Carmen Benítez. Journalist. @cabeherrero
We interview David Muñoz who, alongside his wife, Ángela Montero, created DiverXo, Madrid's first restaurant three Michelin star restaurant, as of 20 November
Wiki Spanish Food.- Is it possible to have three Michelin stars and earn monthly wages of just 1,000 euros (according to an interview with Cinco Días)?
David Muñoz.- It is, just like any other profession where you do something very worthwhile but don't make money from it. At present, we could have earned considerable money with DiverXo, but we probably wouldn't have been loyal to our ideals and we wouldn't be talking today about everything we've achieved. And by that I mean beyond a tangible distinction, like Michelin stars. I'm talking about positioning DiverXo where it is now on the global gastronomy scene.
I don't understand why so many people are surprised by my 1,000-euro monthly salary. I know a lot of other professions where that's what you earn as you gain professional experience. It's inherent to achieving your dreams.
W.S.F.- Do you believe that philosophy reflects current society?
D.M.- I believe things have always been that way. There have been various professionals who have achieved great things who, at that time, were not economically compensated. I believe that we are conscious that, with DiverXo, at some point we will make money; however, we're also aware that first we have to build and be loyal to our ideals. For that reason, I believe that this goes beyond the economic aspect. In fact, if this had happened eight years ago, before the recession in Europe, I'm almost certain that I would have earned the same wages.
W.S.F.- Could it be that haute cuisine isn't profitable?
D.M.- At a restaurant like DiverXo, 30 people are required to prepare 30 meals. You don't have that ratio anywhere else. With that in mind, you don't need to know a lot about finance to know that the numbers don't add up. Moreover, if you consider that there are notable inherent fixed costs and that we also work with specific products... it's not surprising that those are our calculations. A restaurant like DiverXo is not in itself a business, but obviously, based on that, we have to build a business that allows us to be profitable overall.
W.S.F.- What does this distinction mean for you?
D.M.- This recognition is historic in terms of the conditions in which it was given. It strays somewhat from what people believed that Michelin valued when awarding three stars to a restaurant. At least it shows that great things can be achieved with little resources.
W.S.F.- I read that you had a lot of economic difficulties in advancing with your restaurant. With regard to the people who didn't believe it you or support you at that time, have their attitudes changed?
D.M.- I had difficulties like any other SME in Spain is having right now. Indubitably, there have been people who have realized that as risky as some ventures are, it's worth believing in them. DiverXo's message is that great things can be achieved with little money, and that dreams can be pursued with determination and resolve. There are probably people that didn't believe in us before.
W.S.F.- What is the dining experience like at DiverXo?
D.M.- Customers will find a unique experience. It's very difficult to put into words. It’s an incredible experience based on flavors—it's a way of understanding life. The restaurant's leitmotif is surprise, fun and intensity.
W.S.F.- Has business increased since you received your third star? You have a waiting list, since you can only seat 30 at a time.
D.M.- The waiting list is longer, there's more demand. DiverXo has been full since day one, so there's really not that much of a difference.
W.S.F.- DiverXo has no menu, a trend which is becoming increasingly popular. What are the advantages?
D.M.- It depends on many factors. There's no menu at DiverXo because we believe the best way to convey our message is with a minimal number of dishes. I wouldn't say it's better or worse to have a menu; I believe it depends on the restaurant. At DiverXo, we need a specific number of dishes to communicate our message. DiverXo is an experience. The dishes change often. In fact, if a customer were to return after a short period, he'd find very different things.
W.S.F.- How much does it cost to eat at your restaurant?
D.M.- It's not a prohibitive price; it depends on how much a person likes to spend. It's not more expensive than a ticket to a Madrid-Barça soccer game, or a normal car. I have friends who make 1,000 euros a month and make a 200-euro monthly car payment. It's not more expensive that any other leisure activity.
W.S.F.- Are you considering moving to London? Do you think things would be easier there?
D.M.- We are going to open another restaurant, StreetXo, in May, which has nothing to do with DiverXo. They are completely different. StreetXo will be spectacular. We will be emigrating, but in part we're still staying here.
W.S.F.- What role have Spanish agri-food products played in your success?
D.M.- They have definitely played a part. In fact, 65%-70% of the products we use are Spanish. All of our fish and meat come from Spain.