Marc Vidal Brings Spain Stateside via a Growing Boqueria Empire
The first time I met Marc Vidal, he was sipping wine on a West Village patio while he casually grilled a packet of green onion-like calçots over a charcoal flame, explaining in a lilting Spanish accent the Calçotada festival, a tradition from his native Barcelona that he holds dear for its dedication to simple fare shared among friends. He proclaimed then his love for rooftop barbecues and social gatherings, and it became hard to imagine him within the rigid context of a fine-dining kitchen--he was more like the perpetual host of a pool party in a never-ending summer.
Now, of course, Vidal doesn't run a fine-dining kitchen: He's the executive chef of the growing Boqueria empire, which currently has three outlets in the States--two in New York and one in D.C.--plus a satellite in Hong Kong and more addresses in the works. And sprawled across a booth in his SoHo location, pushing rounds of sangria on his companions--even while he's forgoing alcohol on a workday himself--he seems very much in his element overseeing kitchens that turn out rustic dishes from his homeland to fun-loving groups of diners.
Perhaps that's because he grew up in the industry. He jokes that he was born in a restaurant, recalling days when he'd head to the eatery his mother and grandparents owned in the Sagrada Familia neighborhood in Barcelona before school, helping with setup and other menial tasks until he began working there officially when he was 14.
But between then and now, Vidal also did some serious time in very structured kitchens: After culinary school, a stint in the Canary Islands, and a summerlong stage at elBulli, he moved to Paris. There he spent a year working with fine-dining guru Alain Passard at L'Arpège, followed by a year with the venerable Alain Ducasse before he was "already done with the city," he explains, and so, still very young, he moved back to Barcelona to take over as executive chef at the luxury Gran Hotel Torre de Catalunya.
Vidal was next offered an opportunity to helm the kitchen of a Spanish restaurant in Miami, and he spent the next few years opening a sequence of upscale spots devoted to his home country's cuisine. Finally burning out on white tablecloths, he met Boqueria owner Yann de Rochefort, who was looking for a new chef. "I loved the concept, and it was something I was already thinking about," Vidal says. "I always thought tapas were the best way to show our culture and cuisine. It was perfect for me."
And he's excited about the growth of the company, too, which, to him, has endless potential: "We're a neighborhood restaurant, so we can open Boquerias in as many neighborhoods as there are in the States." He says too, though, that the team is deliberate about finding locations, so don't expect a sudden Boqueria explosion any time soon.
In our interview, he weighs in on what insects taste like, why he hates pork liver, and the woman in politics he'd most like to cook for him.
On the next page, Vidal weighs in on his inspiration.