Goodbye three stars, I want to be happy. And here’s the future of fine dining

Dani García closes his restaurant, which has just got the highest acknowledgment. He does so with an anthological menu. Here’s what he told us

19-06-2019
Dani García, chef of the restaurant bearing his n

Dani García, chef of the restaurant bearing his name in Marbella, Andalusia

«For now, I’ll sum everything up with just a handful of words: I want to be happy». The question we had asked Andalusian Dani García, one of the greatest chefs in Spain and hence globally, was complex. It was the beginning of a tasting menu at his Dani García Restaurant, inside the Hotel Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spain Marbella, where he was born. Dani had stopped by to say hi and we asked him some time, after lunch, to have a chat «about the issue you can imagine, which has made an uproar all around the world». After the lunch, indeed he gave us enough time. But the initial reply is a good summary of his thoughts.

The issue mentioned above, if you don’t know it already, is the following: on the 21st November García – a talented, brilliant chef, at the centre of a growing entrepreneurial galaxy and a famous TV person... In other words in the middle of his career, not an old glory who fears the inevitable decline – received his third Michelin star for his top restaurant, in Marbella (opened in April 2014. He has other restaurants scattered around Spain and he’s to open some more). Little over one month later, in mid-December, he announced he would close: he didn’t say he’d move, that he’d work elsewhere, and there are no financial issues. Nothing of the sort: instead, he gives up the top restaurant, a clear cut. He’ll close on the 22nd October. The restaurant in Marbella will be the quickest appearance ever in the history of three-starred restaurants.

With the staff of the restaurant 

With the staff of the restaurant 

Why this choice? «Lots of people ask this, but again I can answer with just a few words: I simply want to be happy – the chef says again, at the end of the lunch – I want to continue to cook, but I also want to spend time with my family, see how my group develops. And, why not, go on television… In a three-starred restaurant, guests expect the chef to be there; I think it’s a mistake, the star chef doesn’t have to be present for the food to be marvellous. However, as long as this idea doesn’t change, you need to make a choice. And here’s mine».

No frustration, no snobbish attitude. In fact, a thought-out decision.

The Spanish press connected his decision with some words pronounced by Ferran Adrià during the latest edition of Madrid Fusión: «No le puedes pedir a los tíos que llevan 20 años haciendo la revolución que sigan otros 20 haciéndola», that is to say - in summary – you cannot ask the old revolutionaries who have been on the barricades for 20 years, to continue the fight for 20 more years; there’s a point when the innovative energy ends. García was in the audience, that day, and he cheered. Today he confirms: «Today’s fine dining is boring. The truth is we will never be able to replicate the extraordinary, unique revolution that was the Spanish avantgarde».

This thought, however, is also connected with another theme the Andalusian chef holds very dear. He said back in 2017, when he still had “only” two stars: «I must always sacrifice something to spend some time with my daughters, who are teenagers and demand my attention (...) It hurts that in the toughest years, when they most needed me, I was busy solving other problems», at work.

So here go the three macarons. We ask: what would you like to say to your colleagues who chase them like a mirage? His direct and calm reply: «We all must take our own decisions, and I only speak for myself. The truth is that in my case getting the three stars was the goal I had set for myself. I’ve made it, and I’m happy». It’s not a lack of interest, it’s satisfaction for what he’s done and the desire to start new projects, new concepts: «I’ve sacrificed almost 25 years of my life for fine dining [he stood out in 2001, when only 25 he was awarded by Michelin for his restaurant of the timeTragabuches in Ronda. It was the only star in Andalusia]. Indeed, it’s been very hard, very demanding. Let’s be clear, there are many other equally hard professions, if not harder... Contemporary chefs surely are more exposed than their predecessors. I want to continue to cook and open restaurants all around the world: but this makes it very difficult, psychologically, to be in another part of the world while my restaurant with three stars is full. And I’m not there».

The dining room 

The dining room 

So what will fine dining be like in the future? «The concept of haute cuisine in the future will go through two necessary steps. First, clients must understand that the presence of the chef doesn’t influence the gastronomic experience. Second: true fine dining must change its settings, towards a "Japanese model", seating no more than 12 people, better if half that. There’s a very simple reason: despite all the organisation, with the best suppliers, the attention to every detail, it’s impossible to guarantee truly exceptional products – they can be very good, the best available, but not exceptional – for 80 or 100 people per day. It’s not possible. The top can only be for a few».

How about all the others? García imagines a "democratic road to fine food". «When I’ll return to offer fine dining [and he will], I’ll do so in a small restaurant, like the one I’ve just described. Meanwhile, I’ll develop other formats», that is to say BiBo, a sort of gastro-bistro which already has two locations, in Marbella and in Paseo de la Castellana 52 in Madrid – while two more are about to open in Tarifa (as a "summer house") and in Qatar. And there’s also the BiBo Flamenco Brioche Bar at the airport of Malaga. And then there’s Lobito de Mar, a gourmet chiringuito already in Marbella, now doubling in Madrid; and there will be Iris, a brasserie in the new and luxury Four Seasons hotel in Madrid. As for Dani García Restaurant, it will turn into a steak house in the autumn, called Leña by BiBo. All this should happen by the end of the year.

So what is this "democratic road to fine food"? «Making food democratic is about preparing burgers that cost 5 euros but are prepared in a fantastic way. It’s about making people eat well with a final bill of 40-50 euros. It’s about presenting excellent dishes but with a limited food cost. Many of my recipes here at Dani García Restaurant are indeed already suitable, or at least they must only be made a little simpler. As I was saying: avantgarde was an extraordinary moment that changed fine dining. Today instead I’m changing, or at least I’d like to change, what has stayed the same, which is the intermediate offer. Again, by serving more or less the same dishes, but based on a completely different model. That will allow me to live as well. And to be happy».

Dani García’s goodbye to fine dining is taking place, these months, with just one menu available in Marbella, called Madre, a journey of around 20 dishes that sum up the story of the chef, from 1998 (Ajoblanco di Malaga, herring roe and prawns) to our days (the latest creation is Angulas, eel roe and Palo Cortado). Here’s the menu, in the pictures from Tanio Liotta.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso 

Huevo sin huevo (2007): the shell of the egg is filled with ajoblanco, foam of litchi and juice of roasted peppers 

Huevo sin huevo (2007): the shell of the egg is filled with ajoblanco, foam of litchi and juice of roasted peppers 

Encurtidos nitro ("Pickles in liquid nitrogen", 2009)

Encurtidos nitro ("Pickles in liquid nitrogen", 2009)

Palomita nitro de AOVE ("Popcorn with liquid nitrogen and extra virgin olive oil" – 2003): tomato water and extra virgin olive oil in a popcorn with liquid nitrogen 

Palomita nitro de AOVE ("Popcorn with liquid nitrogen and extra virgin olive oil" – 2003): tomato water and extra virgin olive oil in a popcorn with liquid nitrogen 

Five Flora & Fauna appetizers arrive. The first is this sea truffle in ham water 

Five Flora & Fauna appetizers arrive. The first is this sea truffle in ham water 

Seaweed brittle with prawns

Seaweed brittle with prawns

Clams in parsley cream 

Clams in parsley cream 

Chicken brittle di pollo with chicken liver paté 

Chicken brittle di pollo with chicken liver paté 

Tart with sea urchins

Tart with sea urchins

The appetizers on the

The appetizers on the "serving dish"

Tomate nitro, gazpacho verde y quisquillas (

Tomate nitro, gazpacho verde y quisquillas ("Tomato with liquid nitrogen, green gazpacho and quisquillas" – 2008). Quisquillas are miniscule Andalusian prawns, very delicate, with their roe 

Ajoblanco malagueño, huevas de arenque y gambas (

Ajoblanco malagueño, huevas de arenque y gambas ("Ajoblanco di Malaga, herring roe and prawns " – 1998)

Here’s the veal tongue carpaccio...

Here’s the veal tongue carpaccio...

...here’s the caviar on a disk of broth of puchero, an Andalusian stew...

...here’s the caviar on a disk of broth of puchero, an Andalusian stew...

...and here’s Caviar - puchero andaluz - lengua (2018)

...and here’s Caviar - puchero andaluz - lengua (2018)

A dish with a unique harmony, literally extraordinary: Anchoa con trufa (

A dish with a unique harmony, literally extraordinary: Anchoa con trufa ("Anchovy with truffle" – 2016). The anchovies are cut in many thin stripes, seasoned with an emulsion of black truffle and garnished with elderberry flowers. A masterpiece 

We leave the table and move to the counter overlooking the kitchen. Here they serve two tastings of Cocina de producto. The first is the marvellous Tacos of smoked eel and seaweed 

We leave the table and move to the counter overlooking the kitchen. Here they serve two tastings of Cocina de producto. The first is the marvellous Tacos of smoked eel and seaweed 

Dani García in 2015 studied a burger for McDonald's, of course with lots of criticism (it was called Gran McExtreme Dani García: pan brioche, extremeña beef, provolone, red pepper, lettuce, nachos, grilled onions and a secret sauce). He recently presented three new burgers, again for McDonald's. After all, as he said, he believes that «making a good burger is a way of making fine food democratic». Here’s his version at Dani García Restaurant

Dani García in 2015 studied a burger for McDonald's, of course with lots of criticism (it was called Gran McExtreme Dani García: pan brioche, extremeña beef, provolone, red pepper, lettuce, nachos, grilled onions and a secret sauce). He recently presented three new burgers, again for McDonald's. After all, as he said, he believes that «making a good burger is a way of making fine food democratic». Here’s his version at Dani García Restaurant

Angulas, amarillo de angula y palo cortado (

Angulas, amarillo de angula y palo cortado ("Angulas, eel roe and Palo Cortado" – 2019). The rare and delicious angulas, that is to say the young eels. Anguila en amarillo is a typical Andalusian recipe: eel with onion, bay leaves, flour, wine, nutmeg and peppers. Palo Cortado is a sherry

Jugo de cocido rondeño, pringa y chipirones (

Jugo de cocido rondeño, pringa y chipirones ("Juice of cocido rondeño, pringa and calamari - 1999). A more classic dish: cocido is a meat stew, pringa is an Andalusian delicacy, basically what is left of puchero – again, the stew – made with meat, chickpeas, vegetables 

Caldito de roteña, salmonete a la brasa y tomate en tempura (

Caldito de roteña, salmonete a la brasa y tomate en tempura ("Broth of roteña, grilled mullet and tomato in tempura - 2005): roteña is a typical seafood dish from Rota, near Cadiz

Chivo malagueño, pecho, carrilleras y yogur especiado (

Chivo malagueño, pecho, carrilleras y yogur especiado ("Lamb from Malaga, lamb breast and ribs, spicy yogurt" – 2003)

The previous dish is served with a pita

The previous dish is served with a pita

How can we say no to cheese?

How can we say no to cheese?

Leche con galletas (

Leche con galletas ("Milk and biscuits" – 2000)

Mollete dulce, anis, piña y almendra (

Mollete dulce, anis, piña y almendra ("Sweet Mollete, anise, pineapple and almonds" - 2015). Mollete is a typical Spanish roll 

Here we reassembled it 

Here we reassembled it 

A cream of mango prepared with liquid nitrogen...

A cream of mango prepared with liquid nitrogen...

... and here’s the dish: Tocino de mango, queso payoyo y Pedro Ximénez (

... and here’s the dish: Tocino de mango, queso payoyo y Pedro Ximénez ("Tocino of mango, payoyo cheese and Pedro Ximénez" - 2016). Tocino is a sort of pudding 

Sweet finale

Sweet finale


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