Mary Marte, the best of the best
A lifetime of hard work and struggle with humility, tenacity and determination, capitalizing on opportunities arranged with talent and vocation. She is a pride for our country, with that smile that lights up every room overflowing of creativity.
That is Maria Marte and thus she is introduced, a Dominican from Jarabacoa that places Latin American cuisine in the gastronomic world map. Today she is a great Chef with two Michelin stars, but the path has not been easy, a tireless fighter who claims to have begun his career "washing pots and pans". No one better than her is able to convey those values that make her to appear at the covers of the most important European magazines. As a director directs an orchestra where each controls their instrument but everyone has a view of the score, a Maria’s definition of her team activity in her kitchen.
When did you start to be related with the kitchen?
I grew up surrounded by two of the big names in cuisine, my parents. My father was the owner of the only restaurant in the village (Jarabacoa) and my mother was a great baker, making jams for export which were very successful.
Cooking is in my blood since I was a child; it was always like a game to me. I was born to be criticized, because I love to cook and to give people to taste but I was really interested in people's opinion. I lived a very beautiful childhood because I had the opportunity to play cooking and never had any problem. We are eight brothers, I'm the youngest and all live in DR but none is dedicated to cook.
What does Utilísima mean to you?
I love it. It is a television channel which I have enjoyed it very much. I constantly watch it since its beginning, I learn a lot I know all recipes, it is fun.
Why did you come to Spain?
Because of my oldest son who was barely eight years. In 2003 his father asked me to live with him, to study there because education is really good. We were not wrong, it was a good decision.
Did you feel attracted for Spanish cuisine?
I was heard a lot about Spanish cuisine and I was really fascinated.
How was your early professional career?
I found a job very quick by chance in the restaurant, El Club Allard. I started in a very nice way, cleaning, I felt good because I had a job to raise my two children, the twins. I have been both father and mother for them. I was happy with my job although I only work as dishwashers which allowed me to support my kids. So I came to this restaurant, where I have been for 13 years.
I was always very interested in cuisine and my eyes were always open to any movement without missing details. In time-out when there were no pots to wash I paid attention to cookers, what they did, how they moved, and I always thought, "If I were on that side" ... I always thought that.
When was the time do you start cooking?
I remember once we, the restaurant workers, were dining and someone asked, " Dominican, what do you want to be when you grow up?" without thinking, the answer was I wanted to be a cooker and all on the table laughed at me, because of course I was a newcomer. When they laughed, I remember a nice anecdote, something the valet said, "do not laugh at her because the woman with more Michelin stars in the world is called Carme Ruscalleda and began like her." He told me then 'Mary takes advantage of a cooker that is going to leave and try to occupy the place". As from here a great interest awoke in me because until then I was very shy and barely spoke, but I took a chance, I asked for the opportunity and thus I started cooking.
How does your opportunity begin?
At that moment the Chef of the restaurant where I worked, Diego Guerrero, suggested me to start cooking although I continued washing dishes. From the beginning I felt it as an opportunity, I never cared to do both things, people did not understand how I could stand the speed I worked at.
Who was your teacher?
Diego Guerrero, I learned a lot from him. I became his Chef, considering that he spent 50 days a year traveling.
One day Diego went away, he left the restaurant in a very traumatic and rush way, but Mary did not shake the pulse, remained on guard and dedicated to create new dishes for the new season.
Luisa Orlando, the Restaurant Manager, followed closely her steps "Mary had already perfectly demonstrated that she could take over. She conveyed courage and capacity to continue providing a service of two Michelin stars without fear. She could have asked for time to reorganize the team, something reasonably, but she didn't even think about it, she took control from the beginning dealing with very difficult times. The service remained impeccable, quite in spite of the tension around and not a single customer noticed in any detail the absence of Diego, on the contrary. "
Had your second chance already came?
We had several challenges because the season was changing. First, a pre dessert had to be kept and I made the "hibiscus flower". Then the menu had to be changed and creativity was set in motion that together with my Latin influences made me triumph.
Does the mixture of two cultures in the cuisine was appreciated by customers?
Absolutely, it was the nicer thing has ever happened to me, my cuisine had already its personality.
This combination of flavours gives Mary a position in Latin American cuisine worldwide. She is part of El Club Allard restaurant evolution. She has been able to interpret what the customer expects but providing it with her own personality which is that Michelin assessed, a line more mixed, more Latino, more Caribbean and inclusion.
Mary loves criticism and one that she likes the most is when a client said "There are flavours from the entire world, here."
She wants each customer makes their small culinary journey, being in central Madrid they can remind Mexico or DR. Her cuisine already has an identity very appreciated by customers.
What is your philosophy of work?
The most important thing to me is teamwork, regardless of the area in which you move, you have to get the whole team as they are like family so as to work in harmony giving all that you have.
What is the role of raw materials in your cuisine?
They have the main role. We always choose to emphasize raw materials very much without disguise. We work according to the season and that gives us a lot of options. I have a direct relationship with suppliers to select fish, fruits and vegetables and meat because working with fresh products is my priority.
¿Cooked or Parboiled?
Parboiled (She does not hesitate for a second to answer)
You were born to be Chef or you develop it later?
In my case, it was an inborn skill.
Do you need to have certain characteristics to be a great chef?
Plenty of them, nature, availability, passion, lots of passion ... compensation for doing this job is not money but vocation.
What did you think when you were awarded with the National Gastronomy Awards? Imagine! The first thing they asked me was if I was Spanish. It was incredible.
Is your family really aware of the place you occupy in the world of gastronomy?
There is no gastronomic culture in DR as understood in Europe, Michelin stars don’t exist, DR is awakening now gastronomically speaking. When I get there I will tell you personally what we do and what we have achieved.
Does the responsibility for keeping two Michelin stars weigh on you?
It is a lot of responsibility, it is heavily weight on me every day but I carry it out with pride.
When you finish a career and see that your work is on Trip Advisor ranking # 1 what do you feel?
It is not easy to be number one, we were two years as number one and that's a record no one has reached. It varies, up and down, and it is unusual to keep the same rank for two years. We promised each day with the team, with the customer. It was very "heavy" but very positive. We are the restaurant with more votes in Spain on Trip Advisor especially Madrid.
High cuisine is a world where men are abundant, how you deal with them?
Look! I also wear pants (Laughs) ... They have learned to recognize and appreciate me, and I am another one among them. I have very good relationship with almost everyone.
Define your cuisine
It is a cuisine of mixture and delicate, in harmony, that respects and maintains the product, full of young people eager to work. Customers highlight the presence of feminine touch in the cuisine.
What does inspire you?
A creative person cannot stop thinking, every day he/she is inspired, but inspiration comes to me especially when I am fully involved in cookery.
About the entire process, what part does you like the most?
A complete master, it is my phrase, you cannot prefer one part more than the other, everything is related. I like cooking in general.
What dish does make you feel some pride?
I am very proud of "Hibiscus Flower" because I relate it to many countries, I feel it like a flower due to the mix of colors and flavors. It has been a great dish although it is a pre dessert, a dish that identifies me a lot and I like it very much. It was my first creation after Diego left.
Did you get to merge the two cultures gastronomically?
I'm on it! The nicest thing is the acceptance of mixture.
"Gentlemen, the party starts" and the team knows that Mary Marte will sing orders which means non-stop for the next 45 minutes.
What did you have to give up in life?: To my children
What has been your biggest success?: Fulfill my dream and become a great chef
If you had become Chef what would you have liked to be?: Psychologist
A dream: You never stop dreaming
What things keep you awake?: Creation
How do you spend your free time?: Enjoy my children because my time with them is short
A hobby: Reading
Your best dish: A vegetable stew I did 13 years ago
A dish from your childhood: Soup
A place in the world: Paris
A place in DR: God Hammocks
What do you hate most in human beings?: Arrogance
What do you value most?: Humility
Who do you admire?: My mother
Three Tips for a young cooker who is starting: Humility, passion and creativity
A mania: Cleaning
A moment: When I’m going to sleep
A memory: Flowers
A song: La bilirubina
A smell: cilantro
The key of your success: Humility
Who cooks in your house?: Mary Marte, it means me
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