María José San Román is a Michelin Star Chef based in Alicante, Spain. She has become famous for advocating for female chefs and for championing the cuisine of Alicante through indigenous ingredients such as saffron and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Her Alicante restaurant, Monastrell, is named after the black grape which in France is called Mourvèdre and makes dark red wine.
San Román’s Grupo Gourmet Alicante is a collection of six restaurants and an artisan bakery and she is also president of ‘Mujeres en Gastronomia’ (Women in Gastronomy)
Known as the Queen of Saffron, San Román has also become obsessed with olive oil. She talks about how important oil is in the cultural and culinary heritage of Spain and explains that it is a more diverse product than generally recognised. There are numerous different types of olive oils all with different taste profiles. In January she commenced an Oleoteca olive oil tasting program which was celebrated with a 12-course meal, each dish featuring different olive oils. She told The Olive Oil Source:
“We have many varieties native to Spain that deserve attention and consideration beyond Picual, Arbequina and Hojiblanca. Regional varieties like Changelot Real, Royal and Empeltre are just some of the options open to chefs”
The Olive Oil Source asked her what her favourite dish made with olive oil is and she replied:
“Spanish producer, Castillo de Canena makes a beautiful Picual olive oil that I love to use in my olive oil and saffron cake. It is hard to believe that the bitter, piquant taste of the Picual olive disappears in the mix and becomes more delicate, but it adds such depth of flavour to the cake.”
The Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival always has a gastronomic highlight. Past events have included the film Chef’s Diaries where the Roca Brothers, who own the famous El Cellar de Can Roca, explore Scotland; a wine, sherry and Flamenco event and a Q&A session with Michelin star chef Diego Gallegos.
This year features a documentary on the life of María José San Román, ‘The Essence of Sustainability‘ by Vicente Seva and Manuel Sánchez, and a selection of Mediterranean tapas, featuring exclusive olive oil created by María José San Román. Dishes will be paired with a selection of specially imported wines from the same regions by Spanish wine Ambassador Miguel Crunia.
With the world reliant on a small number of crops and ‘mono-diets’ and food shortages an increasing threat perhaps it is time that we all embrace the true diversity of food.
María José San Román Thursday 6th October at 6 pm French Institute, West Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF - Tickets at: www.edinburghspanishfilmfestival.com £50