Heading towards Spain and the lively Barcelona, to discover exceptional cuisine with proudly embraced French inspirations: SAO restaurant. Its Chef, Juanen Benavent, after numerous years of training in prestigious gastronomic establishments, including four years spent in France in Paris, wanted to express his creativity in his own space. He accomplishes this brilliantly in his restaurant SAO.
Why did you choose to become a Chef?
Being a chef is an act of love towards the people on the other side of the kitchen, in the dining area. It’s about sharing a part of yourself with your customers, giving all your wisdom, your knowledge, in as common an act as eating. Being a chef is a dream of the young boy I was, and today it has transformed into a restaurant. What we try to convey in the restaurant is affection and love for a profession, for a way of understanding life, which is reflected daily in the preparations we make.
How does time, life experience, influenced your cooking style?
Our style, like people, evolves daily; every passing day, we learn new things, never ceasing to learn. Even though it may seem to the eye that the same dish comes out the same, it has undoubtedly evolved; we have learned something new about this dish. Every day, things are learned, and the kitchen evolves: its forms, ingredients, flavor, because, like people, tastes evolve. That’s how we understand and practice this profession. It’s a profession that is completely alive.
Do you think it is important to keep a link with the past? With traditions?
The past is the foundation, the memory, the culture. Without the past, we would be nothing, just a blank slate. One should never forget the past, but at the same time, one must evolve to improve what was done in the past. The kitchen never leaves the past behind. Every day, recipes are made that have been made for years and years, such as broths, stews, made by our ancestors and still made today. It’s true that the format changes, the ways of eating change, but in the end, the essence and the base are still there because one of the greatest pleasures of cooking is memory. The memory of a dish you ate as a child, as a young person, cooked by your grandmother. Cooking is memories, and that’s at its core; it’s culture.
How taking time, maturing, can be important in your work?
Maturity and know-how are learned day by day. I had been a head chef before, but as a restaurant owner, it’s the first time, my first restaurant. So, it’s a daily learning experience: as a cook, as a head chef, as an entrepreneur, as a team manager, both in the dining area and the kitchen, and in administration. The kitchen and the business go hand in hand. You never stop learning, rectifying, improving.
Can you tell us more about your link with French gastronomy?
I had the great opportunity and pleasure of working in France, in Paris, for 4 years, in a restaurant owned by the best sommelier in the world. That’s where my connection and understanding of French gastronomy began. I got to know and understand the way the French perceive gastronomy, which is something that is part of them, a ritual for them. Hence, a bit of love and understanding of what they feel when they cook. Obviously, I have learned a lot from the French, the way they understand cooking, understanding the chef’s work. That French influence still reflects today in our dishes.
Do you have a special memory related to champagne with us?
Yes, when I met Abelé. It was on my first Valentine’s Day in Paris. When I arrived in 2013, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, my wife and I, by going to dinner at a restaurant, and we ordered a bottle of Abelé, and we loved it. Since then, we know the brand. We have also been to the Champagne region, visited the vineyards. It’s an exceptional product.
What do you enjoy about Champagnes Abelé 1757?
When you open a bottle of Abelé, you are not just opening a drink; you are opening a part of a region, a way of doing things. It’s years and years of history and evolution. Abelé brings us elegance, finesse, with its tiny bubbles. When you open a bottle of this kind, you already know you will succeed. Abelé has exceptional products that convey elegance, simplicity, and finesse. Unparalleled taste and acidity.
How Abelé 1757 Champagnes match your cooking style? What plate would you fancy most with our champagnes?
Champagne is a beverage that pairs with almost everything. It’s such an elegant, fine, sublime drink that you can practically have it at any stage of the meal, in our tasting menu with several stages. Champagne is the best companion for food because it will never overshadow the food; it will always accompany us perfectly because it never overpowers the food. It accompanies us thanks to its acidity, helps us digest food with its tiny bubbles, and won’t fill us up. Caviar is the product par excellence associated with champagne and always pairs well, especially with seafood. Champagne is the perfect accompaniment for a great meal.
Describe Champagne Abelé 1757 in 3 words.
Champagne Abelé 1757 is tradition, elegance, and evolution, all in one bottle.