Vicky Sevilla, the youngest chef with a Michelin star: “My wife cooks at home”


  • In his restaurant, Arrels, in Sagunt, he reworks the Mediterranean pantry with global techniques

At 17, he “didn’t know how to fry an egg.” At 29, she is the youngest chef to have achieved a Michelin star (2022). Vicky Sevilla, who was born into a humble family in Quart de les Valls, a town of a thousand inhabitants in Valencia, came to the trade without a compass. Today, in her restaurant, Arrels, located in the stables of the palace of the Dukes of Gaeta de Sagunt, she reinterprets the Mediterranean pantry.

Winning a star with the restaurant going up and down is almost epic.

I’m super happy! And the pandemic has taught us to work day to day and think less about the future.

His story is littered with things that did not have to happen, and they did.

…?

At 17 she was a ‘ni-ni’ with no known vocation.

I lived in my parents’ house and didn’t know what to do with my life. I was in crisis, I went to Formentera in the summer and stayed. I looked for a job and one came up for me in a restaurant kitchen.

His mother told him: “Make sure they don’t kick you out.”

And I, who am stubborn, thought: “That way you are not going to hook me”.

Tough woman, huh?

I look a lot like her. She worked from Monday to Friday in the orange store and on Saturday in a bar. At home I learned the culture of effort. With my first salary I bought her a boat ticket and when she saw how she lived – we were five people in a 36 m² apartment and she slept on a pallet bed base – she told me: “Let’s go home”. And I: “No, no, I’m going to finish what I started.”

“My first boss yelled at me a lot. I started studying. No one else was going to tell me that I didn’t know how to do something”

He made his debut in that kitchen taking a tray from the oven without gloves.

[Ríe] This was hell, really. 300 cutlery a day and a boss who yelled at me a lot and made me feel pretty bad. I started studying because of him. No one else was going to tell me that I didn’t know how to do something.

In that fight, did you feel the pinch?

I didn’t notice any. After five months I went from assistant to cold room manager. She earned money, I saw that I was good at it and I decided to be better. I think the kitchen is very idealized. It’s pure adrenaline. You go from the stress of the morning with the preparations to the arrival of the clients, who want to eat quickly and well. I’m still a bit of a masochist, but I love that.

“I think cooking is very idealized. It’s pure adrenaline”

Haute cuisine is very masculine. Any problem?

Except for two moments when I noticed a point of machismo, my colleagues have always been wonderful to me.

You, to double the difficulty, are the mother of a young child. It was the moment?

My wife was pregnant before the pandemic. Our son was born in July 2020. Every morning I take him to daycare and now that I have more staff, I leave earlier to go to the park with him. I don’t want to miss his childhood.

What does he owe his wife?

Not even my family believed in me that much. She’s the one who pushed me to start a restaurant. “Did you really think she would be good for me?” I asked him recently. “I thought you’d do well, but not sooo well!” she replied.

She is a nutritionist and pharmacist. Do you participate in her cauldron?

I try not to mix things up. She is the one who cooks at home, healthy things, and she is doing well for me. But I live gastronomy in another way.

“My dishes do not reflect my character. They say that my cuisine is elegant and balanced, and I am sugarcane”

How do you live it?

I think that food is to be enjoyed. Arrels’s is based on the Mediterranean pantry. Appeal to the earth and memory. We look for an ultra-local product and give it our personality using global techniques.

What dish of yours explains it?

My dishes do not reflect my character. They say that my kitchen is elegant and balanced, and I’m sugarcane. Also, I am a carnivore, but in the restaurant I prefer to work with fish and vegetables. I also use generous and lots of acid.

Give an example of all that.

The first dish on the menu, inspired by one that my mother made for me, is almadraba tuna with cold onions, as a starter. It has a pickled piparra gel, which gives it a spicy touch, and a tomato and chamomile velouté.

Sounds really good. And she will know how to make a paella.

My mother has a monopoly! She has been doing it for 40 years, by eye, every Sunday. Since December we are no longer open on Sundays. Let’s see if she lets me. At the moment, I’m versioning her ‘caragolà’.

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Who would you like to see show up at your restaurant? to Adria? Munoz? Redzepi?

I would love to see my grandmother appear, who died in 2020. I owe the humility to her. Most of my values, in fact.


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