One of the delights of Valencia is that you never know what you are going to find as you wander down a narrow street or turn a corner. The day we were wandering through the Carmen, was just such a day. There was a sign that said La Comisaría- Tapas y Copas Ilegales . Of course we thought that was amusing and took a picture, as have many people. What we didn’t know initially was that La Comisaría is an absolutely wonderful place to experience some exceptional food and some equally exceptional service. We are now regular customers who find ourselves there often. So, it seemed logical to make La Comisaría my next interview.
At 10:00 AM on a Tuesday morning, I met with the chef/owner Edward Phillips Blanco, know to all as Eddie. As he prepared his kitchen and assembled a couple of dishes for me, he told me about his personal journey to become a chef and how La Comisaría- Tapas y Copas came to be.
Eddie, son of an international investment banker, traveled a great deal with his family. They took advantage of their travels to dine on a wide range of international food. His mom loved to cook and even stocked her kitchen with ethnic foods, categorizing them by cuisine types. It only seemed natural that Eddie developed an interest in cooking. A cricket and rugby player for Midlands Regional, Eddie still found time to work in a restaurant at age 16. As was expected by his family, he went on to University in Nottingham. While studying economics, politics and Spanish, he found himself more devoted to the kitchen than the university. Unlike his sister and brother, who are also investment bankers, he felt this was his calling. His parents were not keen on this decision, concerned about the hours, the stress and the commitment. However, he felt it was time to fly the nest.
Working at Nottingham’s 2-star Canal House, Eddie started as demi-chef of desserts and rose to chef de partie (line cook) of the garde manger in 6 months. He had made a commitment to himself and his father, that if he was going to be a chef, he’d go to the best. In London he had the good fortune of securing a position as a stash (apprentice) at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin 3-star Claridge’s and sister restaurant Petrus . He started with lettuce, then starters, then deserts and finished as a chef in the fish section. He worked in a kitchen with a staff of 35 that gave him exposure to chefs from all over the world. After two and a half years of British Modern French food he was ready for a new experience.
Through a contact in Human Resources, he was able to get a position as stash in Nobu , a Michelin One-star Japanese Restaurant. Within 2 months it turned into a paying job. Nobu afforded him the opportunity to work with a staff that was primarily Asian. It gave him an understanding of the philosophy of Japanese cuisine at its essence –getting the base flavor and taking it up to another level with technique. I was amazed to learn that a well-trained Japanese chef may spend up to 7 years learning how to cut fish.
After 2 years at Nobu, he wanted more experience. At the invitation of friends, he decided to visit Valencia for a month. He fell in love with the city and its people. At that time he had received an offer to go to Japan to work for Alain Ducasse at one of the best restaurants in Japan. Before he could leave for Japan, a family illness prevented him from accepting it.
In 2001 he returned to Valencia and spent a short while working in Denia. He later met Marie, his fiancé and mother of their daughter, Grace. Marie was only in Valencia for a couple of months, so he went with her to Hamburg when she returned to Germany. There he worked at the 1-star Tafelhaus, with featured modern Germanic-French fusion cuisine. It was a good team and experience but Valencia kept calling him.
In 2007, he was sent a business plan by a group of businessmen in Valencia who wanted him to open a restaurant on the 6th floor of the Ateneo. They wanted Michelin level cuisine and staff. He selected his staff and returned to Valencia. Six months later, due to lack of finance, the project ended. It was time to set up something for himself.
At a time before the “gastronomic tapas” became the vogue, he opened Tapa 2 Gastonomic in the Carmen. It served “small plates of lovely food.” It was very successful but after 2 years he sold the business. His next venture was the 80-seat Tahine near the Mercado Moissén Sorréll. The business was going well and he began working on opening the smaller restaurant. Unfortunately Tahine was closed down due to license problems in 2009.
In 2011 he opened La Comisaría with very personal style Mediterranean food. He is clearly achieving his goal to create a place that consistently delivers “perfect service and the perfect cuisine.” Watching Eddie and his small staff work only 85 cm from your table, you can feel the love and passion that they have for the food and their desire to create a memorable guest experience. Watching Eddie prepare a plate is watching an artist at work. As they begin their 2nd year, they are planning to revamp the menu and the image, always attempting to reach perfection.
As our conversation ended, I asked how he came up with such an unusual name for the restaurant. He explained that on the night he put down the deposit for the restaurant, he went out for drinks with a few of his police buddies . As the evening progressed, they started suggesting names for the restaurant. They came up with La Comisaría- Tapas and Copas Ilegales. It seemed to stick. Eddie hopes to brand the concept and open another in the future.