Lucía Freitas, renewing Galician cuisine in Santiago (and in New York)


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Like so many other chefs, Lucia Freitas discovered cooking in her family. “Whenever something special had to be cooked, my father and I did it in Bilbao, the wood stove, ” he says. His father was the one who discovered the fire and also the raw material.

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“He put the little seed for me to be a cook. Although in my house they were all of letters, they realized immediately that I liked to go alone in the kitchen and I spent the hours, ”he says by phone returning from Madrid to Santiago, after cooking at the pop-up fair Galician crafts and gastronomy up Knowledge and flavors. And today you can boast your first Michelin star.

But no one said that getting to the award was simple. When I was not in the kitchen, Freitas was on television attached to “the Arguiñano program or the Kitchen Channel”. The Arzak book they gave him became his bedside reading. That is why when he decided to dedicate himself professionally to what had been more than a hobby of a girl and teenager, leaving to study in the Basque Country was the most obvious. "And it was ignorance, " he admits now. “I didn't know that in Santiago there is one of the best schools in Spain. But my idea of ​​cooking always came from there: my book by Arzak, Arguiñano… For me, the Basque Country was a reference and it was a dream to go there ”.

A Tafona

The sea and the garden is his world. © Arxina

From Bilbao he went to Barcelona, ​​to the pastry school of Jordi Butrón. “I always set some goals, I analyze my life well in advance and my life was always to have a restaurant. That was always my dream, ”he explains. “I never understood very well why cooking and pastry did not go together, for me they go hand in hand, it was incomprehensible to have a restaurant and not be a cook and a good pastry chef. You want everything to be yours in the restaurant. ”

Lucia Freitas enjoys both cooking and pastry. “I don't like being bounded, when I've worked for other people - he worked at Celler Can Roca, Mugaritz, Tàpies, El Bohío -, he was changing, he couldn't be alone in the kitchen or just in the bakery. I define myself as a cook and pastry chef, ”he says.

And he adds: “When you have a restaurant, you have to be a good cook, a good pastry chef, a good manager, to know how to organize a pica, you have to enjoy everything… I enjoy cooking some cheeks, as well as organizing the washing of dishes in the most effective. It's everything, it's a life, you have to enjoy all the parts of having a restaurant. ”

Lucía Freitas

Always raw material first. © Ovid Aldegunde

Because cooking is not a trade, it is your life. She is not cook the hours she spends in the kitchen of her house, A Tafona, her restaurant, her dream, she is always cook and pastry chef.

After years out of his homeland, when it was time to shape his dream he decided to return home, to Galicia, to Santiago. “I was working in Mallorca, and the morriña strip, I had been out since I was 19 and when you work in this sector you don't have much free time to go back and visit your family, ” he says.

His idea was to "work for others", with 27 years he still had, he seemed ready to set up his own restaurant, but he had no choice. "There were no restaurants that wanted to do what I did, " he recalls. Today he also admits that being a woman at this level of cooking is not easy either: "Because they don't trust you to give you a restaurant."

"And sometimes trains pass and you have to catch them: I had the opportunity to take care of a restaurant, I had the money I had, which was not much." He opened A Tafona and began to develop his cuisine that he defines as "very based on the sea and seasonality." But as it is for any Galician, he says.

Lucia Freitas

Curly oyster Freitas is a cook from the sea, from her Galician sea. © Knowledge and flavors

The market of the Plaza de Abastos, which is next door, is its supplier and the heart of that kitchen in which it continues to create. "In my house I like to give things that are not usual, to cook things that people do not do in their homes, " he said last Monday in Madrid while preparing a curly oyster or a rooster's crest.

"A creative chef who only makes jack, horse and king has to be horrible, " he also said. Freitas believes she is fortunate to have clients that allow her to continue creating and growing. A Tafona began as a restaurant with “a good menu of the day and a gastronomic part”. Until two years ago everything changed.

A Tafona

© Arxina

“I was a mother two years and three months ago, a month after being a mother, some Americans ate at my house and I had the opportunity to advise on the opening of a Galician restaurant in New York - Tomiño -. I was in charge of designing the menu, the kitchen, looking at suppliers … It comforted me a lot because when you go through bad times, such an opportunity reinforces you when it comes to valuing your work. And economically he supposed to encourage me to invest in my dream. ”

He reformed A Tafona, removed the menu of the day and focused on the gastronomic part. Nine and a half years after opening it, the experience "has been very hard, but also very rewarding." Now he has fulfilled his dream completely and every day upon entering it he still does not believe it.

Lucía Freitas is one of the cooks who is valuing Galician cuisine beyond her product. Perhaps what failed in Galicia for many years, he believes. And the job she and other chefs have now is to “recover the tradition and renew it. ” “We have to realize the cuisine we have here in which respect for the product is above all, ” he says.

Lucía Freitas

To Tafona, Tomiño in New York and now Lume. © Ovid Aldegunde

And from that respect to the product and its desire to continue growing, in "little more than a month and a half", opens his second dream, very close to the first, only separated by his favorite place, the Plaza de Abastos de Santiago: it is called Lume, will be in Rúa das Ameas, "one of the most gastronomic" of the city and will be for all audiences, he explains.

“It's going to be a direct kitchen, it's the center, so much that the diners look at the kitchen only and exclusively, ” he says . “It's like a theater, to see how the chefs prepare the ingredients we are going to buy every day with the fire in the square. It will be a more informal version, where to take a couple of dishes to share. ”

“So I close the circle, I am complete, I no longer have to give up any client, I want Tafona to be seen as something special, not every day, to come, get carried away and enjoy. And Lume is to go any day of the week, snack, informal, enjoy how people are cooking for you, people for whom cooking is your life. ”

* Article published on June 13, 2018 and updated on November 22, 2018 after the publication of the new Michelin stars.

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