The young man from Marbella, in Ta-Kumi's kitchen. Wearegoma
Young man from Marbella crowned the best sushi chef in the whole of Spain
Food and drink

Young man from Marbella crowned the best sushi chef in the whole of Spain

At just 26 years of age, the head chef at a well-known Japanese restaurant on the Costa del Sol has brought the coveted title back to Malaga province

Marina Martínez


Wednesday, 26 June 2024, 14:19

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Sergio Solís from the Ta-Kumi Japanese restuarant in Marbella is still "on cloud nine" after being crowned Spain's best sushi chef. Judges decided the winner in the final of the third annual Itame Balfegó, the sushi competition for professionals in Spain.

"I didn't realise the magnitude of this competition until now, but to have your work recognised is a wonderful thing. I'm still on cloud nine," Solís said. Ta-Kumi's head chef needed to demonstrate his talent in several tests with a piece of tuna loin and ventresca tuna belly. A trilogy of sashimi, another of nigiris and three makis were enough to convince the jury. "Almost without thinking about it, I took the plunge and in the end it turned out well," he said. In addition to the title, Solís won 3,000 euros in cash, a trip for two to Japan and a set of Japanese knives.

He arrived in the Japanese kitchen 'on the rebound'

Solís is only 26 years old, and has been with Ta-Kumi Marbella since 2017. He said it has all been "on the rebound". He has always liked eating and cooking, so he opted to study the hotel and catering module in Sierra Blanca. From there, he made the leap into the job market at Trocadero, where he began to delve into Japanese cuisine through his Japanese bar. Then, it was clear to him that he wanted to continue on this path.

When he finished his contract there, he started handing out CVs, but he had his sights set on Ta-Kumi. He left his CV at the kitchen and barely an hour later he received a phone call. More than seven years have passed since then: "It has been and still is a learning experience. I'm lucky to have Toshio Tsutsui and Emi Noda by my side, they teach me every day. The thing about Japanese cuisine is that it is very dynamic, you are constantly learning," Solís said.

Sergio Solís, with the title that accredits him as the best sushi chef. Balfegó

Solís said he has grown "professionally and personally" at Ta-Kumi Marbella, one of the two that Toshio Tsutsui and Álvaro Arbeloa run in Malaga province (the other, in the central street Mundo Nuevo in Malaga city), both recognised by the Repsol Guide and Michelin Guide. They are not the only ones: in Madrid they opened a third restaurant a year and a half ago on Calle Claudio Coello, 114, also included in Michelin's recommendations.

'My second home'

"It's my second home, I feel at home with Toshio and Álvaro," said Solís, who with this award, can now represent Spain in the European competition.

The jury was made up of Hideki Matsuhisa (Koy Shunka, one Michelin star), Fabiola Lairet (Robata and Monster Sushi), Yoshikazu Yanome (Kaido Sushi Bar, one star) and Hugo Muñoz (Ugo Chan, one star). They chose Solís as the winner for "the excellence shown in the preparation and presentation of the sushi, the application of innovative techniques and his mastery of the Japanese culinary art".

"Japanese cuisine is very dynamic, you are constantly learning," said Solis

Second and third place went to Brendan Ferrero Cassidy, of the Os-Kuro restaurant (Barcelona), and Bastian Fuentes, of the Saisho restaurant (Madrid). The winners were announced at a ceremony held at the Llotja del Mar in Barcelona, attended by more than 700 people, including chefs, journalists, and hospitality professionals.

In addition to the winners, three other finalists competed: Lucas Baturone from Hotaru (Valencia), Maher Al Dali from Kinu (Seville), Nacho Dayas from Kitsuné (Barcelona), and Tadayoshi Motoa from Toki (Madrid). Rafael Carrasco of Kabuki Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) had also been selected, but was unable to participate for medical reasons.

Three competitions

There have now been three Itamae Balfegó awards. In June 2023, the winner of the second competition was the Japanese Masayuki Narumi, from the Daikichi Beach restaurant in Alicante, while the first competition in July 2022, the winner was Steven Bosen Wu Zheng, when he was a chef at the Imperial restaurant in Pamplona, currently Sen Omakase (Madrid).

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