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Catalin Agape, espetero at Las Acacias, prepares his sardines for the contest.

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Catalin Agape, espetero at Las Acacias, prepares his sardines for the contest. Salvador Salas
Food and drink

Winners announced in search for best sardines cooked on skewers on the Costa del Sol

The seventh Ruta del Espeto comes to an end and these are this year's victors, chosen by a jury and the public

Juan Soto

Malaga

Wednesday, 19 June 2024, 09:53

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The seventh Ruta del Espeto, a competition to find the best sardines on the Costa del Sol organised by Malaga en la Mesa and SUR, has announced two winners.

Catalin Agape, from the Las Acacias beach bar, and Rachid El Idrissi, from the Tropy beach bar in Caleta de Vélez, were crowned the best espeteros in the province at a winner's ceremony at El Balneario de Los Baños del Carmen on Tuesday 18 June.

Las Acacias beach bar's Catalin Agape won the jury's prize, while Tropy beach bar's Rachid El Idrissi won the public's vote in a contest in which more than 40 professionals participated, the highest number in history. The competition was sponsored by Sabor a Malaga and the Diputación de Málaga provincial authority, with the collaboration of the Costa del Sol Chiringuitos Association and brewing company Cruzcampo.

Group photo. Salvador Salas

Catalin and Rachid demonstrated their skills in mastering the fire and preparing the perfect dish: "The real secret is to have a lot of patience; be very careful with the fire and put your heart into it," Catalin said. For the grand final, all five finalists had to prepare four espetos of six sardines each, which were then judged by a jury.

In the grand final, the two winning espeteros competed against professionals from Los Leones de Torremolinos, El Caleño de Malaga and La Ñora restaurant in Rincón de la Victoria. The jury evaluated the treatment of the raw fish, the flame, flavour and presentation. Enrique Bellver, SUR's gastronomic critic, who acted as chairman of the jury, said it was very difficult to pick out a winner.

Of the two winners, the participant from the Las Acacias restaurant was the first to stand in front of the embers. As a first step, he cut his own reeds because the fire was too low and then chose the two sources of the sardines he was going to compete with (there were sardines from Malaga, Castellón, Huelva and Portugal). In his case - as all the contestants agreed - he chose those from Malaga and Castellón, both from the Mediterranean, "because they are in season and are the best". To finish, he tried to prepare them over a slow fire, moving the embers away and spreading them out, because "the important thing is to have a lot of patience", and to serve them with all the care in the world. "This is a profession that you have to love because otherwise it's hard to stand the fire", he added.

The same feelings were conveyed by Rachid, from Tropy. "The most important thing is the fire: calculating the distance, playing with the wind and making them with a lot of love and affection", he said. In his case, he also chose sardines from Malaga as his first choice and those from Castellón.

Quality and quantity of participants

This year's competition stood out for the quality and quantity of the participants. More than 40 restaurants from all over the province took part in the route this year, surpassing previous events.

Before proceeding to the prize giving ceremony, Diario SUR editor-in-chief Manolo Castillo, thanked all the espeteros for their participation and reminded them they are also partly to blame for the growth that Malaga is experiencing. "If anything keeps the city moving forward, it is people like you," he said.

Pedro Hernández, from Cruzcampo, also said: "Malaga is in fashion but because of the great gastronomy and hotel and catering business we have".

Sabor a Málaga director Leonor García-Agua thanked them for putting "heart and soul" into the competition and encouraged them to continue working "to maintain our gastronomic traditions".

Another member of the jury, Malaga chef Adolfo Jaime, thanked all participants for making "the most universal dish that Malaga has" - A dish that has something of a ritual about it.

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