Madrid, Gran Canaria, Gofio, Cuernocabra, El Lagar, one Michelin star, two Soles Repsol, Aida González, maximum canariedad, signature cuisine, music, gastronomy, product, creativity, fun and a lot of rock & roll.. These are concepts that form part of the life of chef Safe Cruz and everything has its meaning and influence.
Passion for the product
Safe Cruz was born on 3 April 1987 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and grew up in the neighbourhood of El Tablero, on the outskirts of the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Belonging to a family of farmers, he spent much of his childhood and adolescence in the vegetable gardens. His childhood, marked by the land and the local produce, is what has conditioned the chef to feel a real predilection for the primary sector of the islands, a key element in his work.
The chef remembers his childhood as being very 'cool'. "It's true that when you're a child you might not value everything, but for me it was a real breeding ground. It has allowed me to get to know products, how producers think and all the work that goes behind them, which has an incredible impact on you, especially when your work consists in transform all these products. It ends up changing the way you think and act", explains the 34-year-old chef, who understands the sacrifice involved in working the land.
Safe Cruz: "I've always known that whatever I did in my life would be from my point of view".
It is clear that Safe Cruz is a self-taught person who is constantly learning, not only in the kitchen, but also in other areas of his life, such as music, one of his greatest hobbies, to which he dedicates a space in his life whenever his projects allow it and which he sees as a form of escape to relax. It was this artistic side, of wanting to express himself no matter what, and of self-learning that made him take the plunge and become a chef.
"It was a mixture of circumstances that made me take the plunge and want to become a chef, perhaps because of my personality and stubbornness. I have a very particular way of seeing and doing things and I have always known that whatever I did in my life would be from my point of view". This mentality was already clear to him from his time playing in bands and the desire to broaden his horizons in search of new forms of expression led him to gastronomy, where he found an unequalled space for artistic expression, nourished by the maximum canarianism that has always characterised him.
"I ended up in gastronomy as perhaps I could have ended up in music or in a different kind of art. It' s not that I was born with the idea of being a chef or having a restaurant. In the end, the only thing I was looking for was a space in which I could express my movements, under my own criteria and with my own demands", he clarifies.
A concept with its own personality
This search for expression without limits, for acquiring new knowledge, travelling, visiting restaurants and the desire to improve and do things with greater quality is what has guided his current cuisine. Both Gofio and Cuernocabra have taken this path. "We have tried to tighten up until the concept is very fine. We started out doing something more traditional or in line with the knowledge I had at the beginning and as I acquired more, things got more complicated. My knowledge has allowed me to have the ability to express myself, to complicate the flavours, the concept or the visual part. We always try to work forwards, to make everything better and better, and in the end that is the result of what we are doing now", explains the chef.
When you work on such personal, authorial concepts, any element can be a source of inspiration. Safe Cruz states that he does not like to look at himself in a single mirror, just as he is not a person with a single point of reference. "I am inspired by a multitude of disciplines, from painting to architecture or music, and also by other colleagues. We don't just prepare dishes. Our cuisine has a lot to do with the visual, the conceptual and the atmosphere we want to give our restaurants", adds the chef, who considers that developing your own concept and putting it into practice is like creating a personality.
Safe Cruz: "The knowledge has allowed me to have the ability to express myself, to complicate the flavours, the concept or the visual part".
So everything is related. Safe Cruz's gastronomic concept is a reflection of his own personality, influenced by a multitude of different disciplines and also by his childhood in the Canary Islands. In the end, the main foundations come above all from the family kitchen, which he considers an exponent of the Canary Islands in gastronomic terms. The concept guides his work, but also his and Aida González's day-to-day life . "It influences everything we do. We both dedicate practically twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to this, to Gofio and Cuernocabra, to the whole gastronomic concept. We get up and go to bed thinking about it".
The lives of both Safe Cruz and Aida González revolve entirely around gastronomy. When they can enjoy a bit of their free time, both spend it travelling around the world and visiting restaurants, cocktail bars, learning about new gastronomic concepts, going to conferences, reading and studying. Even in their home life, the impact of gastronomy is important, as it influences the choice of wines they drink or the products they consume.
Aida González, a fundamental pillar
Aida González has always been an important figure in the chef's life, both professionally and personally. The two met when they were teenagers through a mutual friend and since then they have not been separated. "We are the same person, but with small differences. I feel that Aida and I are always back to back, fighting against everything that comes our way. I go through many different moments over time, moments of more stress, of more creativity, quieter moments and she is always in them. I think that's the point of it all, what we do wouldn't exist without the duality of the two of us working together, it would be something else," he explains.
Both have experienced hard times in their work, but also moments full of happiness. "I think that having gone through so many hard times is what has made it possible for us to be here now. We're experts at learning from the blows. For us, the lesson of each of the stamps we have given ourselves is fundamental to understand what we do now. We take the blows as an indispensable part of everything.
Safe Cruz: "We are experts at learning from hosts".
Learning from all the blows, being positive and improving every day is what has also made them experience moments of great happiness. Safe Cruz recalls the moment Michelin StarLa Estrella arrived at a very difficult time. The restaurant was doing very well, but financially the situation was not good for us. People still didn't believe in usWe were preaching a bit in the desert and we already had Cuernocabra open. But We were convinced that what we were doing was incredible.It added up and it was a unique concept that had to go ahead. When nobody agrees with you and you start to feel that you don't have it yourself, when something like this comes along it's like 'wow, fuck'. Society has ignored you when in fact they should have paid attention to you and it has repercussions in the fact that the life of the projects has no limits.”.
For Safe Cruz, cooking is a lifestyle, it is being alternative, it is passion, tradition, creativity, produce and a lot of flavour. The chef is clear that if he had to say something to his 2013 self, the year in which he decided to start this culinary journey, it would be: "Keep it up, because you are stubborn and in the end you were right".
By Paula Vera
Photos: Edu Gorostiza