Chef Name: Rafael Cagali
Title: Executive Chef, Co-Owner
Awards: 2 Michelin stars, 2021
OAD #120, 2021
National Restaurant Awards #30, 2021
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I was 21 when I first came to London as a student, and my first job was in the kitchen so that’s when I started to build on my passion for cooking, and progressing in my career.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
My mom’s Torta de Frango (chicken pie). Every time I go back to see my parents it’s a must!
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
I think every chef I have worked with has inspired me in different ways.
But Stefano Baiocco in particular inspired me with his passion and commitment. And Quique Dacosta for his ambition and technicality.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Modernist Cuisine, it’s a great technical book. You can immerse yourself into it and then suddenly realise that you have all five books opened in front of you.
Heston Blumenthal at Home, it’s such a good book to use when you’re cooking at home. So accurate.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Maldon salt and lemon.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
I love beef/chicken parmigiana and potato salad, finished with a good tiramisu.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
Any Michelin starred restaurant in Japan. I think their cuisine is incredible, I have so much respect for it. And I haven’t managed to get to Japan yet.
And who would you take as your guest?
My husband Charlie.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Care, commitment, hard work, passion for cooking and humbleness. If you have all these elements, you can go as far as you want.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Listen to the people you work with, take advice, and if you love what you do it will come easily. Take everything you learn from the people you work with, and just build on it.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
As with many other restaurants, we had to open and close a few times and enforce last-minute changes, which was difficult, but it’s how our industry works – we adapt to changes quickly and just try to do what we do best.
I said to my team that I didn’t want to change the level of food or service we provide to our guests due to this pandemic, so we did what had to be done to make sure that was the case.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
Working with different chefs made me mature and gain respect for all the different styles of restaurants and how they all function. My cooking has not changed, I have just gained more techniques and ideas from all the kitchens that I have worked in.
Chef Rafael Cagali is Executive Chef/Co owner of Da Terra Restaurant
Address: 8 Patriot Square, London
Telephone: +44 20 7062 2052