Chef Lucia Freitas: Cooking from the heart
Chef Lucia Freitas' passion for the cuisine of her Galician roots is an inspiration to many. Born and raised in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia (Spain), she is a role model to future generations that aim to study the culinary arts.
“If you want to be a Chef you have to be a hard worker. It is a very demanding career, you won’t get far if you're not willing to put in the effort and be consistent”, Freitas advises younger generations. She adds, “you not only need to have talent but also recognize opportunities when they are coming.” Freitas encourages aspiring chefs not to focus on the prizes, becoming a celebrity or social media, but the hard work and passion of every day.
Chef Freitas shares that her dream was to open her own restaurant. She began studying the art of cooking at the age of 19. “You have to love the cuisine and feel it in your heart, that's how I turned my hobby into my profession.”
In her late teens, she moved to the Basque Country to study cooking at the Higher School of Hospitality in Artxanda (Bilbao). After finishing, she studied pastry, and ice cream at the Espai Sucre Restaurant Dessert School (Barcelona). Freitas worked in some of Spain’s most important restaurants, such as Celler de Can Roca, El Bohío, Mugaritz and Tápies, before opening her own restaurant in 2011, A Tafona in Galicia.Three months after opening A Tafona, she was awarded a Michelin Star for the delicacy of her creative menu.
“Life is incredible! 8 years later two key things happened in my life that got me to where I am now: I won second place in the contest, Chef of the Year, which now, I think, was the best thing that could have happened to me, because I learned from that experience and I also became a mom”. Around the same time, Freitas took a leap of faith and said yes to an offer of helping to open a restaurant in New York named Tomiño. Thanks to chef Freitas, the restaurant now features the unique taste and character of Galicia, an unforgettable experience.
Besides having an outstanding career in the gastronomy industry, what is also notable about Freitas is the passion she pours into every single dish. Those who have tasted her food would all agree.
In honor of National Potato Day, Freitas shares one her very own favorite recipes: Tortilla de Betanzos. “The base of this omelet is a very tasty potato from Galicia, and farm eggs.” Freitas says. “You have to come to Betanzos to try it and you will fall in love with it,” Freitas adds with a smile. According to the chef, the texture is what also makes the dish so special and unique to Betanzos —a municipality in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. Freitas believes that in the United States it is also possible to recreate the taste and feeling with the right ingredients just like they do in Tomiño’s Restaurant (New York).
According to chef Freitas, the main ingredients for Tortilla de Betanzos are potatoes, eggs, extra virgin olive oil and salt. The secret to the Tortilla is the same as the Galician cuisine: the product. “When you cook tortilla de patatas, you need to feel the taste of the potato. The way you cut the potatoes is very important. They have to be irregular chunks, because each one will cook differently. The thinner ones may get more toasty, others will be softer… and that’s how we want it.” Freitas also adds that some people like to cut them again with a kitchen skimmer to obtain the perfect caramelized texture.Another important component is the way you beat the egg. She advises, “Don’t overdo it because then you will break the creamy texture of the egg and it becomes too watery.” Finally, Freitas says, in order to make the perfect Spanish Tortilla you need quality ingredients and love. “The best Spanish Tortilla is the one that satisfies your taste.”
On the other hand, she says, how you feel about runny or non runny eggs is all a matter of culture. Your preference will depend on who taught you to cook, where you live, or even just what you are used to. However, according to Freita’s experience in restaurants, Americans are surprisingly open to taste new things and Tomiño’s (New York) sells many Tortilla de Betanzos and other Spanish gems, it is truly a hit for the New Yorkers that come visit.
Moreover, Freitas suggests that you can always add onion or jamón serrano in addition to the potatoes, as long as they are well cooked. If you would like to try to cook Tortilla de Betanzos at home, here we share Chef’s Freitas’ recipe, and if you are interested in visiting Tomiño’s Restaurant follow the handle @tominonyc or if you travel @atafona handle will direct you to her Restaurant and recipes.
Remember to always cook from the heart and it’s sure to turn out amazing.
Happy National Potato Day everyone!
Author: Laura D’Ocon