromas. Or a process like Maillard’s reaction, an interaction of sugars and proteins during cooking».

His dishes are the creative result of these principles. His cuisine is meant for people who can appreciate even forced flavours, aromatic estremes and, in general, a sort of fullness on the palate. One could say he’s not subtle, but then he creates some small miracles of harmony, very balanced, like Calamar a la romana, Tomate garum or Rosa de pimiento asado [see the photos below] where you can tell that constant innovation leads Guerrero to experiment and some extreme choices are only the price to pay when searching for a new frontier ("The excess of rules is inversely proportional to creativity: this is why he breaks all the rules and dares to apply new ones to fine dining ", Julia Pérez).

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

When you arrive at DSTAgE they welcome you with an aperitif in the lounge with the large, comfortable leather chairs. Here’s where they serve the first appetizer, Calamar a la romana, excellent, better than any expectation. No flour, no egg: the calamari "meatball" is kept together thanks to the albumin of the cephalopod itself, in a similar way to Pino Cuttaia’s Uovo di seppia. The sauce is made with the tentacles. It’s a powerful bite, with neat flavours, almost the best possible calamari 

When you arrive at DSTAgE they welcome you with an aperitif in the lounge with the large, comfortable leather chairs. Here’s where they serve the first appetizer, Calamar a la romana, excellent, better than any expectation. No flour, no egg: the calamari "meatball" is kept together thanks to the albumin of the cephalopod itself, in a similar way to Pino Cuttaia’s Uovo di seppia. The sauce is made with the tentacles. It’s a powerful bite, with neat flavours, almost the best possible calamari 

We move to the pass, and are welcomed by Antonello Lupo, born in Salerno in 1992, «I’ve been working he for 4 days». He arrived in Madrid for three years of Erasmus, «I was studying marketing, then I enrolled in a cooking school and I arrived here for three months of training». Clearly they liked him, and they hired him at DSTAgE. Lupo observes with us the live preparation of ...y un huevo!, a show-dish: they syphon a white mousse of egg white on dry ice, which becomes a sort of meringue in which they place the egg yolk, plus chips of puffed bacon. The taste is what you’d expect for breakfast, but with a very concentrated aroma and a light texture. «I like interpreting what is part of the common culinary memory»

We move to the pass, and are welcomed by Antonello Lupo, born in Salerno in 1992, «I’ve been working he for 4 days». He arrived in Madrid for three years of Erasmus, «I was studying marketing, then I enrolled in a cooking school and I arrived here for three months of training». Clearly they liked him, and they hired him at DSTAgELupo observes with us the live preparation of ...y un huevo!, a show-dish: they syphon a white mousse of egg white on dry ice, which becomes a sort of meringue in which they place the egg yolk, plus chips of puffed bacon. The taste is what you’d expect for breakfast, but with a very concentrated aroma and a light texture. «I like interpreting what is part of the common culinary memory»

We sit at the table. The first dish is Recuerdos de Navidad, a Christmas memory: lactic fermentation of grapes, kito yuzu, caviar, brine

We sit at the table. The first dish is Recuerdos de Navidad, a Christmas memory: lactic fermentation of grapes, kito yuzu, caviar, brine

Carabinero, that is to say how to make a spectacular red prawn. The dish is entirely made of this product: below, there’s the chopped meat, above, the crispy part made wiht the finely chopped carapace and the head

Carabinero, that is to say how to make a spectacular red prawn. The dish is entirely made of this product: below, there’s the chopped meat, above, the crispy part made wiht the finely chopped carapace and the head

Pan viejo & anchoa, stale bread and anchovy. The bread is fermented with koji, the mushroom used for sake

Pan viejo & anchoa, stale bread and anchovy. The bread is fermented with koji, the mushroom used for sake

A beautiful dish, Esponja de enoki, a sponge of roots from the enoki mushrooms with green onions, beetroot and seaweed 

A beautiful dish, Esponja de enoki, a sponge of roots from the enoki mushrooms with green onions, beetroot and seaweed 

Another brilliant dish, the kind you remember because the innovation is based on something known, olé: Tomate garum. That is to say infinitely exquisite frozen cherry tomatoes, seaweed (ramallo de mar or codium) and powdered garum processed with liquid nitrogen. The extra oomph is given by the temperature: initially the icy notes stand out, then the food warms up in the palate releasing a series of fine aromatic notes 

Another brilliant dish, the kind you remember because the innovation is based on something known, olé: Tomate garum. That is to say infinitely exquisite frozen cherry tomatoes, seaweed (ramallo de mar or codium) and powdered garum processed with liquid nitrogen. The extra oomph is given by the temperature: initially the icy notes stand out, then the food warms up in the palate releasing a series of fine aromatic notes 

Tarteleta de yema curada y trufa, a tart of marinated egg and black truffle, with peas. Flavours of the earth

Tarteleta de yema curada y trufa, a tart of marinated egg and black truffle, with peas. Flavours of the earth

Maya, mole of maiz morado (purple corn) with fermented yucca, chilli peppers, coriander and

Maya, mole of maiz morado (purple corn) with fermented yucca, chilli peppers, coriander and "tuna" (coconut water fermented with spices)

Rosa de pimiento asado, a roasted rose made with pimiento del piquillo, a delicious and PDO Spanish chilli pepper. Pure flavours 

Rosa de pimiento asado, a roasted rose made with pimiento del piquillo, a delicious and PDO Spanish chilli pepper. Pure flavours 

Callos vegetales y salsa agripicante, vegetal tripe and sour and spicy sauce 

Callos vegetales y salsa agripicante, vegetal tripe and sour and spicy sauce 

Callos & bacalao. A carnivore variation on the theme of the previous dish: the skin of the cod is used to make this sort of crispy cannolo, the collagen from the tripe is used to thicken the sauce 

Callos & bacalao. A carnivore variation on the theme of the previous dish: the skin of the cod is used to make this sort of crispy cannolo, the collagen from the tripe is used to thicken the sauce 

Chawanmushi de foie escabechado y percebe, chawanmushi of foie gras with brine and percebe. Chawanmushi is a Japanese dish made with the seeds of the Ginkgo bilobatree: it’s basically a pudding made with milk and eggs, to which you can add mushrooms, prawns or something else. It is then aromatised with soya sauce, dashi and mirin. In this case Guerrero adds foie gras and finishes with percebe, a rare and pricy seafood from Galicia 

Chawanmushi de foie escabechado y percebe, chawanmushi of foie gras with brine and percebe. Chawanmushi is a Japanese dish made with the seeds of the Ginkgo bilobatree: it’s basically a pudding made with milk and eggs, to which you can add mushrooms, prawns or something else. It is then aromatised with soya sauce, dashi and mirin. In this case Guerrero adds foie gras and finishes with percebe, a rare and pricy seafood from Galicia 

Piel de pescado & toffe de atún: fish skin (in this case cod), cream of tuna, nori seaweed

Piel de pescado & toffe de atún: fish skin (in this case cod), cream of tuna, nori seaweed

Morrillo de atún a la brasa y morcilla de Beasain, grilled tuna neck with morcilla. The tuna neck is fabulous and very aromatic. It’s cooked on the embers for two hours. When serving it, it is covered with a jus made with its discarded parts, and a touch of ginger, rich of collagen, as well as a cream of morcilla from the Basque Country, the Spanish blood sausage. The result is a little too thick/strongly flavoured 

Morrillo de atún a la brasa y morcilla de Beasain, grilled tuna neck with morcilla. The tuna neck is fabulous and very aromatic. It’s cooked on the embers for two hours. When serving it, it is covered with a jus made with its discarded parts, and a touch of ginger, rich of collagen, as well as a cream of morcilla from the Basque Country, the Spanish blood sausage. The result is a little too thick/strongly flavoured 

Cordero, kombu, cogollo y piparra, lamb, alga kombu, lettuce hearts and piparra, a Basque chilli pepper which in this case is chargrilled. Excellent, the crispy lamb skin encloses the bite; inside, it’s an explosion of umami

Cordero, kombu, cogollo y piparra, lamb, alga kombu, lettuce hearts and piparra, a Basque chilli pepper which in this case is chargrilled. Excellent, the crispy lamb skin encloses the bite; inside, it’s an explosion of umami

The sweet part begins: Melón y remolacha fermentada, melon in osmosis with fermented beetroot juice, and persimmon flowers 

The sweet part begins: Melón y remolacha fermentada, melon in osmosis with fermented beetroot juice, and persimmon flowers 

Beber con la boca llena, that is to say

Beber con la boca llena, that is to say "drink with your mouth full": fermented strawberries and crème fraiche with kombucha

Maiz, a super classic from Diego Guerrero. In a cloud of cotton candy there’s a piece of brittle made with popcorn ice cream, covered with small meringues of mango and aromatised with apple vinegar, sherry and tajine, toasted corn and chilli pepper. The result has a perfect texture. To eat it, wrap everything in the cotton candy, using it like a taco shell

Maiz, a super classic from Diego Guerrero. In a cloud of cotton candy there’s a piece of brittle made with popcorn ice cream, covered with small meringues of mango and aromatised with apple vinegar, sherry and tajine, toasted corn and chilli pepper. The result has a perfect texture. To eat it, wrap everything in the cotton candy, using it like a taco shell


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