Zandra Luke, the ‘queen’ and head chef of salads at a hospital: “In their final days, many patients ask for dishes that remind them of their childhood”

Xandra Luque (Madrid, 33 years old) is young, a woman and a chef since her twenties. She has been dedicated to gastronomy for 14 years, but her name came to the fore a few months ago, when she won the Russian Salad Competition of the Association of Cooks and Pastry Chefs of Madrid (ACYRE Madrid).

We quickly asked what’s in her recipe, with the hope of repeating it and abandoned that immediate practice of cracking open the freezer and mixing a bag of ‘things’ with mayonnaise from a jar. With the resulting artifact we may be solving a problem horribly, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to win a prize…

the secret of her salad The winner is: “It’s made with a lot of love and work. It includes baked potatoes, marinated tuna with apple vinegar, natural vegetables, black pepper, bay leaves, fresh peas, with extra virgin olive oil.” Mayonnaise, is a rounded. Storey olive. … The whole bite is simultaneously very creamy,” says Zandra.

And our suspicions are confirmed: no canned tuna, no canned peas, no frozen bags Or events, such as prawns (“everything is being added to the salad and it has what it has”). Listen to the kitchen Luke admits that, wherever he goes, he always asks for it: he considers this dish a reliable thermometer of kitchen quality and it “annoys” him to find extras like hard potatoes or regular mayonnaise. Is.

Everything is being added to salads, even prawns, and it has what it takes

Xandra Luque studied high-level training cycles in restoration and another in dietetics and nutrition. Now, moreover, he wants to go into this field and is studying at the university. After some practice, it was first woman to work In this coke restaurant‘Starred’ Mario Sandoval, and from there he has stayed in hotels on Madrid’s famous Ponzano Street… “Up until four years ago he offered to visit me at the University Clinic of Navarra. It was a turning point in my career. in”, he says.

There he has created 987 dishes and there he is responsible for the menu served to hospital patients, which includes five starters, five main courses, and five desserts. “When I won the prize, we had to play it daily because everyone wanted salad“, recognize.

bernardo diazu

What is special about cooking food in a hospital?
In a restaurant you want to please everyone who goes there, but the people here are bound to stay there. So, I want to improve their daily routine and create experience through my recipes. The food we love in Spain is somewhat cultural, and with careful recipes, adapts to a variety of diets and good platingwe want that the patient does not feel sick and feel cared for. If you’re a professional, it doesn’t matter where you are in the hospital, in school or on a Michelin star. This is my philosophy. I am very demanding of myself, with my recipes and with my team. The result should always be correct.
What circumstances have you experienced here?
Some are very difficult. So when I cook a dish, I think a lot about the patients. When it’s his last days, many ask Dishes that remind them of their childhood, which they lived in their house. He’s ordered a Roscone de Reyes in June or a kid who was very sick wanted some foster-type ribs [Foster’s Hollywood], We did, of course. Making people happy by cooking food in such difficult times is a huge reward. we get a lot of thanks and they tell us that treatment makes them feel better, Sometimes I go to the floor to talk to them directly and that’s how I take care of what they need. For example, cancer treatments can alter taste.
It is always said that you eat fatal in hospitals. Do you know this well?
Luckily I’ve never been hospitalized, but it’s true that we always hear that people eat poorly in communities. I don’t think it is on purpose, but there is no culture that cooking should be part of healing on a psychological level and on a taste level. i want to take Haute cuisine on hospital menus.
But, is it possible to cook rich food without salt, for example?
A hospital diet is low in salt or even without it, and yes, you can eat well. You can flavor a dish with thyme, rosemary, black pepper and other spices. We also cook at low temperature and it enhances the original taste of the product. We have to try that if we add chicken then it tastes like chicken. Sometimes we put too much salt.
Spicy Oatmeal with Raspberries.

Spicy Oatmeal with Raspberries.bernardo diazu

Their work is very sacrificial, he says.
I have lost everything in my personal life. I didn’t go to banquets, birthdays, weddings… If you have a complex service to deliver, like feeding a thousand people, it doesn’t even pop into your mind. My family has always supported me, but you don’t get what you lose. It makes me sad, but work is part of my life, it doesn’t end at a certain time. as well I miss being in clubs With 17 or 18 years. I went out, yes, but the next day I was always the one who had to work and I was dragging eye bags…but I’m not sorry. I love what I do. In fact, in the hospital I thought my rhythm would be different, but in the end I’m a gastronomic consultant, I participate in ‘shocooking’, I make video recipes, some catering when I can… I always I am busy
Has being a woman and youth caused problems in the kitchen for you?
I would like to say no, but I have. I’ve been a cook in my early twenties and have always had people twice my age. therefore, 50’s men protested And I’ve had to honor myself with my work: showing that my recipes work and the way I direct. The figure of women in the kitchen is not given as much importance as it should be and that is a shame. We have to sell a lot of dishes, celebrate… In the kitchen, I’m in favor of mixed teams, because we each have our qualities.
Have TV Shows Helped Your Industry?
Gastronomy is in fashion and they have talked about cooking, but sometimes the effort behind it has been devalued. you have a very bad time in this job unless you have your own team and you have to scrub hard Before becoming Head Chef.
How are we doing gastronomically in Spain?
In general, the whole of Spain has great gastronomy, but Madrid is a world reference for a few years. There are places that are amazing and are in any neighborhood. We still have a lot to discover and I think it’s easy to fall into a place where you eat good, where you eat bad.
Is it possible to eat well with a menu of 10-12 euros a day?
Of course. In Hotel El Bedel, in Alcalá de Henares, with 11 euros we made a great menu, spicy porridge, with Iberian cheeks … in the same way as another 200 euros doesn’t have to be expensive. Do you know the research and sketches that Dabij Munoz would have done for a plate? Sometimes we hear ‘I ate a tasting menu and then I had to go to burgers’ and that makes me very sad because what’s behind isn’t always valuable.

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