Monica Shaw

Interview: Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

food magazine - April 01, 2011

Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias haven’t had a quiet moment since taking over Casamia in 2009. The Michelin star was a nice start, but winning Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant in the UK is what really put Casamia on the map. Peter talks to Monica Shaw about life after their big win.

What was it like winning Best Restaurant in Ramsay’s Channel 4 series?

The TV show made a world of difference to our business. We wanted to be winners, just like everyone else, so we put everything into it, cooked like it was our last dinner, sacrificed everything. It was nuts, really intense, but a good time. When it got to the final stage, we were standing there for only 20 minutes but it felt like hours. Then when Gordon said “Casamia”, it was a massive relief. That day we worked so hard and were so exhausted, then to hear our names - it was amazing how much life and energy went into us when we heard. We knew this was going to make a massive difference to our lives, to Casamia and to everyone who works there.

How did things change?

As soon as the first show aired, things went off on a bonanza. Lots of bookings, people wanting to know about us, people stopping us on the street, people coming in to congratulate us. And it’s still carrying on. At this time of year, it’s truly special. We’re blessed in that way.

What did you learn about Casamia in doing the show?

At the moment, lots of chefs are trying to push their personalities into the food and they’re forgetting about the customers. Gordon drummed that into us: “I know you want to be the best, but you have to remember you’re not in Mayfair or Chelsea, you’re in Bristol, and you need to take your customers with you on your journey.” We’ve always tried to do that, but sometimes that got overshadowed because we were trying to perform at a higher standard. You can’t forget the number one thing: the customers.

How have you evolved Casamia to suit your customers?

Casamia started with pizza and pasta, and it’s been a massive transition getting to where we are now with the tasting menus. We try to keep the ideas simple, for example, “Roast lamb, carrots and parsley.” There’s no description of “carrot puree” or “cracklin’ liver”. We don’t want to complicate things. That’s a key part of how we refine the menu, and we have a great system for developing our recipes. Everything is measured to the gram so that it can be reproduced again and again. That’s the fundamental skill of running a great kitchen, and thanks to technology we can do that precise kind of cooking every time.

What inspires you?

Each other. Me and Jonray, we just spark ideas. Sometimes we disagree, sometimes we agree, but it’s always for the best. Most chefs don’t have that kind of connection as a pair, and that’s what creates something a little different for us.

Plans for the future?

It’s been an amazing year and we’re in a position now to push Casamia forward. Doing the show was one of the biggest highlights and we definitely want to do more TV. I think we offer something different, being brothers and relatively young. Hopefully we inspire people. We’re not guys with PhDs; we just had a passion. And doing it as a family, well, that doesn’t happen every day. Our biggest challenge is getting people to know our story, that we’re family-driven and offer a unique experience. A lot of customers come in and say, “I feel like I know you”. It’s like a connection, something amazing and really different. That’s what I love about doing this kind of thing.

Casamia 38 High, St Westbury Village, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS9 3DZ Tel. 01179 592884

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