Sunday, December 07, 2014

Simple Tastes

At the end of September I returned to Gaucin, the Andalusian pueblo blanco where Peggy and I spent 2-1/2 weeks back in April. Part of the impetus was to re-shoot lost images from our spring trip and another was to dine again at La Granada Divino, the wonderful restaurant led by Chef Neil Brown. Love the place. Neil’s farm and dock to table cuisine is simple and fresh with every flavor a perfect note. His unfussy food reminds me of Fred Muller's at El Meze here in Taos and Chris Schlesinger's at the venerable East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I learned more about cooking from Chris than anybody I worked with during my forty years in the restaurant business.

La Granada Divino

My Aussie mates on the rooftop terrace which boasts a view to Gibraltar and Morocco during daylight hours

The simplest of salads with Arugula, Figs and Manchego

Seabream fresh from the dock in Estepona yesterday

More figs of which I cannot get enough. This special order comped by Chef  Neil. That's a copa of cava top right

La Granada Divino was even better than I remembered but I detected an air of melancholy in Neil’s manner. We had become friends in the spring so while sipping a glass of wine at the end of the first evening’s dinner I asked him how he was doing and got a shrug of the shoulders, “It’s been okay. At least we’ve been busy.” 

Chef Neil Brown with the world's simplest kitchen in the background

He went on to ask, “You know what happened don’t you?” I replied, “No. What you do you mean?”

“We just did Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.”

I expressed total surprise. “Your kitchen’s not a nightmare by any stretch of the imagination, Neil. That's a great little kitchen. How the hell did that happen?”

He said, “It was the owners’ idea. They thought the coverage would be good for business.” 

“Not so good for your self-esteem.” I thought to myself.

I told Neil, “I thought you owned the place.”

“No. I’m a working stiff. I’m just the chef and manager of the restaurant. I have a wife and two kids. I need to work.”

“How was it? Was he the asshole he seems to be on TV?” I asked.

“He was okay. I think he knew not to screw (not precisely the word he used) with me too much. But it was a real drill. First I spent four weeks with one of his producers in the kitchen and then a week with Gordon and a cast of thousands taping the show. Not a lot of fun. Then I wound up with his menu actually until this week. The show airs October 6 but I refuse to watch the thing. It’s the UK version of the show but you might be able to find it in the US.”

I tried to view the La Granada Divino episode without success. If any of you figure it out please let me know.

PS. Chris Schlesinger sold his extraordinary East Coast Grill in the spring of 2013 after twenty five years. It continues it's run under the able stewardship of Jason Heard. SI


Blacks Crossing said...

This is a wonderful posting, and the story about Neil and Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare was certainly telling. You, SeƱor, have a way with food photography. The arugula or rocket with figs and manchego could be eaten immediately. Love the portrait of Neil was well. Your revisit served you very well indeed.

Steve Immel said...

Thanks Daryl. I do love my figs.

Doug Crawford said...

Steve, the Aussie family looks like they are enjoying the fish you recommended...........wait a minute!! That's us!!

We saw the Gordon Ramsay doco last night, and found this site today!

Lovely to meet you. Hope you are well and still enjoying your travels.

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karim said...

wow good to read.
where is chef neil brown now a days? any social media account of his?

karim said...

chef neil looks very humble guy.
just curious where he is now a days
hope he is doing good.