Pastry Sustainabilty

Paco Torreblanca: "Local Produce? Sometimes It's Just a Trendy Lie"

Sveva Valeria Castegnaro
copertina paco torreblanca 2024 04 22 14 33 40

Ethical mottos don't always align with reality. Paco Torreblanca asserts this, explaining how 'local produce' can sometimes merely represent a passing trend, beyond its actual environmental impact.

The opinion

A few years ago, the concept of "zero-miles" or "locally sourced" was revered and praised by many, but today, numerous leading figures in the global gastronomy scene are distancing themselves from this concept, especially when it's expressed in a dogmatic way. If pursued in an orthodox and rigid manner, the zero-miles philosophy can be much less sustainable than consuming products from regions best suited for their production. This perspective is shared by Paco Torreblanca, a guru of Spanish and world pastry.

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Crowned last year as the Best Pastry Chef in the World by his colleague Iginio Massari, with a long list of awards to his name, Torreblanca told ABC: "I don't tackle the topic of zero-miles because it seems absurd to me. I think there are a lot of mistakes, false beliefs, and lies about this issue. The important thing is to simply try to use the products from your region when you can. For example, the Marcona almonds, considered the best in the world, are found here in Spain, and they're the ones I use... Even though I like the concept, let's forget the orthodox interpretation: it's just about trying to use products from your own country, as long as they are high quality. The best hazelnuts are from Piedmont, but in Tarragona, we have an extraordinary hazelnut. I don't feel the need to source the ones from Piedmont. And so on. We also aim to ensure that all products are free from preservatives and artificial colors. This is the philosophy that I, along with my son Jacob, want to instill in my students because, in the end, they are the future.” 

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The concept is clear: many hospitality industry operators have embraced the zero-miles concept, but often without thoroughly examining the topic or the working practices of their suppliers. In these cases, they're just following a trend. Torreblanca, who, along with his son Jacob—his right-hand man—founded Escuela Torreblanca a decade ago (where he trains sixty students every year), wants to convey to his students the importance of adopting a healthy and reasonable approach to product selection. It's crucial, for one of the world's most renowned pastry chefs, to never lose sight of your identity and to have a solid understanding of raw ingredients. “With my students, I start from the basics: my son and I explain why everything is done a certain way and what the process and consequences are. From there, we move on to more advanced levels without ever losing sight of the essence of preparation, because the most important thing is to never neglect flavor. I would sacrifice aesthetics for flavor. If the two come together, the result is perfect. You need to learn the basics to evolve," he continues. 

paco torreblanca dessert

Flavor prevailing over aesthetics is a fundamental concept for Torreblanca, an approach that's clearly against the grain in an increasingly image-focused world. Another topic close to the heart of this Alicante-born pastry chef is the idea of failure. In today's world, showing weakness is frowned upon, and those who experience a few failures often face great frustration. Torreblanca wants his students to understand that this attitude is entirely misguided. "Those who fall and get back up are winners. Those who've always had it easy never face such situations, and it's like they've skipped a part of the learning process," he explains. Gratitude is also a key value.

Neolith Paco Torreblanca

"We must give back what we've received. It's almost an obligation. It's the only way to ensure that lessons aren't lost. The transmission of ideas, making others understand and learn. I always say that my son and I have never really worked, because we have a job we're passionate about, and that has helped us live. Therefore, we must give our best to those around us. We've even given courses for free to people who couldn't afford them. We do have to charge, otherwise we couldn't survive, but there are times when we make exceptions for a good cause," he continues. This is a value Torreblanca has passed on to Jacob, who is now working to establish scholarships for those who can't afford to attend their school. "I have my father, who's always been my teacher. Continuous learning is essential for him: he loves sharing everything he's learned throughout his life. Delegating, sharing—concepts people often forget. For him, and for me, it's a source of pride to explore them further."

Paco Torreblanca 2024 04 22 14 33 48

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