In 4:23 seconds, and without speaking a single syllable, Chef Martín Berasategui whipped up a plate of lobster, yucca, plantains and fresh fruit marinade that did more for the taste buds than it did for the English language. It needed no words, just some utensils and a clean palate perfect for tasting the seven Michelin star chef's impromptu creations.
That was how my entire conversation with Berasategui unfolded at Paradisus Palma Real on the afternoon of his newest restaurant opening, Passion -- mostly without speaking, and with a lot of excitement about the food. Berasategui speaks Spanish and French, and while I can get by with my "traveler's" Spanish, I can't have culinary conversations in a foreign language. With the help of a translator, and the universal language of food, I set up in the kitchen with the star chef, where I learned that food really is a universal language.
Paradisus Resorts in the Dominican Republic are responsible for bringing the seven-star chef to the Caribbean. Berasategui opened a restaurant in December at the Paridusus Resort in Playa del Carmen, and now the two Dominic Republic Properties -- Paradisus Palma Real and Paradisus Punta Cana -- are introducing Berasategui's cuisine to guests. Passion (at Paradisus Palma Real) and Fuego Gastro Bar (at Paradisus Punta Cana) debuted just last month, and the timing could not have been better.
"Chef Berasategui is acting as a consultant for Paradisus' overall food and beverage program, bringing his best practices to the brand," said Bernard Wyss, area vice president for Paradisus Resorts. "His presence has impacted the selection of products, training of staff and all of our restaurants' standard operating procedures."
Chef Berasategui was born and bred in San Sebastián, Spain, and over the years crafted a name for himself with his innovative take on seafood. He started cooking in his teens, helping his mother and aunt in their family-owned eatery in San Sebastian. His love of cooking, and the encouragement from his family, has transcended years and today, Berasategui makes every effort to pass on that motivation to young chefs.
His one focus: raising young talent.
"I'll never forget that one day, I was in their place," Berasategui told me. "Young people are enthusiastic, but they need someone to push them. This is hard work. To win a marathon you have to train; to be the best in the world, you have to sacrifice many things to go after your dreams."
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Berasategui's dreams? To have restaurants around the world, he said. Dream accomplished.
Today, Chef Berasategui leads the culinary direction at Lasarte and Liodi at the Hotel Condes in Barcelona; Fonda restaurant at Hotel Barcelona Spain; the MB Restaurant at the Abama Resort in Tenerife; the Santo by Martin Berasategui at the Eme Hotel in Seville; the DOMA at the Silken Gran Domine Hotel in Bilbao, the Martin restaurant in Shanghai; and Passion by Martin Berasategui in Playa del Carmen, as well as the two new restaurants in the Dominican Republic.
Both all-inclusive Paradisus resorts in the Dominican Republic offer a combined 18 restaurants, but none as fashionable and trendy as Berasategui's. Fuego Gastro Bar will feature tapas-inspired cuisine in a sultry black, red and wood space. The center of the restaurant is the bar, which serves as the melting pot for all who conjure here.
At Passion in Paradisus Palma Real, the scene is decidedly more romantic, thanks to grand paintings of red roses on the walls, sculptures of red glass hearts and flowing flowers at the entrance of the restaurant. Guests will be able to choose pairings from three separate wine lists that have been created exclusively for the restaurant. Both restaurants will be exclusive of the resorts' all-inclusive offerings, meaning guests and locals who want to dine here will do so on a separate check.
As for Berasategui, he looks forward to opening more restaurants (talks are already in the works for a restaurant at the soon-to-open Paradisus Resort in Costa Rica in 2013), and says he continue to seek a challenge.
"The only easy things in this world are eating, drinking and speaking."
And with that, and without words, Berasategui starting cooking in the kitchen.