Mendoza´s Flying Chef: Meet Pablo Ranea
After working in some of Mendoza´s finest restaurants, including La Bourgogne and Azafrán, Pablo Ranea has a new project: Pirca Food & Wine, a pop-up, closed-door, traveling food & wine experience. That may sound like a lot to handle, but to Pablo is the kind of Chef who prefers to stay on his toes.
As with most of life´s winding roads, experiences only connect in retrospect – which is particularly true in Pablo Ranea´s story. He earned his degree in graphic design, took a left turn to study culinary arts, began traveling the world, and recently became a certified sommelier.
When asked what knowledge most surprised him during his wine studies, Pablo said, “the importance of the unique history and the geography of each country and how that influences what´s within the bottle.” Argentina is no exception. With a wine tradition that dates back to the 16th Century and today is rapidly flourishing industry, Pablo believes “there is always a place for Argentine wine in the Top Ten lists.”
As a chef that straddles the divide between the front and back of the house, Pablo recognizes how the local culinary scene rides the wave of the growing wine frenzy.
“It´s thanks in part to the wine industry that chefs have ever-better wines to use in pairings, but higher quality wines require food of the same quality,” which pushes the local gastronomy to new levels Pablo says. “Ten years ago no one had an amuse-bouche on their menu, now it´s fundamental in any high quality restaurant. These small details signify the shift that has and is still taking place.”
It´s a shift that Pablo himself participates in every day as the Chef of Pirca Food & Wine.
Though the pop-up restaurant trend is as modern as it gets, Pablo believes having a closed-door restaurant is a chance to “go back to the basics. Every chef begins their career by simply cooking for friends, sharing meals together and receiving feedback.”
Which is why every Thursday night Pablo, and his partner Alejandro Cohen, play host to a dinner party for 8 strangers. The kitchen table converts into an elegant dining room, the kitchen becomes a staging area, and conversation swirls between languages. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Pirca is a traveling concept,” he explains. “We receive guests in our home, but we also travel to other residences, wineries and countries.” The idea is to offer many iterations of the same culinary experience, free of geographical boundaries. “In the case of pop-up restaurants such as Pirca, the key is ensuring a clandestine experience – always maintaining an element of mystery and surprise.”
Mendoza wine lovers often talk about “Flying winemakers,” oenologists who practice their craft around the globe, and it comes as no surprise that Pablo Ranea is their counterpart: the “Flying Chef.” With a passport full of ink and a suitcase full of ingredients, Pablo prefers not to stay in one place and where he goes Pirca Food & Wine follows.
Travel is essentially a game of give and take, a barter system of experiences, knowledge and flavors that crisscross the globe. When asked what he takes with him, Pablo said the one recipe that never fails to capture hearts is the Mendoza empanada, “a classic that you simply can´t not cook.”
On the return trip, he brings back new contacts, techniques and always a sample of … salt? “I collect salts because each one offers a different taste unique to its origin – from Oregon, to the Himalayas, to the Andes.” A little hobby that seems to embody all that Pablo is trying to create – a food & wine experience true to Argentine flavors, and available to around the globe.
As a collector of international flavors, it could become difficult to maintain a firm grip on tradition. But not for this chef, his vision is quite clear. “New techniques and ingredients are all useful tools,” says Pablo, “when used in the right dosage. But the original personality of the dish can never be overshadowed.”
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