Dominique Heathcote. On Friday afternoons on El Punt Avui TV, Nicole chats with an English-speaking expat. For this month, she interviewed Anglo-Catalan chef Dominique Heathcote.
You have lived in Catalonia the majority of your life, longer than you have lived anywhere else. How many years have you been here?
I think about 40 something years, I am 50, so yes, a little over 40 years.
What do you feel, more Catalan than anything else?
People always ask me what I feel. My father is Welsh and my mother is Dutch. I don't feel very Dutch, maybe a little British. Anglo-Catalan I would say.
Do you visit the UK much?
Not much, my father had 14 brothers and sisters. I went to see one of my aunts five years ago and hadn't seen her for 15 years.
That is a lot of aunts and uncles to keep up with.
And on my Dutch side, my mum had nine brothers and sisters.
So talk me through your early childhood, as you travelled a huge amount.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Then we went to Peru, Brazil, then from Rome to Belgium, to Holland, to England and then we ended up here when I was eight. My father is a chartered accountant.
When you came here you went to the Kensington School in Barcelona. What made your parents decide to put you into an English school not a Catalan one?
I think their plan was that we would just be here for two to three years and then go back to the UK. But we are all still here! My older brother is in Barcelona still, and my younger brother is in Ibiza. I then went on to Paris to study but I came back.
So you trained in Paris as a Cordon Bleu chef. But they have schools all over the world. Why did you decide to go to Paris?
I finished Kensington when I was 17 and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Well, I am still not sure what I want to do! My mother is a good cook, so I grew up around food. We looked at a few schools, La Varenne, too. Then I stayed in Paris for another year working with a catering company.
This was all done in French?
I had O-level French but I picked it up very quickly and all the travelling I had done helped.
So are languages one of your hobbies?
Yes, and now I am learning Chinese. I love the characters, it is so fascinating. It is fun and it is quite an easy language. It is just that the characters and tone are difficult.
After leaving Paris did you come back here and set up your own catering business?
I worked for about at year in an English book shop – very different. And then I started to cater; we were one of the first catering companies back then. I set it up with friend and we had a great time. It was a lot of work but enjoyable. When I had my first daughter – I am married to a Catalan, we have two daughters – I then decided it was too much, so I started doing cookery classes. I did it from my flat in Barcelona. Funnily enough I had a lot of men as my first pupils. Now we have moved out of Barcelona but I still teach from home.
Do you do different courses?
It has grown over the years, I do monthly courses. I do a fish course which is very popular: different fish, when to buy, what to buy, the names in Spanish and Catalan. And we go to the market to look at what we are buying. It is a great course. Some people who don't even like cooking fish or eating it have a much more confidence after they do the course. So that is basically what I do and on the side, I would love to write a cookery book. I'd also love to write children's books so a combination of the two would be wonderful to do.
What is your favourite thing to cook?
I love to make sauces and I like to invent. I don't like using cookery books, even though I think I have about 300 books! I love to read them though and get ideas. I also love Asian, Italian and Catalan food. I think, actually the food I like the least is British food!
Ha! Well, I think it has changed a lot over the years, and a lot since you lived there.
This is true; I watch a few UK cookery programs and it looks different.
Can you give me some top tips for Catalan food. Where should we go, what should we try?
Definitely go to restaurants more in the mountains or on the coast, get away from the touristy ones. In Masnou, I can recommend La Cuina dels Capitans on the coast. Eat bread with tomato, allioli, go to the markets, the food is so fresh! Enjoy it!