Spain - Ignacio Díaz de la Cuerda
Toledo, October 10, 2020
Maître Rôtisseur Chef of Vente de Aires
" Many chefs and cooks have inspired me throughout my professional career "

Chef Ignacio “Nacho” Díaz de la Cuerda directs the kitchen of Venta de Aires, the oldest restaurant in the Autonomous Community of Castilla-La Mancha. Turning 129 in 2020 it is the only centenarian restaurant located in the heart of the Roman Circus, in Toledo’s beautiful city centre.

Founded in 1891, Venta de Aires de Toledo was used by workers from the nearby arms factory, devotees of Cristo de la Vega, fishermen and bathers of Puente de San Martín plus occasional hikers.

Subsequently, due to their reputation for home cooking, well-known characters have sat at their tables attracted by the excellent quality of their products and the friendly service. Today, in pleasant dining rooms decorated with coffered ceilings, traditional flavour is still appreciated.

Inside is an exquisite mix of historical flavour integrating time passing with the latest contemporary trends. Venta de Aires’ rooms and terraces host celebrations: banquets, weddings, communions, conventions and small private groups. The establishment has an excellent wine cellar with a wide selection of wines.

When asked pertinent questions during an interview, Chef Ignacio replied:

What is more difficult, cooking or leading a team of people?
Obviously leading a team. Cooking, in my case, is innate and I am passionate about it. Getting that knowledge and potential out, shaping and coordinating it with the team is more complicated. Getting the team - as if an orchestra - to play the same melody is the most difficult thing, and essential to achieve.

What has been your gastronomic training?
Continuous, if you want to keep up with the new culinary trends. I train, recycle and research new gastronomic trends which will continue during my entire professional career.

At the Toledo Higher School of Hospitality and Gastronomy I was lucky to have two great kitchen masters, José Luis Pérez Braojos and Ernesto Álvarez de la Torre, as well Javier Gutiérrez for everything related to front of house. I did my internship at the San Román de Escalante hotel, a beautiful Relais & Châteaux establishment awarded a Michelin star. At the prestigious Zalacaín restaurant, one of the flagships of Spanish gastronomy, I had the great honour of being under the direction of D Benjamín Urdiain. Zalacaín, the first Michelin 3-star restaurant in Spain, was where I learned great values from a great boss. Fond memories!

What virtues do you think are the most important to be a good chef?
The hospitality industry is a different way of life. Incomprehensible to others. Tenacity, constancy, patience and imagination are very important. An open mind constantly reinventing ourselves. Absorb information from different cultures around us without forgetting our identity.

Who are your gastronomic references?
Many chefs and cooks have inspired me throughout my professional career, all of whom I admire very much. Benjamín Urdiain, as I have already mentioned, another great chef who has inspired me is D. Manuel de la Osa, with his great creations from the products of his land. But if I had to choose one it would be Juan Mari Arzak, a magician in the kitchen, with whom I strongly identify.

What is your favourite dish?
Without a doubt, the cream of chicken my mother made. I've been trying to find the exact recipe for years. I can't get that unique touch that she gave it. As I am very tenacious, I will keep trying!

Text extracted from a detailed feature prepared by Bailli Délégué Rosa Román