Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers! In our article A Late Winter’s Date in NYC, we told you all about West Village sensation Barraca. Now, as a special treat to cap off our Rhapsody in Red celebration, meet the talented master chef who creates the magic. Chef Jesús Nuñez, master of combining exquisite flavor with artistic presentation, was kind enough to grant us a Valentine’s Q&A.
Seduction Meals: How is your work at Barraca different from the dishes you created at Gastroarte?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: Although the style of food is very different, it is the same in one aspect: I try to make the best food possible. At Barraca I’m cooking genuine, authentic Spanish food–comfort food, casual dishes that bring a bite of Spain to the table. At Gastroarte, I was transforming Spanish recipes and creating contemporary interpretations of traditional dishes–melding ideas together and playing with food.
Seduction Meals: Where do you find inspiration when thinking up innovative ways to present a dish?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: I don’t have a concrete answer for this question. My inspiration comes from everywhere–from a color, a texture, an ingredient, a picture, a dream, a form, a crazy idea, a sunset, a conversation, a building, an artist. I don’t look at food as just food; I look at is as the medium through which I can be creative. Sometimes when I walk in the kitchen, I know what I’m going to do. But sometimes, I play with a dish, using the ingredients as legos, trying to fall in love with the presentation. Of course, though, the most important thing is the flavor, and this is something that I never forget.
Seduction Meals: Can you describe your most memorable/romantic Valentine’s Day meal? Was it created by you, or for you?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: The most memorable Valentine’s Day meal was cooked for me by my girlfriend, who created an entire menu in just one dish. Let me explain: She was following a pasta recipe that called for spinach, but when she finished, the pasta ended being more like a soup (first course), with rough, raw spinach piled on top, resembling a salad with walnuts and cheese (second course), and then a pasta (entrée). But love was in the air!
Seduction Meals: What advice would you give the casual chef on plating a dish to create an extraordinary Valentine’s Day meal?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: Cook with love and passion–this is the secret. Don’t drive yourself crazy; prepare something simple. The extraordinary part of dining on Valentine’s Day is enjoying a meal with the person you love.
Seduction Meals: What is your favorite seductive dish?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: Foie gras terrine with sea urchin, Iberian ham sauce, persimmon and passion fruit. This is an explosion of flavors and textures that you can’t forget. When you eat this dish, you fall in love with it, and then with me (haha).
Seduction Meals: I bet! What kind of romantic gift or special treat do you like to give your lover for Valentine’s Day?
Chef Jesús Nuñez: A nice card written from the heart. Then I try to get home early from work to giver her a massage. Simple, honest and effective. Anyway, I’m not really a Valentine’s Day guy; I’m an “every-day-is-Valentine’s-Day” guy.
Thanks to Chef Nuñez for taking the time to answer our questions! Take his advice and remember that the love and passion you pour into the preparation of a meal is what makes it truly special, and the time you spend savoring it with the one you love is the most important part. May your day be filled with romance, delicious food, and sweet seduction.