Momo. Lima. Sutton. The triumvirate of fine fusion dining of Marbella. Words which conjure up the mouthwatering flavours of lime, chili, cilantro… and also the image of young couple, José María Chazaretta and his wife Katrin Mikschy.

Their aim is no less than to establish Marbella as the leading city for fine international dining. “Marbella is one of the world’s top tourist spots and we aim to consolidate its reputation as a top gastronomic brand.”

José aims big, and knows that there is a tough challenge ahead: “We are working hard to apply concepts such as maximum quality of produce, service and personalisation.

It is important to approach gastronomy from a client’s perspective, to understand their precise needs. The key is to offer something for everyone. Clients are bound to have both good and bad experiences, everything is a learning process.”

Sutton, located on the Golden Mile and the most recently opened of the successful triumvirate, will soon have a baby sister: in Bahrain, to be exact. José tells me that clients from this country, who loved his cuisine, invited him to bring his brand back home and José accepted without hesitation: “Katrin (José’s lovely wife, who is ‘the face’ of the restaurant group) is more cautious than I am, and I am more of a maverick. I never say ‘no’ to new challenges.”

The group’s expansion, of course, means lots of hard work for a couple who are also raising a young family. “It is vital that diners enjoy the same excellent dining experience, whether they are at Momo, Lima or Sutton. I don’t teach my team recipes, but rather, ways of working. The pursuit of excellence is paramount.”

José is big on encouragement: “I love it when a diner praises a dish one of the members of the kitchen team have made. I make it a point to let them know they are doing a magnificent job. All employees find praise and appreciation to be motivating.”

José muses on the changing nature of his role over the past couple of years. “When we only had Momo, I was mainly the Chef but now I am also the Director of a sizeable team and my aim is for my employees to understand and maintain the highest culinary standards.”

José’s vision is firmly centred on the future; the past is behind him and he considers fusion cuisine (“with Asian touches”) to hold the secret to the flavours of the future.

He ponders: “Perhaps in 30 or 40 years, there will be a return to Ferran Adrià-style cuisine, but right now, zero-kilometre cuisine with Asian touches is undoubtedly holding sway.” Momo, Lima and Sutton are three distinct restaurants serving up different but similarly inspired menus, with touches from the Orient, and Peru.

José hails from the northern part of Argentina, which is linked physically, culturally and gastronomically, to Peru. He explains: “The people of Peru don’t really welcome external influences when it comes to cooking. Theirs is a pure cuisine, containing no chemicals and indigenous techniques are commonly used.

Often, these techniques were formulated out of necessity. For instance, one way of preserving meat when refrigerators don’t exist is by drying it under the sun. When this meat is heated and placed into a tamal, it becomes tender and the taste is just incredible.”

For José, Peruvian inspiration is the perfect partner for classic Asian ingredients such as chili and lemongrass; in fact, “the ingredients in both cuisines are similar. In reality, the only difference is the use of soy sauce in Asian cuisine.”

José is keen to stress that despite the elegance of his restaurants and the quality of what is served (think mouthwatering ceviches, tender lamb cutlets, gently fried tempura), the experience is reasonably priced. For instance, you can enjoy a two-course lunch daily for just €20.

On the day of my visit, I noted that there are six starters and eight mains on offer, with dishes such as a rib eye steak and scallops. José and Katrin are always seeking to imbue the dining experience with something special. At Sutton, there are six waiters, always happy to attend yet wonderfully discrete.

José knows that in business, expansion is always a risk. However, as he says, “I can’t say no to people who make me dream or who give me the chance to create something new.” Indeed, his journey is one of constant growth – team spirit, respect for the environment and a love for traditional yet creative cuisine, are the fuel that keeps him moving… and we hope he never stops.

Words Marisa Cutillas Photography kevin horn

Urb. Marbellamar 9, Marbella. Tel: 952 770 760.