Every single day, Lanzarote’s hotels feed several thousand guests – a task that requires huge organisation and skills. To get an idea of what is involved, we spoke to Vicente Rodríguez, head chef at the Seaside Los Jameos Playa Hotel in Matagorda, Puerto del Carmen.
Where are you from, Vicente?
I’m from Lanzarote, born in Las Breñas. My mother’s a cook and I learnt at her side before going to the Catering College at Arrecife and working up from there.
How many catering staff work in the hotel, Vicente?
There are 55 staff from 14 different countries. We have Italians, Moroccans, South Americans, Chinese and many more. We take quite a few youngsters from the Catering College, too.
There are head chefs in each department, and a very skilled baking team and chef for our cakes and pastries but otherwise I like to make sure that everyone can do everything, from washing dishes and prepping to kitchen management and cooking. We’re constantly training our staff to improve their skills.
The organisation required for three meals a day must be huge.
It’s four meals a day – we also do an afternoon tea. Yes, it’s constant, and involves a lot of planning- ordering ingredients, checking storage and refrigeration, changing menus, and much more. My most important utensil is a ballpoint pen.
Do you ever get time to cook yourself?
Yes. I like to say “I do, I show and I taste”, meaning I cook, I train staff and I check the quality. I do show cooking displays every Thursday where guests can learn things like preparing a paella or simple tapas dishes.
Where do the ingredients come from?
We’re very committed to a circular economy and order as much as possible from local suppliers. A fishmonger, for example, and two farmers who produce vegetables and fruit all year round. We also buy tomatoes, pineapples and olive oil from Fuerteventura.
Do you notice differences in the tastes of the nationalities that come to the hotel?
Of course. We meet with the booking staff to find out which nationalities are coming, and order accordingly. For example, different nationalities often enjoy different types of breakfast, so we order supplies depending on who’s coming. British tourists once had a reputation for being unadventurous, but I don’t see that anymore. Many, especially the younger ones, are very open to different experiences.
How do you deal with dietary requirements and trends such as veganism?
All guests are asked about allergies and dietary requirements on arrival. If they have an intolerance, we’ll prepare their food separately from the buffet, where cross-contamination is always a possibility.
As for vegan food. I’ve ensured that at least 10% of all dishes we offer are vegan. There’s a growing demand and it’s a challenge I find very interesting as a vegetarian myself.
What do you eat?
I don’t eat much because I have to taste everything. And that means everything – even though I’m a vegetarian myself I’ll still taste the meat and fish dishes – it’s my job. We do a parmegiana that I love. It’s an Italian dish of aubergines and mozzarella on a bed of tomato, with plenty of parmesan on top.
Do you only cater for guests?
You don’t have to be a guest to eat at the Jameos Playa. People from outside can celebrate a birthday with their friends in our restaurant, for example, and enjoy the great buffet. Just call or ask at reception. You can also attend the show-cooking displays on Thursdays.
Thanks to Vicente and Beate Sekula at the Seaside Los Jameos Playa Hotel.