Published on 10/22/18
CHEF LIBERTAD SANTIAGO
Libertad Santiago is a very curious and passionate person. She loves art and is constantly in the search of beauty. She decided to go to pastry school about 6 years ago. It was a major change in her life, and she had no idea she would end up being a Pastry Chef someday.
What first brought her into pastry was her love of creating stuff out of just raw simple ingredients, with her own hands. Libertad Santiago studied at Escola de Pastisseria del Gremi in Barcelona. Then, she took a course specialized in plated desserts at Escola de Pastisseria Espaisucre.
Now that Libertad Santiago has gained experience, she knows how pastry is a complex duty and she loves its creative aspects. She thinks that “once you know how to control the ingredients and techniques, you can express yourself trough your work. It's a way to communicate ideas, stories and feelings”.
Chef Libertad Santiago now works at Dos Palillos in Barcelona, a Michelin starred restaurant.
Petit Four: This bonbon is inspired by the acidic notes in MANJARI 64%. It’s a marriage of contrast between the caramel’s softness and the tamarind’s acidity in the chocolate. I felt curious creating this bonbon because it surprised me that the tamarind was part of Madagascar’s gastronomy (the origin of MANJARI 64%), just like in my home country, Venezuela.
Plated Dessert: Bella Helena de Madagascar is a dessert inspired by the French Chef Auguste Escoffier’s Poire Belle Helene. This new interpretation includes products that are very far geographically, but really close when it comes to taste. The MANJARI 64% couverture is the protagonist of this plate. I was inspired by its Malagasy origin to bring from this African island other intense aromas such as coffee, cloves and, of course, vanilla. To compliment this arrangement of warm notes, I found Mediterranean references and brought the pears of Puigcerdam, lemon and thyme, which goes along with the beginning of the Catalan autumn. This variety of pear has a particular maturation process thanks to temperature contrasts throughout the day in the region, giving it a sweet flavor and an especially juicy and tender flavor. We also incorporated other local flavors such as the seeds of matalauva that provide a delicate anise tone, but also Lleida almonds slowly roasted in the oldest nut oven in Barcelona. This traditional pairing of warm spices and fresh herbs from the Mediterranean Sea reinforces the essential character of the classic Poire Belle Helene, chocolate and pears, giving it a complex and contrasted aromatic profile, while still being delicate and subtle.
Valrhona: How would you describe your signature style as a pastry chef?
Libertad Santiago: I like using fresh products. I like creating delicate plated desserts with many different and subtle details and flavors. I think that a bit of contrast makes a dish elegant. So I usually play with acid, salty and roasted flavors to create rhythm.
StarChefs: If you could visit any chocolate origin, where would it be and why?
Libertad Santiago: I would love to visit the Chuao Plantation in Venezuela. When I moved to Barcelona, I still hadn't discover my passion for the sweets and chocolates. So I would really like to go back one day and discover all the amazing flavors, ingredients, and techniques from my country, starting probably with its cocoa plantations.
StarChefs: Who is your mentor, and what's the most important lesson he/she taught you?
Libertad Santiago: I must be lucky, but I don't think I have only one mentor. It would be difficult for me to just talk about one. Right now I am learning so much from Chef Albert Raurich, Chef Takeshi San, Tamae San and Chef Koichi San... Yes, right now I am under a lot of Japanese influence. Thanks to them I have learned a lot about being passionate about your work, working hard, being organized, working towards a goal, being sensitive about the flavors, traditions and the rituals of eating. Now I not only think about the technique itself, cooking is now more complex. It is a multidimensional process where everything has a role to play. This is the first time I’ve worked in an open kitchen, and you really learn to appreciate and take care of all the elements that creates an enjoyable eating experience: the space, the dishes, the cutlery, the pairing, the companionship, the story behind every plate, the order of the plates in a menu, everything.
StarChefs: What's the first truly delicious pastry you remember eating? Where were you?
Libertad Santiago: Well, I have many memories about delicious sweetness... I think the very first would be the flavor of my mom's arepa dough. She sometimes added a little bit of sugar when she would fry them. So I would take some of the raw dough and eat it. Then, there was my grandmother's meriendita. Gigantic tray full of homemade sweets in the middle of the afternoon: strawberry gelatin, homemade dulce de leche, chocolate popsicles, little meringues and cake! But if we are talking about formal real pastries, then I would say Colas de Langosta (or Sfogliatella) from the best Italian bakery in Caracas. Fresh, crunchy and creamy. Simply the best!
StarChefs: Who is the the unsung hero of your pastry department? What is his/her title, and why is he/she so valuable?
Libertad Santiago: In our kitchen we all are heroes. The other chefs will come along as they finish passing their last plates. So, at the end of service, we are all together working in the pastry station. There is a lot of work because everything is prepared and finished a la minute and, since we work in an open kitchen, we also must present each dessert to our guests. But we are organized and each of my colleagues have their specific role when they come to the pastry station. For instance, Nelson and Alba are the Kakigori Team. Nelson is Wok Station Chef and Alba will be soon our new Starters Chef! They are both in charge of presenting and finishing the Cucumber Kakigori in front of our guests. Gaby who is our Steam and Frying Chef is our mochi girl. She knows everything there is to know about mochi! So, these guys are very valuable. Thanks to this system, where we all participate, it is much easier for me being in charge of El Pase de Pastelería. It’s all about team work!
StarChefs: If you were a flavor, what would you be and why?
Kanako Baba: I would be coffee from Venezuela, recently roasted and grinded, with its characteristic soft but rich and complex aroma. It is a very versatile ingredient so you can actually create many different shades of the same flavor.