Gastronomy News Chef

Mario Sandoval: "Today, Everyone Opens Restaurants, Even Those with Zero Talent"

Francesca Feresin
copertina mario sandoval

Mario Sandoval, already a Michelin-starred chef, manages the entire gourmet offering at the new JW Marriott in Madrid alongside his brothers Diego and Rafael. But how does he view luxury dining today? He shares his perspective here.

The opinion

"When I saw all my colleagues handing me the award, I was very emotional. I couldn't find the right words to express how important this recognition is," says Mario Sandoval, already Michelin-starred at Cocque and crowned Madrid's best chef after the 50th edition of the ACYRE Awards, presented by selected industry professionals to highlight the city's greatest culinary talents.

mario sandoval 2

In an interview with La Razón at the recently opened, a restaurant he launched with his brothers at the new JW Marriott hotel, Sandoval shares: "We are a big family, always there for each other in times of need." According to him, a true chef should never let ego take over: "I 'lost' it a long time ago because it doesn't lead anywhere. It's part of youth, wanting to excel in everything, but after 30 years in this profession, what I seek is happiness, not success. Yes, initially, I wanted to conquer the world, but now my ego is kept in check by self-awareness."

mario sandoval al Qu LRM
Mario Sandoval and his brothers at Qù of Hotel Marriott @LRM

We are talking about a chef at the pinnacle of success, just like his brothers Diego, responsible for the dining room, and Rafael, in charge of the cellar. "With age comes a wealth of wisdom, technique, and professionalism. So now we will live satisfying years because we all have a stable family by our side." The chef speaks confidently because he knows where he is and where he is going, as the Sandoval brothers have other projects in mind. His philosophy? "For me, true luxury is taking the product, manipulating it as little as possible, and presenting it in its pure form." On the other hand, he is astounded by the volume of industrial ingredients and ready-made products invading even prestigious establishments, "allowing anyone to open a restaurant without being a professional, thanks to a good consultant." In his opinion, there are "too many identical places, catering to those who don't appreciate fine dining."

Mario Sandoval Qu

Instead, it's necessary to differentiate concepts to bring about change. "While at Coque, we aim for 3% of diners, at Qú and Coquetto, we focus on the 15-20% of curious customers who appreciate good food, enjoy traveling, and are willing to pay a fair price without complaints because they know it's worth it. It's important for the customer to immediately understand where they can stop and where they cannot. A decision based not on the average price but on the restaurant's philosophy." According to Mario, there's much talk about the hospitality scene revolutionizing Madrid, but not everything that glitters is gold. Yes, it's true that the capital is more gastronomically vibrant than ever, but as one restaurant opens, another closes. "It's a city where everyone wants to succeed," he says.

qu by mario sandoval
Un piatto del Qù

To cater to both local and foreign customers, the Sandovals always surround themselves with qualified staff. Especially since they handle all the hotel's services, starting with breakfast, which can be enjoyed even by non-guests. Mario insists that every product is created on-site, from the ensaimada with violet cream, a traditional tribute to Madrid, to doughnuts, crêpes, and churros, the work of pastry chef Juan José López, and of course, the bread, expertly kneaded by Andrés Lesmes.

mario sandoval

Once again, a major chain is betting on a renowned chef, elevating the offering to excellence. In this case, it's the first Marriott opening in Spain, where Mario presents the best version of local cuisine, which happens to be favored by foreigners. So, seafood, pickles, and sausages take the spotlight. If the average price at Coquetto ranges between 40 and 60 euros, at Qú, it fluctuates between 80 and 120 - "and they think it's not expensive because they pay around 900 euros for a room. People come prepared and appreciate the product because we offer quality and promote health. We would like to train other Marriott teams around the world."

Coque Luis de Las Alas
@Luis De Las Alas

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