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Begoña Rodrigo (Requena, 1975) doesn't like to sleep a lot – three or four hours on average is enough – she is not motivated by setting unattainable goals and speaking clearly is in her blood. The latter is exercised with those close to him, in a presentation at a congress before the best of national and international gastronomy or at the foot of the Valencian orchard, while he plucks little flowers -unknown to the eye of the common mortal- and eats them. "There are people who tell me I've been very lucky; I think it's more a matter of hard work and perseverance."

It's Tuesday and the Valencian chef is almost full at La Salita, her Michelin-starred restaurant (revalidated a few days ago) located in a spectacular palace in the Ruzafa neighborhood of Valencia. "Awards give you freedom. They put you on the map, more customers come in and that allows you to create more." The star in his case was a long time coming, 14 years to be exact, but in this time he has learned to adapt to the circumstances without folding.

The Valencian cook, in the kitchen of La Salita.

She avoids posturing and clichés and cares little about what people think of her. "To please everyone is insane. My greatest virtue is to ignore those I don't like," he says on the way to the orchard. She admits that since she opened her restaurant, back in 2005, one of her biggest mistakes was not trusting herself. "Over the years I've learned to put almost everything into perspective. If something doesn't go well for me today, it will come out tomorrow," he says on a day that looks long and intense. "Yesterday I made two trips to Madrid in the day. I arrived a while ago on the 6 a.m. train," he says with a smile. He had to be at two events and there he left with a suitcase weighing 100 kilos full of vacuum-packed food. To this we must add that on the same day of the interview they were operating on their Maltese bichon. "My dog has changed my perspective on a lot of things; I'd say it's humanized me more."

A self-taught cook and globetrotter by nature, she made a big name after winning the first edition of the Top Chefcompetition a decade ago, but she had been on the pit for a few more years. Specifically, to date, there are more than 28 – 18 in Spain and 10 abroad. He grew up "behind a counter", opened his first dining room with 37,000 euros and without asking a penny from the bank and has thrown himself into the profession every hour in the world and more. "For years, you'd go to work in hospitality and you'd be 80 hours a week as if nothing had happened."

The pandemic shook up a lot of things professionally, but also personally, where priorities were turned upside down. "Either we changed the concept or I wasn't going to get good people in the team. If you don't take care of those who are with you every day, they leave you as soon as they can and something a little better comes to them," she says already sitting on the terrace of her restaurant, today with a lot of conversation in English and French in the environment.

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You can't have more measured prices at the expense of workers' conditions." The reflection, shared with his brother, head waiter at La Salita, went a long way. In the end, they raised the menus from €80 to €150 when they reopened; They did so with a knot in their stomachs due to the uncertainty of the public's response, which until today has supported them without a doubt. "I didn't get into a loan until I moved into the Ruzafa palace. It has always imposed on me to be in debt. However, looking back, I now think I should have risked more and asked for more money to do the whole project I had in mind," she says with conviction.

Entrance to Begoña Rodrigo's gastronomic restaurant.

In the beautiful building of the restaurant, there is a bar with the vinegars prepared by the Valencian chef. There are tiger nuts, raspberry and passion fruit nuts, among others. Next to the open kitchen, where the team is already working, is the sparkling wine and cheese cellar. "Behind it there is another cellar of red wines with more than a thousand references," explains a member of the team. What used to be the main entrance to the palace has been turned into a charming private room. On the upper floor is the living room.


Begoña appears already dressed with her jacket and her hair tied up in a high bun. She sneaks out to the terrace because if she is stopped at one of the tables she knows that these are stolen minutes in the kitchen, which is where she really enjoys herself. The menu kicks off with appetizers and a cocktail -the menu of mixed drinks is really spectacular and appetizing-: vegetable sobrasada, raf tomato and casoleta cheese, fennel and gazpacho meringue, spicy tonyina false nigiri, squid, parsley and salmorra lemon and a stew of halophiles. "In a fine dining restaurant, there's a lot of the chef's personality2.

His curiosity leads him to be constantly researching to turn things around. He's never satisfied, he always sees room for improvement. "When you put a dish on the menu, the first day isn't bad, but in two weeks it's much better. And when it's perfect, it's time to renew it seasonally and take it off the menu," he sums up humorously.

The vinegars made by Begoña Rodrigo and the open kitchen.

Of the iconic dishes of this Valencian, the tiara and the white all i pebre, which are not missing that day in the order. She will also bring out some bites that are not yet on the menu, but that will undoubtedly surprise: the setacake with cheese comes out to be explained by Begoña herself, to see a little of the reaction of the diners. Unanimity on the matter: brutal. Another surprise comes with the scrambled maitake, prepared with the mushrooms she bought in the morning at Arat Natura, a company owned by Asier Rojo, a fruit and vegetable supplier with whom she has been working for a few years and who perfectly understands the cook's "obsession" with "the roots". "The zucchini flowers are picked at 9 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m. Bego already has them in his restaurant," says Asier, who has been working with her for three years to find "a bunch of greens" perfect for a Caesar salad.

Citrus and acidity guide the experience at La Salita's table, which smells like a vegetable garden from start to finish. "I love the world of vegetables, tubers..." The menu is always and strictly in line with the season, which makes it necessary to renew the proposal often. "My menus are always very fresh." He admits that he would love to go to the orchard more, which he only visits with the change of season. "My vegetarian menu is 100% vegetarian and bordering vegan," he says proudly. And that's where the shots are going to go in 2024. "My idea is to radicalize my plant-based proposal to the fullest." He's already spinning a dessert.

The room on the first floor of the Ruzafa palace.

His ideas are clear. He also knows that when he gives an opinion he sometimes raises blisters. "To go to gastronomic congresses I have paid for everything: hotel, plane and ticket, which my male colleagues have not done at all. Since they haven't spent the money to go, they may not understand what I'm saying. Before, you would go to a congress and see chefs; Not now," he complains aloud. "There are no people in the presentations; Maybe it's that the message we're sending doesn't matter and we have to change it."


For his words a few months ago at San Sebastián Gastronomika, in which he criticised certain flawed dynamics of this type of forum, he received many expressions of support from colleagues in the profession "but all privately through WhatsApp or social networks. No one did it publicly." However, it does not intend to change their behavioural habits. "I prefer to be clear."

At the moment, his team is made up of 32 people. The hard core, made up of four, has been with her for "16-17 years". He would like to start finishing part of the dishes in the dining room service, but he is aware that for that the team must be "very well trained". When it comes to hiring, she selects resumes first, before they are evaluated by her team. "Whenever someone goes on probation, they get paid." She is one of those who think that everyone "has something good" and that people should be paid attention to. "I've been thinking for a long time that we'd be important the day we had people from all over the world on the team. And now, when I see them, I think that moment has come," he adds with a half-smile.

When she's not in the kitchen, she especially likes to travel. "I'm going to the snow for a few days, but I'm not going skiing even though I love it. I can't break anything with everything that's in front of me," he says with a certain resignation. For a period of time, he has seen little of what other chefs are doing on social media so as not to "get intoxicated by trends". She prefers to go a bit on her own. "Now I watch a lot of craft videos, which relax me and I like."

Throughout the day, she has recorded videos in the garden and taken photos to feed her Instagram, which she takes care of herself. "It's a way for people to see everything you do in a day. Luck is only a small part of everything behind it."

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