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Chef Omar Allibhoy and his quest to bring Spanish cuisine to the world

Omar Allibhoy, the man behind the Tapas Revolution in the UK, talks about his upcoming book

Omar Allibhoy, the man behind the Tapas Revolution in the UK, talks about his upcoming book

“I must have been about five or six years old, but I never wanted to be an astronaut or a football player – I’ve always wanted to be a chef,” says famed Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy of Tapas Revolution fame. “Some of the earliest childhood memories are of my mother cooking. I remember rushing from playing soccer with my friends so I could help her in the kitchen.”

“My mother’s pea and parsley puree was always special to me. Until today, I can’t make it as good as them,” he laughs.

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Food has always been an intrinsic part of the Allibhoy household. “Our extended family gathered every Sunday for a leisurely lunch, with everyone bringing a dish to the table. I have soaked up the joy of cooking for others from these gatherings. I also first learned about Indian cuisine during these lunches, where my father would prepare selected dishes for us.”

Mushroom croquette, truffle potato parmentier and truffle shavings from chef Omar Allibhoy | Photo Credit: Special Event

To make his dream come true, Omar enrolled in culinary school at the age of 14, and like anyone with a passion for good food, he wanted to learn more about other cuisines. “Foreign cuisines are never the same as prepared in their home country.”

He left his hometown of Madrid to learn English in the UK, hoping it would bring him closer to his goal of mastering different cooking styles. He was a quick learner, eventually working under celebrity chefs such as Ferran Adria and Gordon Ramsay, among others. But as he made a name for himself in haute cuisine, he realized that the world’s knowledge of Spanish cuisine was limited. “Spain has been a popular tourist destination with Europeans for decades, but most people only know about tortillas and churros.”

Slow boiled egg, truffle potato parmentier and jamon iberico from chef Omar Allibhoy

Slow boiled egg, truffle potato parmentier and jamon iberico from chef Omar Allibhoy | Photo credit: special arrangement

Omar made it his mission to bring authentic Spanish cuisine to the masses by sharing recipes, appearing in television shows and writing cookbooks. his latest book, Paella, will be available early next year. “Only half of the book contains recipes. The rest is a master guide explaining the history and culture of this intricate dish.”

Despite his life’s work of deciphering Spanish culinary delights, Omar has not forgotten his quest to learn more about the cuisines of other countries. He first visited India four years ago and fell in love with kaju barfi, kheerbrain curry with Roti and of course, Biryani. “It is in many ways similar to paella – the taste of rice with broth, the harmony and balance of spices is exotic!”

Chicken roulade, blue cheese and walnut croquette, pumpkin puree and chicken demi from chef Omar Allibhoy

Chicken roulade, blue cheese and walnut croquette, pumpkin puree and chicken demi from chef Omar Allibhoy | Photo credit: special arrangement

He says that because of the Moorish influence on Spanish cuisine, the emphasis is on the subtlety of flavors, a “need for the ingredients to shine”. He cites the example of the Pincho Moruno, his signature dish of lamb chops. “The flavors of cumin, nutmeg and thyme mingle with smoked sweet paprika to make this dish not only aromatic, but delicious.”

During the pandemic, Omar kept busy with his YouTube channel, The Spanish Chef and once the lockdown was lifted, he made it a point to travel again. Recently in India, as a guest of All Things Nice, he says he likes to “bring a piece of Spain and pair it with wines”.

Torrija bread and butter pudding, coffee granita and hazelnut ice cream from chef Omar Allibhoy

Torrija bread and butter pudding, coffee granita and hazelnut ice cream from chef Omar Allibhoy | Photo credit: special arrangement