Xabi Bonilla is a trained chef from the vocation and from the Escuela de hostelería del Instituto Ibaialde (Pamplona). After have been working in some restaurants, he decided that what he likes is the simplicity and the personality of imparting cooking courses in house slippers; for this reason he created the Santa Rita Club Gastronómico. If you want to know more about this character, keep reading!
Q: How did you start in underground restaurants’ world?
A: I started four years ago and, at the beginning, I felt like Don Quixote because I was quite a pioneer, in these moments I just knew about the Kokun restaurant, and although I had the idea of opening an underground restaurant in mind for quite some time it was difficult to see the moment to start.
I was working during 10 years in restaurants and then I started as a cooking teacher in community centers. After two or three years I realized that I didn’t want to work in a restaurant again but I noticed that something of my personal cooking was missing, I needed something mine, and when I saw that the idea that I had time ago was working, I decided to try it.
Q: But how did have the idea to create an underground restaurant?
A: The idea came to me when I thought it would be nice to make a restaurant at home, on a terrace, something that I could do at the same time that the courses, because I’ve always liked to do different things, that allow me to develop.
Q: Is so different to work here instead of in a conventional restaurant?
A: It has different things, dealing with customers is much more direct here. The kitchen is also different but according to what level you cook, the professionalism is also noticed.
Q: Why Santa Rita?
A: Is a game, because Santa Rita is the patron of impossible things, and what I want is to be chef with slippers instead of with a jacket, so it’s a kind of metaphor. I wanted a different, fun and closest name.
Q: How do you organize menus?
A: Every month I make a different tasting menu, I make a special of a type of cuisine. This month I make slowfood, the next month I can cook a special of Basque cuisine, a fusion or a weather menu, always changing the subject.
Q: Do you do any special event?
A: I have tables that allow you to come with your couple or with a group of friends. In addition, I usually make nights called “social animals” where people unknown come to dinner together. Another possibility are the private cooking courses with lunch or dinner, though these are requested; we start going to the market to buy the food, we cook and then we eat what we have done.
Q: What is your opinion about Eatwith?
A: In Eatwith there are a lot of profiles of people who aren’t professionals and people who are, and although there are few of these seconds it is growing. This platform is oriented to the tourists and has been a handicap to work with local people, because professional and amateurs chefs are not separated.
Q: What do you think about underground restaurants’ future?
I think this trend is going to grow, because people search more authentic and close things, and this kind of places have a more human spirit and they aren’t false. The treatment is much more personal starting from the moment of the purchase, where I go to the market in order to buy the products of the day.