Blue sky, 24 degrees, a fresh breeze from the Atlantic and a very stylish and elegant decor. The Coco Beach Lounge and Restaurant at the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real****GL, my favorite place on this island, is an excellent location for my interview with the hotel`s young chef Gustavo Guerra. I know that a delicious lunch with a stunning view over the sea, the islands of Lobos and Lanzarote will be my reward (although I have to admit that this interview is more fun than anything else).
Photo: Chef Gustavo Guerra and KHL during the interview (fotosfuerteventura.com)
30 year old Gustavo was born in Fuerteventura and loves his island („and so do I, it is my little refugium“). He acquired his cooking skills in the capital (hmmm ... rather a village...) Puerto del Rosario and has been with the small chain of Atlantis Hotels for almost 4 years. Hard to believe that he does not cook at all at home – so his wife does the job! Gustavo has so much to say about „Fuerte“ that I could have listened to him for hours. But – he had to work to make the hotel guests happy and I was waiting for my lunch al fresco so here is what we talked about:
KHL: I know a few dishes of the Canary Islands – but what is typical for Fuerteventura?
GG: Fuerteventura is pretty dry. It used to be the island for seeds such as chickpeas and for wheat. You may know gofio, a very special dish of our archipelago. Consisting of highly nutritive values and with unlimited ways of preparation - be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Little delicious tomatoes used to be one of our specialties, cultivated with saltwater. My home island is also famous for the award-winning „queso majorero“, a very tasty goat cheese („Oh yes, I could not get enough of that during my stay“). Needless to say we also have fish – from parrot fish („vieja“) to grouper („cherne“) which, by the way, is delicious if prepared as ceviche. Many locals immigrated to South America before the tourism boom – and they brought back some habits from there. The National Peruvian dish ceviche is one of them.
Photo: Delicious seafood at the Coco Beach Lounge & Restaurant (fotosfuerteventura.com)
KHL: Talking about tourism – when did the boom begin on this island?
GG: Well, the first international tourists came in the late 70s – and guess who, Germans of course. Imagine, there was hardly any infrastructure in those days, just a very few hotels and mostly gravel roads.
KHL: Hard to imagine those days with today`s great amenities and this paradise-like place called Bahía Real.
GG: So true but keep in mind that there are still old people on the island who have never seen the sea („What??? Swimming in the turqoise waters is my daily highlight!“). They live in the interior and cultivate animals and plants. My grandfather used to spend a month by the sea where he went on a donkey – living in a small cabin and going fishing. The fish was salted, dried and taken back home to the family. That was the lifestyle here until tourism started. We also had camels on our island („well, we are not too far from Africa“) – excellent helpers for the farmers!
Photo: Taking notes as fast as I can – lots of great content from Gustavo! (fotosfuerteventura.com)
KHL: I know about wine production on the neighbour island of Lanzarote, how about vino from „Fuerte“?
GG: Interestingly enough, there is a very small production of white and red wine on my island. Like in Lanzarote we cultivate the Malvasia grape here. The red wine is similar to a Rioja („Well, I am sold on that one for sure, Gustavo“). You can buy local wine on the „mercado de la biosfera“ in our little capital every Saturday and also get it at La Luna restaurant in Corralejo. („Now I am thinking of a post-retirement career as wine-grower on this magic island, honestly...!“)
Photo: Chef Gustavo Guerra with the island of Lobos in the background (fotosfuerteventura.com)
KHL: My absolute favorite of Canary dishes are the „papas arrugadas con mojo“ – little unpeeled, wizen potatoes which come with dips to die for. What is the base for this recipe?
GG: It is pretty down to earth – you just need a good oil, vinagar, garlic („yes, we are in Spain...“), kummel, salt and pepper. And we have an endemic potato on our island called „criadilla“ – small and extremely delicious.
KHL: Sustainability plays a major role at the Gran Hotel Atlantis. Do you get a lot of ingredients locally?
GG: Not all of course but quite a few. We buy most fish and seafood fresh from local fishermen. And by the way, most of our staff in the restaurants come from the island, we care a lot about supporting our economy which basically conststs of tourism.
Photo: A lovely veggie plate – „ensalada de tomate“ (fotosfuerteventura.com)
KHL: You prepare the most delicious plates in the six („YES, 6!“) restaurants of the Gran Hotel, sometimes together with the renowned Carles Gaig, a chef from Barcelona who has earned a Michelin star. What is your favorite dish?
GG: Pretty simple – mussels collected on the beach and prepared with „aulaga“, a local gorse. You just bake both on the beach – simple but very delicious and healthy at the same time!
KHL: Fish and meat are basics of the local kitchen, how about vegetarian food?
GG: The demand in our hotels is growing for sure, even for vegan food. We respond to this trend by expanding our vegetarian choices. The Thai restaurant at our Suite Hotel will primarily offer vegetarian dishes after its renovation this fall. There are even a few vegan restaurants in Corralejo.
Thanks, Gustavo, muchas gracias – y suerte (good luck)!
The gastronomic experiences at the award-winning Gran Hotel Atlantis are definitely one of many good reasons to visit this magic place. Abundant buffets for breakfast and dinner with many local specialties (I could not get enough of the freshly squeezed juices), a spectacular Japanese eating place („Yamatori“) and the unique Coco Beach Lounge and Restaurant with its stylish interior. Taste the freshest fish at the Beach Club „Las Palmeras“ or Spanish gourmet menus at La Cupúla de Carles Gaig and Las Columnas. And no worries, if you have put on too many calories, there are quite a few ways to get rid of them – how about a walk through the dunes, a swim in the ocean, a workout at the gym or a bike ride? Life is good in Fuerteventura.
P.S. My words may have sounded a bit exagerated but rest assured, this is my very personal opinion about this place. I just love it.
Photo: The stunning beaches of Corralejo – heavon on earth! (KHL)
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