Manuel Vázquez Montalbán liked to say that Nacho Manzano had modified traditional cuisine without losing its virtues. The Barcelona writer knew very well what he was talking about because he had been one of the greatest defenders of these slight transformations. “At first I cooked with complexes. As I did not know how to make a foie, a scallop or a pigeon, I threw myself to do it with what was closest to me and I did not know how to properly value it ”, warns an Apple tree more thoughtful than usual. Meanwhile, in the kitchen of Martial House, a terrible bustle is heard. “Now we are preparing a tasting menu where we take a tour of some of the restaurant’s most emblematic dishes,” he continues explaining, while he is heard giving instructions on tripe that are not spicy enough.
The Royal National Academy of Gastronomy This week he was awarded the National Award for the Best Chef, an award that since it was given for the first time in 1974 to Juan Mari Arzak has recognized the best chefs in this country. “Because of the way I am, I haven’t thought much about the awards, but I think this is a sign. I am 50 years old and I look different. Things don’t happen by chance ”, he reflects, while feeling critical of ways of doing things in the hospitality industry that have taken a lot of time from him. Dabiz Muñoz’s recent speech, in which he deals with work-life balance and the demands of haute cuisine, flies over the conversation without being mentioned: “I have a hard time disconnecting. You sleep little and badly. It is one of the challenges that I want to change in my life ”.
Nacho Manzano has received the National Gastronomy Award PACO PAREDES
Casa Marcial opened on November 20, 1993 in what was a construction of 1898, the food house and family home of his parents, Marcial and Olga, in Arriondas, a district in the Asturian interior that is still difficult to access between narrow streets and winding country roads. “When you start a business in a remote village like this, you have to take into account the enormous turnover that there is. We are a large pool of chefs, but we also know that we must let those who are here fly ”, he highlights about a place that has two Michelin stars and three Repsol suns. Manzano was born in what today we could call the gastronomic landing, between games of cards, bowling games and pots he was making a place in the family organization chart, made up of three more sisters: Olga, Esther and Sandra. “This award goes to my whole family, without them I don’t know what I would have done. They clearly need more recognition. They are the mainstay of the day to day, ”he says. His wife, Dulce, behind El Molín de Mingo, is another of those bras that he mentions almost in every sentence.
For Ferran Adrià, president of the jury of the National Award, his value also lies in his role as an entrepreneur. “His international work, with five fantastic projects in London, was important in the jury’s decision. There was consensus ”, Adrià sentence. The former owner of elBulli, one of the leading representatives of avant-garde cuisine, also has words of admiration for his “review of traditional Asturian cuisine”.
Three years ago, in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Casa Marcial, Nacho and Esther invited 61 chefs, arranged for 12 dinners throughout the year. The who’s who of the recent cuisine of this country passed through there: Eneko Atxa, María José San Román, Sacha Hormaechea, Javi Goya, Martin Berasategui, Quique Dacosta, Ángel León, Pepe Solla, Susi Díaz, among others. All cooking their most emblematic recipe book. Also the Manzano brothers, who have left for posterity dishes such as sea bass with seaweed and mushrooms, the crest of pie, the lamps to cider or fabes with dashi, cockles and green wheat. Without neglecting moments of communion at the table in which the croquettes, the pitu de caleya and the tortos marked the rhythm of the day and the essence of the restaurant. Adrià, who signed the prologue to the book celebrating those gargantuan days, wrote: “At Casa Marcial they have always been faithful to the Asturian soul, with a creative style that ends up being Nacho’s always recognizable signature.”
After the closures of the pandemic and the difficulties experienced, Manzano wants to reactivate its activity in winter. “I want to experience the restaurant with another march. Summer is very hard, everyone comes and you don’t enjoy it. Now I want to cook with the fireplace on, at a different pace ”, he suggests about this moment, nothing usual. Casa Marcial will only close between December 13 and 28, the other days it will have a schedule, dynamics and speeds adapted to the winter season. And to the times, more changing and conciliatory.