In Centro Habana, Havana’s liveliest area, a store offering home-made, whole-wheat bread is one of Havana’s best-kept culinary secrets. Salchipizza is the brainchild of Alberto González, a Cuban chef who offers a biweekly culinary experience here. He teaches visitors how to make high-quality bread by sharing “the original recipe”, as he told Lonely Planet News – and authentic Cuban dishes that date back to the 19th century.
“It’s not congri (rice and beans) or roasted pork; it’s the dishes of the African slaves and the native aborigines what I recreate in my kitchen, using traditional methods and modern techniques,” he said. Seeing how González runs his bakery and his passion for cooking Afro-Cuban recipes are the main treats for those who visit him. That, and the flavourful menu, which is always a surprise!
“I use ingredients that are exotic for a traditional Cuban table, like quail, pigeons, or catfish. I use low-temperature cooking and refined mise-en-place but I keep using ceramic pots just like my grandma used to,” he added.
González worked as a chef in Italy for over 16 years, earning a Bronze Medal in International Cooking (2007) and a Silver Spoon and Silver Fork (2009). He was also the first Cuban chef to win a Michelin star (2007) while he was working at Ravenna, in Emilia Romagna.
He is also a chemical engineering technician, specialising in the food industry. Motivated by making a difference in the neighbourhood he was born, Alberto founded the bakery in 2014, applying both his Michelin-awarded culinary skills and his technical knowledge. The bottles hanging from the ceiling at Salchipizza are not only decorative but mostly inventive, as he was looking to capture the condensed vapours from the oven in order to keep the place cool.
There’s no sign or publicity outside, but there’s little chance to miss it – just look for the photos of Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama at the display window. González explained that he is no politician but he identifies with the ideas these men preached. “For example, I have discovered amazing recipes from African American chefs that were almost forgotten. I do them with a modern twist and people just love it! It’s my way of paying homage.”
Feeling inspired for a Michelin star experience in Havana? Book a spot here.
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