Stock in trade: Michelin chef on making the ultimate paella

Lifestyle

Stock in trade: Michelin chef on making the ultimate paella

Quique Dacosta wants to elevate the humble dish to its rightful status, and educate the world

Nick Curtis

Spanish chef Quique Dacosta takes rice very seriously indeed. In an outdoor kitchen by the rice fields of the Albufera lagoon near Alicante, the 46-year-old is examining single grains of bomba, one of three local varieties of rice, discarding any that are broken: They will leak starch into his stock, rather than absorb its flavour.

Dacosta, trim and handsome with a saturnine beard and liquorice quiff, has three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in nearby Dénia, and another for El Poblet in the same town. But his current project is to educate the world about the rice culture of his homeland through a new restaurant, Arros (the Valencian spelling for the grain), which opened on June 7 in London’s Fitzrovia.

“It is not a mission,” he growls. “It is a necessity.” The image of Spanish rice abroad has for too long been that of a lurid, yellow mass of paella – actually the name of the pan it’s cooked in rather than the dish itself – studded with tough chicken and prawns, with which the hordes line their stomachs before going out boozing...

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