The name of Ecuador resounds ever more in the world. It is no longer only the country in which you can clearly see the imaginary line that divides the Planet into two hemispheres, but it also makes a good name for the excellent quality of the products it exports, and more recently for the people who represent this nation, as is the case of chef Miguel Xavier Monar, who recently visited Budapest, for the second time this year, with the aim of promoting the products and cuisine of his homeland.
Established in Madrid for almost two decades, Monar has become for 9 years the first Ecuadorian chef Ambassador of the export products of his country under the auspices of PROECUADOR and is also one of the main standards of Ecuadorian cuisine in the world.
Miguel Monar is undoubtedly an excellent chef and even better human being; that shows in the passionate way in which he works, because, although intimidates anyone in the kitchen by his height, the truth is that his kindness and his willingness to share his knowledge, make it a living version of an open book of gastronomy, which any foodie, or even any member of a kitchen, would like to have close by.
His curiosity keeps him actively studying, researching and testing new techniques, in order to delight his diners and revolutionize the kitchens for which he works. He has become obsessed with merging and creating new things, without losing his foundations.
The road that Monar has travelled during the last 20 years has been long and full of more achievements than stumbling, it was this that made it possible for the eyes of the state to turn to see it, after becoming an international reference to “Paralelo 0”, the first Ecuadorian haute cuisine restaurant outside Ecuador. “Paralelo 0 was an avant-garde restaurant in which quality was bet, mixing products and recipes of Ecuador from Madrid. It is there when the door of Ecuador opens for me, because they saw what we could do with our kitchen, which is a traditional cuisine and that taking it to a point of vanguard was a challenge”, comments Monar about the first rapprochement he had with PROECUADOR, a government institution in charge of the Promotion of Exports and Investments of Ecuador.
In the beginning, the office offers to him to be Ambassador of the products of Ecuador and to attend international festivals, in order to demonstrate the advantages and qualities of these products.
“When I am proposed to be Ambassador of the products of my country, is that I understand that I must learn to cook my food, because the Ecuadorian food base that I had was of flavour, of having eaten and tasted, but not of having cooked because I trained in Spain, so I didn’t know the bases. I started this process with a lot of respect and enthusiasm, it was a great challenge, so I spent a long time learning about our cuisine by travelling, meeting people and exploring the origin of our flavours. I was born with those smells and those flavours, but I didn’t know how to prepare them. I mean, I could know a recipe and reproduce it, but I had to learn Ecuadorian cuisine from within to get to where I am today”,
reveals Monar, who for a whole year travelled from point to point his country to soak up the techniques used by his ancestors and know in depth a very traditional cuisine.
“Participating in these festivals and events has been incredible because I have to adapt my recipes and our original products to the palates of different regions. For example, going to Israel was a super hard experience because they can’t eat pork or shrimp, and those are base dishes for Ecuadorians, but also ceviche is my star dish, so there I learned that I had to be very open-minded and so creative to get the attention of diners”, highlights the chef who has visited more than a dozen European countries, the United States, the Middle East and Asia, where he had the opportunity to conduct a one-month tour around China in Luxury hotels, experience that allowed him to open a restaurant of Ecuadorian avant-garde cuisine, with local funding, in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai.
During these tours, he has already arrived twice in Budapest, invited by the Embassy of Ecuador in Hungary, and claims to feel lucky to cook here.
“It is an incredible experience to come to Hungary always, which is a country that welcomes me kindly. The truth is that I feel grateful because it is very easy to offer Ecuadorian food here, and people are open to eat what you cook for them, and they like it. Maybe there is some resistance first to seafood, but once they dare to try, they are delighted, and I think it has to do with the preparation, because in our dishes patience is vital. At the first dinner we offered our type of pulled pork that was a success, and it took us more than 36 hours the entire preparation process, but it was worth it because people connected with the flavours”,
says Chef Monar.
The chef born in Quito has taken advantage of his visits to the Hungarian capital to infiltrate some kitchens, learn and analyse how to cook on this side of the world, and ends up concluding with are many things that connect the cuisine of both countries. “I’ve looked at this a lot. I think they really like that powerful stew, sauces, and long cooking times. You make here a “Seco de chivo”, which is a lamb stew, and I’m sure it wins, because it’s a kitchen that connects us. I would bet on the people of Budapest,” he says.
After working for little more than two years with La Fontana Gastro in Madrid and position it as the number 1 restaurant of Ecuadorian vanguardist food in Spain and one of the tops Latin American foods in Europe, Miguel Xavier Monar launches a new personal project “Salvajes Burger”, betting on the concept Dark Kitchen.