Like the alma or soul of all cuisine with roots, Leandro Gil’s cooking respects his origins with his recipes and ingredients. Named Revelatory Chef of the Year (Madrid Fusion, 2018), Leandro reinterprets the best produce of the La Ribera Navarra with elegance and profound respect.
Leandro brings to the Alma his passion for interpreting the surroundings in which he was raised, the woods and allotments cultivated and worked by his grandparents, in a continuous search for wild ingredients endemic to the region, such as rock tea, rose hip and elderberries. He rediscovers them in new forms, making the culinary experience at the Alma an enjoyable, unexpected and innovative journey.
Although his cooking is fundamentally based on aromatic herbs from the Alma’s own gardens or picked from the wild, Leandro also creates meat and fish dishes from yesteryear. For instance, the seemingly humble sheep’s head takes on new dimensions thanks to his personal vision.
In his constant search for any new possibilities offered by his environment, Leandro roams the fields and woods, talks to vegetable-growers, shepherds and farmers, drawing on their deep knowledge of these habitats as they reveal ingredients that have always been there as well as their ancient uses, giving him a range of opportunities to reinterpret and innovate. This means that the Alma dishes include the freshest seasonal produce which takes the diner on an unexpected journey into the past.
Leandro looks to the future while continuing the traditions of his grandparents, who showed him the natural potential of his native lands. He shares his personal exploratory adventure of his roots with all those who eat at the Alma.
He studied at the Luis Irízar School of Cooking in San Sebastián, one of the most prestigious culinary educational centres in Spain. His training at this school opened the door to work opportunities in high-calibre restaurants such as Arzak, Akelarre or the Celler de Can Roca. Once he returned to Navarra in 2015, Leandro began working as a chef in El Molino de Urdániz before taking over the reins of the kitchen at the Restaurante Alma in the Hotel Muga de Belosa-Alma Pamplona in August 2016.
In the chef’s own words: “Because my learning was founded on my childhood in Navarra, it has always been present in the evolution of my dishes. The only thing that has happened because of them has been life itself: my travels, my lectures, my working days in different restaurants. Today, my cuisine is the result of my entire life and I can say that my philosophy is a reflection of the produce of my land, of the wild plants that my grandfather revealed to me and which I now apply to sophisticated recipes, thanks to a technique which I’ve acquired through study and work. I try to make my dishes simple within the difficulty, to make them honest and for them to show me just as I am. Moreover, I like to work with seasonal produce, guided by Mother Nature, because she is the one in charge of what grows in the earth and the time it takes.”
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