What Dani Garcia Wants You To Know About Spanish Cuisine - Exclusive

Chef Dani Garcia may have restaurants all around Madrid, London, and Doha, and a new spot called Casa Dani in New York City, but his native Andalusia is always on his mind. It's the massive semi-autonomous southern region of Spain known for centuries of history, gorgeous beaches, craggy mountains, and of course some amazing foods. The Andalusian influence can be tasted in many of the dishes Garcia offers in his varied restaurants, with flavors from greater Spain playing a huge role as well.

For Garcia, he hopes adding these influences allows people to have a richer understanding of the country's regional flavors. Because, while he appreciates that Spanish food is celebrated all around the globe, the chef isn't sure his native cuisine is getting its full due appreciation. In a recent exclusive Mashed interview, Garcia was asked what he wished more people in America — and around the world — knew about authentic Spanish cooking, and what is perhaps commonly misunderstood about it.

"I don't think there's a misperception of what Spanish cuisine is, because it's tapas, rice dishes, etc.," he said. "But it's always been seen in an informal way. There are so many products in Spain that are super premium and that deserve a restaurant with a little more elegant tone than eating cheap tapas." Garcia, who has earned three Michelin stars, certainly knows a thing or two about premium foods. And he's on a mission to spread his belief that "there are 'super products' that [are] totally great and, that is the Spain that we want people to know." Which, as he said, is exactly what he's done with his latest spot in New York City.

The Spanish foods Dani Garcia loves the most

If you ask a chef about their favorite dishes, you'll usually get an abundance of answers. That's especially true when the chef is talking about dishes native to where they grew up. For Dani Garcia, he did his best to single out a few of the signature foods of Spain he wishes everyone could try, but he still had many examples. "There are so many Spanish foods that I wouldn't know where to start," Garcia said, adding, "From the classics, such as tortilla de patatas ([which is] the Spanish omelette), and paellas, to the not so well-known, such as traditional stews, gazpachuelo or marmitako." 

To be clear, gazpachuelo is not gazpacho! While the latter is a well-known chilled soup, the former is a rich white broth fish soup. And as for marmitako, that's another fine soup, also featuring seafood — in this case tuna is the main player, supported by potatoes and veggies. It comes as little surprise the chef mentioned these dishes, given how much he appreciates the role seafood plays in Spanish cooking. In fact, Garcia has a love for tuna in particular. "[I] live in Spain in the best tuna fishing area, 120 kilometers from my house, where the best almadraba tuna is caught. This is something that many people outside Spain probably don't know about."

One more Spanish food that's often cooked wrong and under-appreciated? "There is also the issue of rice," Garcia added. "The perception of a type of paella is not realistic in comparison to the real paella, the socorrat type, [which] is more airy, thinner, where the rice is almost sautéed at the end, where it stays just right."

Check out the chef's new restaurant Casa Dani at major NYC culinary destination Citizens New York.