At 39 years old, Dani García is not only one of Spain's top chefs, but he's also going through a period chock full of changes. After closing Calima to open Dani García restaurant in Marbella's Hotel Puente Romano, this chef—who claims that he prefers cooking to the business side of the industry—joined forces with SSP to open a new restaurant at Málaga Airport called Dani García Deli Bar towards the end of 2013. A true success story, which García says is achieved through day-to-day experience, making mistakes, losing money and closing locales, as was the case with Manzanilla, his American dream.
From Calima in Málaga to restaurants all over the world. How do you currently view your success?
It depends how you define "success". I believe it's something you achieve on a day-to-day basis. It's not about where you've been but, rather, where you're headed.
Now that you've opened a restaurant in Málaga Airport, are you planning to additional eateries in other stations, airports etc.?
It all depends on SSP, the company that's managing the restaurant at the airport. Future projects of this kind are in their hands. I'm very happy to be working with them, and I would be interested in replicating the concept in other airports in Spain.
How would you describe your time in New York with Manzanilla?
It was a very difficult experience for me, both personally and professionally. I'll never forget the good times and everything that I learned.
Are you thinking about launching similar projects in other cities around the world?
No. At the moment, I'm only thinking about the two new restaurants I'll be opening in Marbella. This is probably the first time in my life that I have the chance to start from scratch and create something that's mine, something that reflects a concept I've developed over time. I'm very excited about it, and that will be my focus in the coming months.
What is it about your cooking that makes it so successful?
I think it's because my food is creative, it connects with customers, it's affordable, and it's easy to understand.
Like many of your colleagues, you're a chef, but you've also had to learn the business side of the industry. What was that learning process like?
I learned by making mistakes and by losing money. I like being a chef, it's what I know how to do; I don't want to be a businessman but, at the end of the day, this is a business. Logically, I prefer to spend as much time as possible cooking and hire qualified people to take care of the business side of things.
How do you view the current state of haute cuisine in Spain, and what do you expect going forward?
It's going through a quiet period, and I believe a lot of the techniques and concepts that have been developed in recent years are being absorbed and perfected. The future is truly promising, and I hope that chefs continue to innovate so that the whole world of gastronomy is looking to Spain for inspiration.
How important is bread at your restaurant?
Bread is a very important component. I like to offer customers a range of possibilities, but not so many as to overwhelm them. It should be top-quality, in line with the dining experience.
Do you consider it to be a basic part of the diet? When do you usually eat bread?
I generally have bread for breakfast, and I try—usually unsuccessfully—not to eat any more the rest of the day.
What kind of bread do you serve with fish, a main element in your cooking?
It all depends on what you want to do, but it plays a more important role if it's included in a recipe, such as gachamiga (a type of porridge), soup, or a mash-up that calls for fried bread.
Bread consumption increased in 2012, the first time in many years. Why do you think this is?
Bread is becoming increasingly important, and I believe it's because of the culture growing around it.
What's your favorite kind?
I'm very traditional: I like country-style bread that's firm and lasts for several days.
Where do you usually buy it?
At traditional bakeries.