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When chef Oscar Valles is not busy creating dishes that reflect his love for simplicity, he is either at a bar catching up on the exploits of the FCB (Football Club De Barcelona) or cycling down to the beach for a quick swim in the Mediterranean waters. "Pep Guardiola is my favourite player. He was first a player then became the manager of FCB. There's a lot of passion in his football, like my cooking," says Valles during his recent visit to the city to promote his style of Mediterranean-Spanish cooking.
This self-confessed food and football fanatic says that cultural diversities in the South of the Catalunyan mountains have helped shape his career as a chef. His quest has also taken him across Spain where he has met Michelin star chefs and persuaded them to share the trade secret they follow for their recipes. All this and more has taken the form of a book titled The Secrets of the Chefs.
Dressed in a green chef's coat with a matching bandana, Valles says that his interest in cooking was inspired by his parents. "I decided to be a cook seeing Mama and Papa cook simple traditional meals during festivals. But that was not enough. I had to learn the cultures before learning to cook," he adds.
What followed since his adolescent years and well into his latter life was a thorough understanding of the Mediterranean sub-culture. Valles has travelled to Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey and Spain to meet chefs and learn cooking from them. The cultural influence is deeply evident even when he speaks, as he goes on to describe the importance of using virgin olive oil in Catalunyan and Mediterranean cooking and its health benefits. "Other cultures use too much oil, it kills flavours. I like to use less oil. Virgin olive oil is bitter and used only as a dressing. It keeps food fresh, light and simple," says Valles.