Al Vecchio Convento: international chefs at Portico di Romagna

Some years ago, Massimiliano Cameli invented the international event, Chef under the bridge, a chance to gather some of the most important and talented chefs in the world in Portico di Romagna, cooking their own best dishes for two days, along the main street of the village.

This year one of them, John Restrepo Quintero, in love with the place, decided to stay at Vecchio Convento for a couple of months, bringing his international experience in the kitchen. We decided to tell his history in our blog.

Q: You participated to the last edition of Chefs under the bridge: how was your experience?

A: I was invited by some common friends of Massimiliano. He met the chef of Momo, a Moroccan restaurant in the center of London, last year. I worked there for a while and so I was invited. It was great. The place is very nice and also the atmosphere was quite unique. This is why I decided to stay here with my wife, before starting traveling, which is my project for 2017.

Q: How did you started your career?

A: I was born in Colombia, but I knew I wanted to go away. At that time the military service was compulsory in my country and it was dangerous. I knew I had to find a way out of it. I had some relatives in Spain and so I left. Went to high school for a couple of years, but I needed to work. I tried to do both and then I decided to work. And so my adventure started. I found a job as a dish washer, but every day I was learning, just observing the chefs. They gave me the chance to prepare salads and in three years, I became part of the cooking team. I left the restaurant and in the following years, I worked at some 4 stars hotels in Spain and in a restaurant at Torre Molinas. In the meanwhile, I met my wife, took a cooking diploma and decided to start another adventure. I spent all the time to learn, to better myself as a chef both on a technique point of view and on creativity. This was my life and my direction.

Q: What do you mean?

A: Well, I have a very brave and stubborn wife. She believes in me maybe more than I do. It took her one year to convince me to fly over London, leave my comfortable life in Spain and test myself with a new way of working. I had taken the Spanish nationality so I could easily move. And we left.

Q: How was your first impact with London?

A: Of course, I did not have the time to learn English before leaving and I did not have a job there. The only thing I had done was to send my Cv all around, the more that I could send. And so it happened that after two day Momo called me. I did not understand a word and my entire first job interview was ridiculous but I got the job. The first six months were so hard that I lost 15 kg. It was hard to prepare food without knowing the right words to ask what I needed. But It worked. In the years, I worked for some other restaurants, launching them on the Londoner market.

Q: Which is the dish you like most to prepare?

A: Well, I do not have a favorite dish. Let’s say I’m more comfortable doing the Spanish kitchen. But when I’m at home I like simple food.

Q: Now how do you see your future?

A: Me and my wife want to travel, I do not want to stay in a kitchen of the same restaurant, I still want to learn and the best way is to move from a country to another one, learning the culture, the habits and, of course, the food, as I’m doing here at Vecchio Convento.