Flash-grilled: Santiago Lastra

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled: Santiago Lastra chef patron Kol Marylebone Best New Restaurant in Europe La Liste

Related tags Kol Santiago Lastra Restaurant Fine dining Chef Mexican cuisine

The chef patron of Kol in London's Marylebone, which was named Best New Restaurant in Europe this week by La Liste, reflects on his career to date.

What was your first industry job?
It was in an Italian restaurant in Mexico called Formaggio.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I wanted to be a mathematician, but I also love marketing. Or maybe I’d do an art degree - something where I can use my hands.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
There’s loads, but I think the person that I learnt the most from was Rene Redzepi, when we were working together as part of the Noma Mexico pop-up. His approach to cooking, his craft, his level of quality, and his work ethics are all very inspiring and unique.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Treating people unfairly.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Hmmm...once a lady asked me to marry her, but I think she was kidding. Or the mezcal was talking!

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Mexican soul; British ingredients.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Hah! It was probably back in my early days, when I used to cook for my brother and mother. I’d put this Italian seasoning on everything and they’d always ask why it all tasted like pizza.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My tortilla press; I actually used to travel the world with one in my hand luggage.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Seafood tacos - lobster grilled in pork fat, on a beach in Mexico, with freshly-made tortillas, and orange wine.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Tasting menu, but one that’s short and fun.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Plastic and cling film.

Twitter or Instagram?

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was once in a car crash on the biggest highway in Mexico City. We spun out of control and crashed into a bridge. Nothing happened to me, but it was really close.

Favourite food and drink pairing (the more obscure, the better)?
Beef tongue tacos and orange wine.

What do you consider your signature dish?
Langoustine tacos with sea buckthorns and sourdough tortillas.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
To work hard, believe in yourself, and to enjoy the moment. It’s not about where you want to be, it’s about what you’re doing right now. Also, make sure you put your heart into every ounce of what you do.

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