Jesús Sánchez: «Culinary criticism is very important and Michelin stars are a dream. But nothing is as valuable as public recognition»

Almost like a legendary character, Jesus Sanchez (Azagra, Navarre, 1964) has unified the North: appointed official ambassador of Rioja cuisine, raised in Navarra and synonymous with Cantabrian haute cuisine for almost 30 years, the same ones that have opened the doors of Amos Gazebo in Villaverde de Pontonesabout 20 km from Santander.

But Sánchez has a character as warm as the cap he always wears or the friendly atmosphere of this palatial mansion from the 18th century. «I come from a rural environment, from a small town in Navarra. I enjoy sitting down and chatting with a person who tells me about their life. To me, that’s a absolute enjoyment, is my way of being and I feel happy being who I am, “he says. When we point out to her that statements like this sound like well-crafted emotional intelligence, she sees us coming and smiles: «I love every opportunity to highlight Marián’s figure. It would be absurd and hypocritical not to recognize that Cenador de Amós would not be where he is if it were not for her. We share work, we share this way of life, we share vital project. It is my anchor, in the strictly positive sense of the term.

Marián Martínez is, in addition to his wife and the mother of his two daughters, his co-founding partner and head of the restaurant, in whose organization he applies his extensive training in coaching, mindfulness and the enneagram, a personality classification system of Eastern origin . And the fact is that, aside from talent, much of the success of the chef has to do with psychology: «When we opened, in the mid-90s, we started working as if we already had the Michelin star, but those of the guide had not yet found out, ”Sánchez recalls with a laugh.

The strategy worked: shortly after the inauguration, the first star arrived; in the following years, the other two (the third came just before confinement). In addition, since December, he has a fourth, the green star, which recognizes the environmental commitment. “We are from a generation that has not yet been printed as a standard issue of sustainability, something that my daughters from the fifth have already internalized, but we have always been very aware of how privileged our environment is and, grateful, we have treated with respect”, recalls Sánchez.

Defender of the zero kilometer philosophy, local cuisine and organic products long before they became viral, Cenador de Amós has its own vegetable garden and nursery. with the leftovers they do their own composting. “In addition, Repsol has helped us create the first solar community around a restaurant: with the solar panels that we install in the summer, we generate energy for ourselves and share it with our neighbors. And we have the guarantee that all the energy we consume comes only from renewables », he explains proudly.

In addition to its partner towards total sustainability, Repsol –or, more precisely, its guide–, has distinguished Cenador de Amós with its highest recognition: the three Suns. Added to the four Michelin stars, «It is the maximum to which a chef can aspire, like an Oscar for an actor, the maximum culmination of a professional career. But, unlike the Oscar, you can’t keep it in the window, you have to renew the awards every year. We don’t know what will happen in the future, but we will fight to maintain that recognition »he adds. In addition, for three years it has been the favorite restaurant of the Spanish category, according to El Tenedor, the guide in which those who vote are the diners themselves. «Gastronomic criticism is very important, and Michelin stars, a dream. But nothing is as valuable as public recognition: that the people come, come back and value you It is the main thing for us. There is no recognition by any other means that is not coupled with recognition from the public, it would be something really strange ».

The new year has arrived loaded with excellent news for the chef, and not only because of the mother ship in Cantabria, which is also establishing itself as a bakery (El pan de Amós). He has also recently opened the Amós restaurant, at the Hotel Rosewood Villa Magna in Madrid, and has published his second book, Cenador de Amós (Editorial Montagud), which «gathers a bit of our gastronomic trajectory, especially from the last five or six years. We have taken great care with the photographs, but we have also tried to make it an instructive book with recipes.

And, above all, we wanted to fairly portray Cantabria, the territory that inspires us». W hen he talks about the land, he doesn’t hide his enthusiasm. «When I arrived in Cantabria –in the 1980s, as head chef at the Molino–, this was the the only Cantabrian restaurant with a Michelin star (today there are six), and we watched with healthy envy the movement that existed in Euskadi, Catalonia and Madrid. It seemed that this wave did not pass through here; but today the most valued producers, restaurants and raw material are Cantabrian, both for specialized critics and for foodies who are looking for the best for their pantry at home». Word of the king in the North.

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