Francisco Ortega of the Ayo chiringuito in Nerja. / E. cabezas

Chiringuito beach restaurants receive the Extraordinary Food of Spain 2021 award

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food decided to present the award to a famous chiringuito on the Costa del Sol as a representative of the sector

Pilar Martínez
PILAR MARTÍNEZ Malaga

‘Chiringuito’ beach restaurants have been awarded the Extraordinary Food of Spain award 2021 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food, in recognition of the variety of these establishments and their commitment to traditional cuisine.

The panel of judges decided to present the award to the Ayo chiringuito in Nerja, which in the 54 years since it opened has become a benchmark in Andalucía, Spain and Europe.

“The owner, Francisco Ortega Olalla is, at the age of 83, an example of dedication and commitment to his environment, both in employing people of different nationalities and also sourcing emblematic products from the coast and making one of the most famous and characteristic dishes that Spanish gastronomy has to offer, paella,” said a statement from the Ministry.

The Ayo chiringuito and its owner became world famous after it featured in the popular series Verano Azul, and he took part as an actor, playing himself.

"We must be doing something right"

Manuel Villafaina, president of the Beach Businesses Association of the Costa del Sol, congratulated all chiringuito owners in the country and especially Francisco Ortega Olalla. He also mentioned that the EU recently carried out a survey in which the prime motivation to travel to Spain was shown to be the climate and then the food, with 86% of those who took part saying they visited chiringuitos during their stays. “We must be doing something right for tourism,” he said.

The statement from the Ministry explained that the award-winners for 2021 had been selected from more than 100 candidates by judges with long experience and knowledge of the agro-food and fishing sector.

"We offer something authentic"

Francisco Ortega said he was “very grateful” to be chosen as the representative of the chiringuito sector, and “happy” that tourists are returning after two very difficult years of the pandemic. “We’re back to 2019 levels of business, people can’t wait to come here,” he said.

And when asked for the secret of the chiringuitos’ success, he said it is because “we offer something authentic, top quality food right on the beach. People can have their feet in the sand while they eat”.

His chiringuito is still typical in design and he cooks his paellas over a wood fire and with very fresh ingredients. “If something works, why change it?” he asked. And he has no intention of retiring. “While my health permits it, I’ll be carrying on,” he insisted.