Winning a much-coveted tapas competition once is an achievement in itself but La Laguna chef, Guy Dickinson did it three times in a row
We caught up with him at his restaurant, Labicoca to chat about his career, his influences and his plans for the future.
Q. Where do you come from originally ie your family and what brought you to Tenerife and at what age? Did you already have a connection with Spain or any Spanish background?
A. I’m from Oldham, which is in the Greater Manchester area. My parents retired here in 1998 when I was nine. I attended the British Yeoward school. The only connection my parents had with Tenerife is they had been holidaying here for about 30 years prior to their move.
Q. Are any of your family involved in the restaurant/gastronomic trade?
A. My mother can’t really cook! My father didn’t cook much, only variations of eggs. However, my grandfather on my father’s side was a chef amongst other things. He was the personal chef to two Prime Ministers of Canada.
Q. When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
A. My father Jack taught me to make scrambled eggs when I was about four and I have been making them ever since. I wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember. It gives me such pleasure and if it’s good, it gives others lots of pleasure too.
Q. Could you tell us something about your career?
A. I started work at 16 at the Rastro in Santa Cruz on Sunday selling women’s clothes. And then at 17, I went to work for Lucas Maes at Restaurant Lucas Maes. I was lucky as my parents were clients of his, which got my foot in the door. I was with him for four years. He taught me how to work and cook. It was a great experience and I consider him my mentor.
I then went to the UK, first to Brighton to get some experience in a fast pace restaurant serving South American food called Las Iguanas. Another experience that showed me how to cook for hundreds of people a day. I then went to work in Hove at an English food restaurant (The Meadow).
From there, I went to the 2 Michelin star Hibiscus Mayfair. What I had dreamed about for years, cooking with the big boys. I learnt a lot but it was exhausting and not all it’s made out to be with 18 hour days and doing the same thing every day until the menu changes. I realised it wasn’t for me so I went back to Lucas Maes for six months.
I then moved to Gothenburg Sweden and was chef de Partie of fish at the 1 Michelin star 28+. but felt the passion was missing. Then I became executive head chef of two restaurants.
There were a few more moves before I ended up with what was supposed to be a two month job starting Labicoca with a friend but ended up staying.
Q. And how did you come to be at Labicoca in La Laguna?
A. My friend Moniss called my while I was on holiday in Sweden and told me he was starting a restaurant on behalf of three investors. He asked if I wanted to help out and I ended up staying and then buying them out after two years.
Q. Tell us a bit about the restaurant and its cuisine?
A. The cuisine is very much my own but of course I have to have certain local classics. I like to describe the food as modern European Bistro….. it’s whatever I feel like offering or cooking.
Q. So you have won the tapas route for three years running? Could you tell us about the dishes?
A. All the Tapas are saquitos, which is a way of encasing ingredients in a crispy exterior. The first was made of cheesy bechamel and langoustine. With mushrooms and soy sauce.
The second was my friend Moniss’s design which is the typical Canarian dish of ribs, potatoes, sweet corn with coriander mojo.
The third is braised beef with black truffle béchamel and a reduction of wine and beef juices.
Q. There seems to be a growing trend for creative tapas doesn’t there?
A. I’m a big believer in food should be food, a carrot should taste like a carrot, the flavours should be bold and easy to recognise. Not trying make an ingredient something it’s not. That’s where you really have to be creative. Presenting food in a natural way.
People are often surprised by how good something can taste but it’s easier in small portions as your pallet doesn’t get chance to get used to the textures and flavours and you are left wanting more.
Q. Is it difficult for a British chef to turn their hand to Spanish food?
A. I don’t really cook Spanish food, I take influence, bits and pieces to show familiarity and reference to the dinner. I can’t make a decent Tortilla.
Q. And what of the future? What are your plans and would you advise others to follow your career?
A. The future is to make a gastronomic reference of Labicoca.. A steady slow course, but I have got time. I’m only 26.
My advice for young inspiring chefs is choose the right job where you are going to learn the most. Don’t go for the money because it’s a dead end. Go for who can show you first how to work, then cook. If you can cook for four that’s fine but you need to be able to cook for 40 to 120 people at the same standard.