Featuring Paco Martin Romano,
Head Chef at Tapa, Edinburgh
How long have you been a chef?
I’ve been a chef too long to remember, but I moved to Edinburgh (from my native Sevilla) to join my sister here in late 2010 and began working in Tapa in early 2011. I had very little English when I arrived so it made sense to try and gain employment in a Spanish speaking kitchen whilst I worked on my language skills. I was initially employed as a kitchen porter but as it turned out, I was given the opportunity to become Head Chef in late 2012. I have been in the role ever since.
Why did you become a chef?
Like most chefs I have fond memories of cooking with my mother, but, it was with my Abuelita - (my paternal grandmother) who was a personal cook for the Director of the Bank of Spain for most of her life - that a real culinary passion was ignited.
Garlic. Closely followed by Pimienton de la Vera (either sweet or spicy paprika), and saffron. The Holy Trinity of Spanish cooking.
Favourite or signature dish
We’ve achieved a lot with our food in Tapa - from convincing locals that you can eat pork medium rare (in our Presa Iberico dish) - to cooking fish with citric acid (in our ceviche dish). But my all time favourite dish on the menu is our Carrilladas Ibericas (Slow Cooked Cheeks of Iberian Black Pig dish). It’s the epitome of what I think cooking should be - an incredible artisanal ingredient (the animals are raised with impeccable husbandry) that we treat lovingly. We cook it slowly for hours, resulting in a piece of meat that’s fall-apart tender with an unparalleled, deeply rich flavour.
Favourite kitchen tool or equipment (apart from sharp knives)
Chefs love gadgets, of course! So it’s a close run race. My red Kitchen Aid Food Mixer comes second, just behind the restaurant’s chargrill. For me, that is super evocative. I’m from Sevilla and when it gets too hot in the summer months, we decamp to Sanlucar de Barrameda (the home of Manzanilla sherry) where cooking is done simply and quickly over coals. So, from the moment we stoke up for service in Tapa, it instantly transports me back to holidays by the sea with my family.
I have many. From the obvious Spanish chefs like Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) and Ferran Adrià (El Bulli) to Karlos Arguiñano. The latter made cooking accessible and fun in Spain through his TV programmes (think of a Spanish version of Keith Floyd with the addition of singing). I’ve always been inspired by fusing modernity with traditional cooking methods. In terms of English speaking chefs, it would be remiss of me not to mention Anthony Bourdain - but every chef that’s ever existed would want to have a beer with him.
Any food you can’t/won’t eat
Like all Spaniards I’m a complete omnivore! So from caracoles (snails) to sucking the heads of prawns, I’m in.
Comfort food/guilty secret
This is strictly confidential, right? My guilty secret is Mozarella Sticks & Sweet Chilli Sauce from a very famous British pub chain.
If I’m going out to eat, and I can’t get a table at your place, where should I go?
It has to be to Wedgwood on the Royal Mile.
Stupidest customer or kitchen experience
Offfft! I’m not falling for that. You’d have to buy me a beer first!
Tapa was named the Tom Eats! Restaurant of the Year 2023.
Need we say more? Find all their contact details on their website here.