Hi, My Name Is: Marco Valcarcel Alonso

Published on August 13 2019.

Photo: Marco Valcarcel Alonso (credit: Simon Shiff)

Pontoon’s new sous chef grew up in Spain’s Basque country and worked in the test kitchen at Mugaritz before making Melbourne his home.

Hi, my name is Marco Valcarcel Alonso

You might remember me from such establishments as Stokehouse St Kilda or Mugaritz in San Sebastián, if you were lucky enough to visit between 2013 and 2015.

My brief for my new gig is to highlight excellent produce, using ingredients on their own or without too many other things on the plate.

I’m passionate about Spanish food. I love learning the history of dishes like pil-pil sauce, from the Basque country. It’s a very simple combination of the gelatine from the fish and the oil you cook the fish with.

It sounds simple to do, but a difference of even five degrees can make the emulsion break. Spanish food is all about simple ingredients and how they come together to make a perfect flavour harmony.

Which means I’ll be cooking a traditional Spanish paella that, depending on the season, can be a seafood paella with mussels, prawns and squid or a saffron rice paella with beans and grilled chicken. At Pontoon, we cook our paella over charcoal, giving it a smoky flavour and a touch of old Spain.

I’d like you to come in and see us at Pontoon so you can try the croquetas de Mama. It's my mum's croquette recipe that I learned to make by cooking it with her when I was six years old. You also need to try el escabeche es la leche. Leche is a local Spanish expression that means “it rocks”. We smoke a seasonal oily fish - at the moment it's either mackerel or kingfish - then poach it in an escabeche sauce. It's a delicious combination!

The song that I love to listen to when I’m cooking right now is ‘19 Dias y 500 Noches’ by Joaquin Sabina because it reminds me of home. My mum and dad used to listen to this artist a lot.

If there’s one thing you can’t leave without trying it's got to be the Gilda: anchovy, olive and pepper on a skewer. We make ours with Olasagasti anchovies. For me, a Gilda perfectly sums up Spanish food: three good-quality simple ingredients mixed together for the perfect balance of flavours.

Pontoon, 30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda, (03) 9525 5445, pontoonstkildabeach.com.au. Get the latest on Pontoon at @pontoonstkildabeach