The talented young Spanish chef Javier Aranda provides a feast for the senses and a theatrical dining experience at Gaytán, his restaurant near Madrid’s Parque de Berlín.
Chef Javier Aranda opened his restaurant Gaytán in June 2016. It was the second restaurant in Madrid for the young chef, who had already accumulated significant experience and a Michelin star. Gaytán also swiftly received a Michelin star for its creative, refined and elegant cuisine. The open kitchen allows guests to observe, as the visually interesting plates are prepared with a whole lot of passion and immaculate attention to detail.
An interior design, boasting an industrial look and a cosy atmosphere
Gaytán successfully blends industrial-style premises with natural materials and soft lighting to provide a warm, welcoming ambience. When entering the restaurant, worn leather Chesterfield couches and a contemporary looking bar area set the relaxed tone. In the minimal main dining space, chairs in warm grey fabric complement bare, wooden tables in organic shapes. The layout successfully makes the large open kitchen the focal point, giving the feel of a visit to the theatre with the kitchen as the stage. Pillars are wrapped in softly shaped wooden slats to provide an almost sculptural frame to the view.
Javier Aranda: a young chef with an interesting track record
Despite his young age, chef Javier Aranda is already considered as one of the most gifted chefs of the Madrilenian dining scene. Born in Toledo in 1987, Javier Aranda developed a passion for cooking from a young age and went on to attend Hospitality School. His training continued at Illescas restaurant El Bohio, working with chef Pepe Rodríguez. This was followed by time at Ars Vivendi, a source of invaluable knowledge and experience. Javier then developed his skills at restaurants Urrechu and Santceloni before being appointed head chef at Piñera in 2011, when he was just 24 years old.
With this experience of driving business, Javier opened his restaurant La Cabra in 2013. La Cabra was intended to encompass several spaces, such as a tapería and gastronomic restaurant, to offer a range of dining experiences. A year after opening, La Cabra was awarded a Michelin star, the first for Javier. Thanks to the Michelin star, he started to become better known and could differentiate himself from others.
His second restaurant in Madrid, Gaytán, followed in June 2016. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star within the same year. The chef describes Gaytán as a nod to his roots and to his grandfather Pedro, as he used to have a bar in Toledo. According to the chef, this restaurant is a great way to bring back those memories of giving guests a warm, welcoming experience. Javier also has the culinary direction over Retama, a restaurant outside the city in Torrenueva, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2020.
Javier has also won awards such as the Thermomix Young Values Award in 2013, which recognizes the work of new names in Spanish gastronomy, and the EME Metropoli Award in 2017.
Meet chef Javier Aranda
Curious to learn more about Javier Aranda’s everlasting inspiration and passion, we take some time for an informal chat with the founder and chef of restaurant Gaytán.
Chef’s Secret (The Best Chef & Hungry for More): Can you tell us more about your career, and about how you eventually became the chef you are today?
Chef Javier Aranda: I started in the hospitality business when I was 16, attending the hospitality school in Toledo. I gained experience in a local restaurant and learned more about the culinary profession. Afterwards, I came to Madrid to work along with some of my mentors and demonstrate the experience I had gained. Then in 2013, I opened my first restaurant La Cabra, which encompassed two types of restaurants: a bistro and a gastronomic restaurant. In 2016, I opened Gaytán, a restaurant in memory of my grandfather Pedro. Here, we went for the concept of a gastronomic restaurant. A few months after the opening, I noticed that we were competing with ourselves as restaurant La Cabra served also a gastronomic menu. That’s why I eventually decided to focus with La Cabra on just once concept, the bistro. Here, guests can eat à la carte. Gaytán remained a gastronomic restaurant where guests can enjoy our tasting menus. Finally, I started to manage another restaurant in 2018, called Retama. So, now I am handling three, which is quite a challenge sometimes.
Chef’s Secret: How would you describe your cooking style?
Chef Javier Aranda: I have two themes to my approach. On the one hand, I would describe myself as someone who takes really good care of the main products I use, which are vegetables, meat and fish. On the other hand, I like to impress people with the five senses. You will find different tastes and flavours in my dishes, because I like to try to mix things and see how they balance, to create a journey through the dining experience.
Chef’s Secret: Where do you find the inspiration to come up with new dishes?
Chef Javier Aranda: What inspires me most are my memories and past experiences. I also get inspiration every day by trying new flavours, combinations and textures, trying to match them to my past memories and experiences.
Chef’s Secret: Do you have a favourite ingredient with which you adore working?
Chef Javier Aranda: I haven’t got just one favourite ingredient; I have many. I really like to prepare suckling pig because it is incredibly tasty, and I like to work with different preparations of it. I like saffron as well, and red mullet, and truffles. I certainly have a couple of favourites from the sea to the ground. I adore vegetables whose flavours reflect where they have grown.
Chef’s Secret: Do you have a signature dish that really reflects your style as a chef?
Chef Javier Aranda: Going back to past dishes, a tartlet with piglet and smoked eel was a signature that many diners would associate with La Cabra. Every season I like to create new signature dishes, so that people returning to my restaurants would never get bored of the same dish.
Chef’s Secret: You’ve received a Michelin star at a young age, three times. Is it something that creates extra pressure, or do you consider it to be more of an opportunity?
Chef Javier Aranda: Gaining these culinary awards in my twenties means the pressure increases on a daily basis. Even though I had to learn to live with the daily pressure, I also learned to maintain focus and to keep working hard. The passion takes over the pressure.
Chef’s Secret: How do you manage everything with the different restaurants?
Chef Javier Aranda: What is really important to me is teamwork. That is the main part of managing this job. Without my team, I would be nothing, so I really need to trust my workforce. I have to be organised every day and I usually start working at La Cabra. That’s the restaurant where all the preparations take place when I am there, so I work there with the whole team. When it’s service time, I go to Gaytán so I can manage my team there. La Cabra is closed on Sundays and Gaytán on Sundays and Mondays. When I have two days off, I stay at Retama so I can manage my third restaurant. Then I go back to Gaytán. It’s a 24/7 job.
Chef’s Secret: What are your dreams and goals for the future?
Chef Javier Aranda: As a chef, I want to become very respected and aspire to be the best of the best. Concerning the restaurant, of course we want it to be fully booked and to have a great reputation. So, my dream already came true in part; I have a good restaurant, many people know me as a chef, and I have a good reputation. But, I keep on working and improving for the future.
Gaytán’s tasting menu: a journey through nature
The menu at Gaytán is a journey by land and sea, building from herbs and roots, through vegetables to fish and meat, ending with desserts. We sampled the full ‘Javier Aranda’ tasting menu, which showcases the chef’s skilled technique and respect for the best ingredients.
The menu begins with a sequence of snacks, starting with a welcome cocktail of red Vermouth, infused celery, syrup and orange zest, stirred with nitrogen. The cocktail was accompanied with a game sandwich, featured partridge pate and partridge skin in place of bread. The unique take on a Spanish buñuelo was a deep-fried fritter of niscalos mushrooms on a Mahon cheese cream, and the truffle bite featured extra virgin olive oil bread, truffle flavoured butter and black truffle from Teruel.
After this introduction to a variety of flavours and textures, the vegetable sequence followed, showcasing Javier Aranda’s appreciation of fresh produce.
A salsify Tarte Tatin, using the salty root, was accompanied by fresh pomegranate and its syrup with butter powder.
A green pea tagliatelle dish featured seasonal peas prepared with baby onions and homemade pasta.
Our chervil tart combined layers of texture, with a chervil cream base and a brunoise (fine dice) of its root, complemented by horseradish and fresh lime.
The meaty texture of seasonal king trumpet mushrooms, cooked at a low temperature in a water bath and pan fried to finish, was complemented by a Timut pepper sauce and smoked pine oil.
Our sea sequence began with a freshly caught baby squid from Alicante, served with an onion and yuzu transparent cream, burnt celeriac and dill chlorophyll.
Next came a fresh langoustine, quickly pan fried and served on a base of smooth carrot, tarragon chlorophyll and lactonaise, a vanilla flavoured mayonnaise made without eggs.
The final of our sea dishes was a grilled and blowtorched fillet of red mullet from Galicia, in northwestern Spain. The fish was garnished with a pil-pil sauce made with orange juice and liver from the fish, and a tomato sauce made to the Aranda family’s recipe.
The ground sequence again led us on a journey of taste and texture.
The first dish was a bombón of hen’s egg yolk, steamed and covered with foie gras, placed on a champignon and Port stew, with fresh black truffle.
A 45-day aged pan fried beef loin was served with broccoli, kale and enoki mushrooms rapidly cooked in wine and vinegar. The dish was finished with white asparagus pickled in red fruits and a demi-glace reduction.
Sweetbread open ravioli featured a stewed base of sweetbreads with dehydrated tomatoes, with a layer of fresh pasta.
To round off the ground sequence: a plate of ‘deconstructed’ pigeon, with a crunchy tube filled with stewed pigeon at the centre, alongside a pigeon breast served with pickles of aubergine, gherkins and baby onions.
Having completed our journey by land and sea, we arrived at the dessert sequence.
Our pre-dessert was guava, flavoured with flowers, on filo pastry with tamarind and basil gels. Nitrogenated bergamot was the basis of the next dish, accompanied by a granita of orujo (a Spanish brandy), dulce de leche, and clouds of coconut and yoghurt powder.
Finally, a dark chocolate dessert with bitter (over 85% cocoa solids) chocolate presented in varying textures, alongside an amaretto emulsion, toasted macadamia nuts, and nougat ice cream.
To end the meal, we sampled a selection of sweets.
Gaytán showcases the talent of a creative young chef, who has enormous respect for quality products. The innovative flavours, textures and presentation of dishes throughout the tasting menu show the ambition of the chef and his team. Observing the skilled chefs at work in the open kitchen, is an integral and exciting part of the dining experience at Gaytán. Having achieved already a lot in his career to date, Javier Aranda is undoubtedly a talent to watch in the future.
Restaurant Gaytán, C/ Príncipe de Vergara 205, 28002 Madrid, Spain | +34 91 348 50 30 | www.chefjavieraranda.com/en/ | email@example.com | facebook.com/chefjavieraranda | instagram.com/gaytanrestaurante | instagram.com/javierarandachef
Text: Sarah De Hondt
Photography: Adriaan Van Looy