Guest Chef November 2021
Ángel León’s fixation with the sea began with childhood fishing trips with his father from El Puerto de Santa María, a port in Southwest Spain, into the Bay of Cádiz; on their return it was Ángel’s job to clean the catch. Before he became a cook, Ángel was a sailor. His love of the sea and his research work led him to sail the straits of Gibraltar, the coasts of Mauritania, the Norwegian fjords and the Atlantic Ocean. In his own words, “The sea is my true obsession: in my case, it was the sea that took me to the stove, not the other way around.”
He then studied at the Taberna del Alabardero Cooking School in Seville and worked in restaurants such as Casa Irene (Arties, Catalonia), El Faro de El Puerto (El Puerto de Santa María, Andalusia), Chapeau Femme (Bordeaux), the Sheraton hotels in Buenos Aires and Miami, and La Casa del Temple in Toledo. In 2007, he achieved one of his dreams by opening his own restaurant, Aponiente, in his home town of El Puerto de Santa María. In the restaurant’s early years, it was difficult to gain acceptance but as the awards piled up, the world began to understand and appreciate his vision. His friend, the legendary chef Ferran Adrià, advised him to stick to his guns and follow his dream.
Audacious is the word applied to the bold experimentation of this leading Spanish chef, whose seafood-based nueva cocina transformed Aponiente into Andalusia’s first triple-Michelin-starred restaurant in 2017. He gained another Michelin star for his restaurant Alevante at the Gran Meliá Sancti Petri Hotel in Chiclana (Cádiz). Occupying a beautifully restored 19th-century tide mill, Aponiente splits opinion. Some deride its pretension; others can’t wait to experience its 21-course tasting menus. In 2009, two years after developing a seaweed purification machine with the Fitoplancton Marino Research Laboratory, he became the first chef in the world to incorporate two different forms of edible plankton into his meals. In 2011, he was named “Chef of the Future” by the Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie and he has justifiably earned his title “Chef of the Sea”. As a pioneer chef and marine collaborator, his involvement in R&D has led him to find innovative techniques for preparing fish concentrates for use in stews and paella, dried and restructured fish products, fish hamburgers, and much more.
Chef Ángel León presents dishes that are small explosions of the ocean. Often disguised as culinary trompe-l’oeils, they trick diners into thinking they are actually eating something else, even meat. Nothing is too crazy or all-out, the surprise factor often arising from the texture, flavor combinations, and blend of colors. All ingredients (and wines) closely follow the “zero kilometer” food concept. His menus feature dishes such as anchovies with gazpacho; inflated razor clams filled with a pea purée and served with mojama stock; a delicate fiddler crab dish; a “roasted chicken” which is actually made with a meaty local fish, the crispy skin of a moray eel with onions and a sauce reminiscent of chicken stock and Armagnac; even the desserts contain sea-derived ingredients, think soft plankton cheese, prawn cheese, or seaweed pudding.
Experience true innovation in a radical and risky culinary language based on ingredients that no one usually considers food. Chef Ángel León looks forward to immersing you in an emotional micro-world of marine-based performance at Restaurant Ikarus in November 2021.
Each month at Salzburg’s two Michelin-starred Restaurant Ikarus, a different top international chef creates the menu. For this globally unique concept, Hangar-7 executive chef Martin Klein visits the cream of the crop, takes a look behind the scenes of haute cuisine, and is let in on some exciting culinary secrets. “Culinary Heights at Ikarus” offers a unique glimpse into the world of high-end cuisine and provides an interesting portrait of each guest chef, their culinary philosophy, and the food culture of their country.