Chef Anthony Masas of Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic / Tomato Water Salad with Salmon
Were you exposed to food and cooking when you were growing up?
My family comes from Extremadura, which is a region on the western border of Spain near Portugal. They had a farm, so my childhood always revolved around food and farming. On my mother’s side of the family, there were several restaurants and a food preparation business, so food became ingrained in my soul from a young age.
When I was 15, I went to Malaga, Spain to a cooking school called ACYRE (Asociacion de Cocineros y Reposteros de Malaga). I gained further insight into the culinary side of the hospitality business, and I enjoyed the transformation of the ingredients into a cohesive dish. I found creating unique dishes to be particularly interesting.
I finished college in 2003 when I was 18 years old and secured a stage at Martin Berasategui in Lasarte, in the outskirts of San Sebastián in the Basque country of Spain. After a month, I was hired as Chef de Partie. Martin Berasategui is French-trained with a strong pastry background. He is rigorous about preparation, very methodical, and very schematic-oriented at a very detailed level. His restaurant Lasarte-Oria has been awarded three Michelin Stars every year since 2001. I worked very closely with Martin and was there about six months.
Where did you go from there?
Martin sent me to Barcelona to open his second restaurant called Lasarte in Barcelona. After seven months, we earned a Michelin star, and after two years we received two Michelin Stars for which I am very proud.
What was your position?
I was a Chef de Partie and towards the end acted as Sous-Chef for Executive Chef Alex Gares.
You were 22, what happened next?
I secured a position as chef de partie working for the female Spanish chef, Carmen Ruscalleda. She had a restaurant in a small town near Barcelona called Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar. Carmen had a very different approach to cuisine, and I learned a lot from her during the two years I was there. I also learned that women work very differently in the kitchen than men with a more delicate approach that is much more perceptive and detailed.
How did you land a position at elBulli at such a young age?
elBulli closes for six months every year to enhance their creative processes and the Chefs de Partie from elBulli used to go to different Michelin-starred restaurants around Spain and internationally to work and find inspiration. One of them was from Ecuador, and we had worked together at Sant Pau. He told me that elBulli was looking for a Chef de Partie for the meat station, and had tried numerous people, but nobody fit the bill. Typically, you can only become a Chef de Partie after staging at elBulli for six months, but I was fortunate and after trying-out for the position during two and half months on my days off, I was hired for the position and started immediately.
What was it like working for Ferran Adria?
Ferran Adria was concerned about organization, leadership, and cleanliness in addition to cooking skills, and I had to undergo an intensive background and reference check. My professional references were from Martin Berasategui, Alex Gares, and Carmen, so I was grateful for their support. It’s funny, but I often watch the old YouTube videos of elBulli, and you can see me working in the kitchen. Everyone else is older, and then there is me, this little 24-year-old kid!
How did your time at elBulli influence you?
Good question! What I can tell you is that it was the most organized and the most methodical place I ever worked. Everything was measured, everything was determined, and everything happened according to a plan at every point in time. We all knew exactly what was going on at all times. elBulli was a place that lived and breathed gastronomy and fine dining. It was very competitive among chefs and every day you were in a constant search for personal improvement and perfection. The required focus was intense, and sometimes you couldn’t even speak for four or five hours during service, yet everything had to be perfect. When everything went well, it was absolute perfection.
What was your encore after elBulli?
After working at elBulli for a season, I was offered a position as Executive Chef to open a restaurant in Monaco named Mi Tapas, and I stayed there for two years. It was an up and coming restaurant known for famous clients, including Prince Albert and Alain Ducasse and his team.
What did you do after Monaco?
Even though I was just 26, I was tired and had not had any time off between positions, so I took a year off to relax and reflect. After traveling for a year, I was in Mexico and felt the desire to go back to work. I was in Playa del Carmen looking for a job, but nothing was coming up positive regarding opportunities. I decided to reach out to my old boss Martin Berasategui to see if he knew of any possible job openings. Martin said that he was opening a restaurant, Passion by Martin Berasategui, in the Dominican Republic at a hotel called Paradisus Palma Real in the Punta Cana area. He asked if I was interested, and I said, “Absolutely!”, and I headed to the Dominican Republic.
Paradisus Palma is a massive resort, with 700+ rooms, 11 restaurants, and 15 bars. When the hotel was full, we could have over 2,000 guests on property. During my time at Passion, I worked my way up to Executive Sous Chef for the entire resort, which was a huge responsibility but a necessary step to further my professional career.
How did you find your way to Casa de Campo?
Charles Keusters had been working at Palma Real as F&B Manager, and we struck up a friendship and also worked very well together. When Charles moved over to Casa de Campo, he asked me to come with him.
What do you like about Casa de Campo from a chef’s perspective?
Casa de Campo is very unusual because we are a resort where golf is paramount, but it’s not the only thing that attracts guests to Casa de Campo. It’s a tourism mecca, so while many visitors come here for golf, the resort offers much more, and it’s also a place where people live year round. I enjoy the challenge here because the golfers and guests that come here are well-traveled and educated. They enjoy fine dining, spirits and beverages, and exceptional service, and we enjoy preparing their favorite dishes.
FULL INTERVIEW available in Golf Kitchen book