A 15-year old Andalucian boy growing up in the remote pueblo blanco of Cartajima, with no access to fine restaurants, decides to be a chef. Fourteen years later he has climbed to the lofty heights of this competitive and demanding profession and is on his way to being a star in the gastronomic world.
Young Baltasar grew up with his Cartajimeña mother’s simple, good cooking but without access to fancy food, “stack and splatter”, snail ice cream and so on. In the family’s bar in Cartajima, his mother still serves up traditional Andalucian fare: simple salads lightly dressed, delicious fried fish, aubergine chips, and, her finest hour, divine green peppers fried in olive oil and drenched with sea salt. Lovely, but a far cry from the Blumenthals and Ferran Adriàs from a more sophisticated world.
Guests of Los Castaños enjoying a night out in Cartajima at the bar of Baltasar Snr and Amalia
How does somebody have a dream without knowing what they are dreaming of? How did he know there was a different world of food out there beyond the mountains? At just 15 he persuaded his parents to send him to cooking school. He rose through the ranks rapidly and, now, only 29 years old, he heads up Martin Berasategui’s new restaurant in Sevilla, Santo by Martín Berasategui. Martin is one of the world’s top chefs and a household name in Spain.
The young Baltasar got married just before opening the new restaurant this February and Cartajima was host to a lavish wedding with VIPS, including Martin. The Great Man stayed at Los Castaños and the locals were in awe of his visit to their tiny town; they urged me to take my photograph with him. But that’s not my style – or I suspect his. For a Great Man, a celebrity chef, he was unassuming, modest, and appreciative. One could not help but like him.
When you come to visit us, make time for a trip to Sevilla to taste the fare produced by a simple Andalucian boy born into a simple culinary family but a man who is going to be a Great Man in the future! And then sample his roots at the Cartajima bar.