There is no trace of Isma Prados (Sabadell, 1974) on social networks. Neither Instagram, nor TikTok, nor Twitter… With a single exception, but it is a professional network, it has a profile on Linkedin. Although she is no longer in the spotlight, the chef is still very active working from his gastronomic technical office, as he calls it. After five years in the media (2003-2008) in which she entered the Catalan household through cooking programs on TV-3 (Cuina per solters or La cuina de l’Isma), Prados led her professional career towards other parts. He is self-employed and provides his services to food production companies, such as Ametller Origen or La Sirena. He has also been a professor for five years in the Degree in Culinary and Gastronomic Sciences at CETT-University of Barcelona. A task that he has left this year because new projects await him next year that he cannot reconcile with teaching.
His last appearance on television was the program Hoy cocinas tú, from the producer of Karlos Arguiñano, on La Sexta. It was 2011, and then he wanted to recover his identity as a cook, but he reconsidered what format he wanted. He had gone through menu and haute cuisine restaurants, he had taught shopping and cooking on television, he wrote a dozen recipe books… And he decided, with all his baggage in the kitchen, to open his gastronomic technical office as a freelancer and provide services companies in the food sector.
“I have always been clear that my profession is a cook, neither a presenter nor a communicator,” he says in the dining room of his house, in Barcelona’s Eixample, where he has a professional kitchen that serves as his base of operations. For him, the media were a means to achieve other things, he admits. “You can’t establish a profession or a modus vivendi that it is to be in the media,” he adds.
With diverse concerns and an elaborate discourse on the profession, which is as broad as the products we put on the table, he believes that fame is “like a carrot hanging from a fishing rod that leads you to places where you would not want to be”. He remembers having a good time and enjoying the years on television, but he says that he was always very clear that fame, “which is very fleeting”, could not be confused with success. In his media years they stopped him on the street, but now he is one of the crowd in the city.
So he embarked on research and development. “At that time I saw a way forward in R&D, but in large food productions.” It was a challenge for him to “learn to formulate food,” he says, the fact of taking all his knowledge about cooking to such a large division, which has very high consumption and spending data. “I knew when a broth was ready, when the sauce had lost the acidity of the tomato…, but passing all this to retail food production (retail sale) is complex,” he says. The processes have to be described one hundred percent, and there are many factors at play, such as food safety, shelf life and whether the product is good.
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The first project he did was in the Horeca sector (acronym that defines hotels, restaurants, cafeterias) and was to set up a food production kitchen to work fifth-range cold lines for the restaurants on the ski slopes of Grau Roig, in Andorra, where you can not have a structure to cook. It consisted of making the production, transporting it to the tracks and having the final assembly done there. He became executive chef of different types of restaurants on the slopes, where budget control is key. He controlled the size of a production, especially from a budgetary point of view. “You have to know where you can touch a recipe to optimize costs, in a production of 150,000 preparations, saving five cents per serving can mean a lot of savings,” he adds.
But then he moved to the retail sector working with the development and research departments of food companies such as Ametller Origen or La Sirena frozen foods. 70% of the work is analyzing and thinking and 30% executing, he counts, and he does the tests himself, in his kitchen. “I have been very lucky to participate in very different projects that give you a more general vision of my profession,” says this cook who started studying engineering, but was immediately tempted by the kitchen. Before being in the media, he worked in various restaurants. First in the Canaletes bar in Caldes de Montbui, then in several of Ramon Parellada, such as the Fonda Europa or the Senyor Parellada. He was also at the Drolma, at the Hotel Majestic, where he learned with Fermí Puig, a chef he cites several times as a reference, or at La Vinya del Senyor, where he acquired a lot of wine culture.
He says that he has always had a fondness for human disciplines that have a specific geometry or their own language. “The capacity of human intellect is related to all the languages with which you are able to relate,” she points out. “I like jazz, sailing, chess, cooking…”, she lists. The first becomes clear as soon as she crosses the entrance, where she receives a John Coltrane Blue Train poster, and an electronic drum set is glimpsed in a room at the end of a corridor lined with books on both sides. “My wife is an editor,” she explains to herself.
He usually eats at home or at professional tastings, but he says that there is an Italian in his neighborhood that he goes to often, LeccaBaffi, and that the last place he dined was the Thai Garden. She says that she doesn’t watch media cooking shows like MasterChef or Joc de Cartes. And she claims a historic TV-3 program, Cuines. “It was a window open to all cooks. I don’t understand how the chain killed it, it was one of the most original things. There I discovered Carles Gaig, Ferran Adrià, Joan Roca… ”, he laments. For him, this was a cooking show that he put together. In fact, he claims that food education should be in school. The canteens should be a classroom where the same students participate in the preparation of their food, each one doing tasks based on their age, so that everyone learns to cook and eat. “The true disruptive act today is to go buy a product at the market, cook it at home and eat it,” he settles, with the same smile and kindness that he receives.
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