Interview with Chef Rodrigo Acuna Bravo. “VIK is a paradise for a chef.”
- What do you enjoy most about being a chef? By far, it’s getting to know the fantastic and passionated producers who make our menu so unique and delicious. Nobody knows their products better than they do. I try to visit them often. Every time I visit Felipe, our fisherman, Jose Miguel, our olive oil producer, or Delfín, the farmer who brings us fresh produce, I’m reminded just how select the products are that we cook with.
- What unique opportunities does being the VIK Chef allow? VIK is also a well-known winery with distinguished wines and a world-class retreat, so naturally, it’s a great place to be a chef. You can see in my dishes all that I’ve learned here. I appreciate having the opportunity to create and practice my own culinary philosophy and express it through experiences like our own culinary garden. I enjoy meeting new and exciting guests who visit the winery and hotel. Mainly, however, I treasure walking with guests through our culinary garden, enjoying a conversation in Milla Milla, or sharing a glass of wine with them in my kitchen. To work with great wines, create new experiences in our spectacular hotel, and travel the world, representing the winery in special events is a privilege.
- Tell us about your organic garden? La Huerta, our beautiful culinary garden, covers one acre. We cultivate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and raise ancestral Mapuche hens. Our guests can experience our cuisine philosophy. We also have an outdoor barbecue area, called a “quincho” in Chile, with a clay oven, a bbq, and an extended table seating 22 people. Our functions can go from a breakfast or pizza party at La Huerta to a beautiful class teaching cultivation, responsible irrigation, and harvesting your own food. La Huerta is a magical place that inspires our kitchen, our interaction with guests, and perhaps most importantly, caring for it brings all the team together.
- How does the spring season inspire you most in the kitchen? We go out every day and see what is happening in La Huerta, at the local farms, and in the local farmers market. Our dishes reflect the season. So many fresh and tender vegetables, sprouts, and flowers begin to appear in our recipes. Spring brings us asparagus, fava beans, peas, artichokes, and so many varieties of lettuce, just to name a few. Inspiration is everywhere. Everything is alive, and the growing cycle resumes: The cherry field is full of blossoms, the fig-tree bears small figs, the apricot trees’ flowers have been replaced with tiny apricots that will be ready to harvest in two months. VIK is a paradise for a chef.
- What role does the wine play in your creation of recipes and the menu? Has that changed as the wines have evolved over time? Wine is the starring role at VIK. Our menu has evolved as the winery has expanded with the addition of La Piu Belle Rosé to our red blends Milla Cala, La Piu Belle, and VIK. Every week we have a new tasting menu dinner at Milla Milla, our culinary restaurant at Vik Chile where we show all our wines through foods unique to the season. At The Pavillion restaurant next to the winery we offer a wine pairing lunch with fresh and seasonal cuisine with a more casual flare. Our kitchen and waitstaff regularly meet with VIK’s winemaker, Cristian Vallejo, and his team to taste the wines and align our menus and service to best showcase them through all the seasons.
Knowledge increases pleasure. Deepen your wine appreciation learning new terms.
September through October marks the renewal of the vineyard’s annual life cycle with the start of bud break. During this time the vines’ tiny buds swell and produce shoots.
These buds actually appear green and covered in scales in the summer of the previous growth cycle. They go dormant in winter turning brown until the spring when the vine begins the process of bud break. The energy fueling this growth comes from reserves of carbohydrates stored in roots and wood of the vine from the last growth cycle. Eventually, the shoots sprout tiny leaves which begin the process of photosynthesis, accelerating growth.
Vines pruned in the winter will ‘seep’ liquid at the start of this cycle, which is often referred to as ‘weeping’ or ‘bleeding.’ This phenomenon is the result of osmosis. Water in the soil travels up the vine’s root system and is expelled where the vine was pruned.
During this period a single vine can ‘weep’ up to 5 liters (1.3 US gal) of water.
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