Our interview in June is with José Alonso, Chef and Owner of the Spanish restaurant ¨Kulto¨.
• Hola José, could you please introduce yourself?
I was born in La Rioja, a winery region famous for its wines. My family was dedicated to the wine business; however, no one was dedicated to F&B, although good food was always essential. We liked to cook at home when there were celebrations, always buying high-quality products.
At the age of 12, I had a clear mindset that I wanted to become a cook a great Chef, but my parents were a bit hesitant and preferred me to finish high school first. Once I finished it, I was able to fulfil my dream and start culinary school.
When I was only 18, I started working in my first restaurant with 1 Michelin star.
Since then, I have never stopped working on different projects until I reached Kulto and Kocido. During this time, I have continued to grow other dreams and projects, that’s why in 2005, together with other friends, we set up EXOPTO* winery that today has good recognition and we export to many countries. These wines can be consumed in Kulto and Kocido.
• As Chef of the Spanish restaurant KULTO (87 Amoy Street, Singapore) can you explain to us what kind of cuisine and what gastronomic experiences can we find in your restaurant?
Kulto: After more than 20 years of working and creating different concepts in Singapore. I wanted the freedom to create my own space where people could enjoy all my knowledge acquired over these years.
These are the things that are going to happen in the restaurant
- A table in front of the kitchen.
- A show cooking area where customers can see how the paella is made, they can see first-hand what we cook.
- We have a charcoal oven where we can prepare many dishes, giving a unique aroma and taste.
- The service or the customer will finish the plates/dishes on the table, creating an interactive experience.
Wine: The wine list will be mainly Spanish, in which we will import unique things that can only be consumed in our restaurant, helping our clients to discover Spain through wine.
With all this effort and passion, we develop an informal ambience where people come to relax and have a good time.
• In addition to your Kulto restaurant, what other gastronomic projects do you have in Singapore?
We also work as an F&B consultancy, and we help other groups to create and rebrand concepts, personnel management and day-to-day operations control.
Right now, we are also partners in two other projects: Kilo and Lumbre.
• Your restaurant Kulto has received the ¨Restaurants from Spain Certification Award¨, from the Spanish Government Agency that promotes Spanish firms internationally (ICEX), as a recognition of the quality of your restaurant. What does this Award mean for your restaurant?
For us, it is the recognition of our Spanish restaurant Kulto by our government, representing a great seal of quality for our consumers.
• In your restaurant you have not only foreign customers, but many Singaporean customers. What is the image that Singaporeans have of Spanish gastronomy?
Singapore is a unique place in the world since the diversity of food is incredible. You can try any type of food, and the quality is very high.
There is also a street food culture that I love, with which it is the perfect place to test new concepts because people demand them, and I think Spanish cousin is one of them.
They love the tapa concept, and because it is very close to their way of eating food in Asia, more specifically in Singapore, as they can try a wide variety of products, we also use a lot of pork, one of their favourite dishes.
• Spain is recognized worldwide for the quality of its food products, such as olive oil, wine, cheese, Iberian ham, etc. What advice would you give to Spanish producers of these products to export them to Asia?
The truth is that at the moment, the positioning of the Spanish product is getting better and better, and the consumer understands it as a quality product.
Because of that, I believe it is a matter of time before the Spanish product has more demand from the consumers in Asia, specifically in Singapore.
We should continue promoting the Spanish brand and holding fairs and convincing importers to try our products, as once they tried the can see the quality.
• What role do you think Spanish restaurants abroad can play to promote the image and brand of Spain as global ambassadors of Spanish cuisine?
We are the spearhead of the Spanish products as in the end, we get customers to discover our gastronomy with all that it entails. As they can try all the products, especially the way of cooking them.
They often know the products but do not know how they are used or can be used.
• For those readers who haven’t been so far to your restaurant, what dish recommendations would you give them for their first visit?
The paellas are an iconic product in the restaurant, but our tapas are fun and always of high quality. So, I would recommend that my team guide them and enjoy the experience.
• And when you are not in your restaurants, what other activities do you like to do in your free time in Singapore?
I also love sports and drinking good wine with good friends.
I don’t think it’s anything special, but when you work so hard and always face the public, you’re looking for moments of tranquillity.
For more information: www.kulto.com.sg