Meet Alex Raij

Meet Alex Raij

Eataly Magazine recently sat down with Chef Alex Raij, who discussed her technical and emotional approach to regional Spanish cooking.

Raij is the chef at three celebrated restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn: Txikito, El Quinto Pino, and La Vara.

Eataly NYC Flatiron had the pleasure of hosting the chef at our Birthday Bash on September 16, a dine-around of our restaurants featuring guest chefs with cuisines across the world. Chef Raij represented European cuisine with a special fish-focused course. The Basque "Gnudi" (pictured below) are composed of shrimp, artichoke, and Jamon Iberico dumplings with squid ink, porcini pil pil, and fresh herbs.

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How did you develop the Basque "Gnudi" that will be served at Eataly’s Birthday Bash?

We serve this dish at Txikito, and I thought it would be fun to bring it to Eataly because it's a riff on an Italian dish.

How does the dish speak to Basque cuisine?

When I created this dish, I wanted to use two Basque sauces together: Pil Pil and Tinta. But in a way, that was utterly personal and didn't have redundancy with any of our other dishes. So this surfy-turfy dish was born. They are dumplings like gnocchi but are also inspired by the inside of Chinese Har Gow crystal dumplings. We call them "desnudos" as a tongue-in-cheek homage to April (Bloomfield)'s Spotted Pig dish.

You’re known for your traditional approach to regional Spanish dishes – but with your own take. How do you balance tradition with innovation?

Con mucho cuidado (very carefully)! I actually like a box.

Many credit you with tapas’ rise in popularity in New York – and beyond – over the last five years. What about the style do you think appeals to people?

I think there is freedom in form for the cook and freedom for the diner. For me, I feel a sense of play: I know that people are coming with the mindset to enjoy.

What advice do you have for the home chefs among us who want to be creative but perhaps have less technical expertise? 

Tweak your mother’s or your grandmother’s food. Those are the dishes that really resonate with you. Then, be inspired by things that aren't cooking – a song, a place, a color a tile, anything. Always cook with love.

alex raij at eataly

Grazie, Chef Raij!