Why I Devoted My Life to Making Churros

I used to work in a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Barcelona, but I left it all to open a churro shop in Portland, Oregon, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Nov 30 2015, 11:00pm

Churros are pleasure.

You eat them when you want to feel a genuinely happy moment; they instantly give you a good vibe, too. In my home country of Spain, you eat them after a night of partying in the town and you also eat them almost every day for breakfast.

Some of the happiest memories of my childhood involve sneaking pieces of piping-hot churros right out of my grandmother's frying pan and eating them under the kitchen table. The crunchy, sweet fritters transport me to the warm family kitchen of my family in Barcelona.

When you work in a Michelin-rated restaurant, you learn the art of valuing ingredients and treating all things with the same amount of respect.

As a chef who has worked in a Michelin-rated restaurant in Spain and has won the title of "Chef of the Year" by Portland Monthly Magazine, I realized how special churros were to me only recently. That's why I am opening up a churreria in Portland, Oregon—which will be the first churreria in all of Oregon. And I will be applying everything I have learned in my lifelong cooking career to these churros.

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Churro ingredients

MAKE: Spanish-Style Churros

Contrary to popular belief, churros themselves—made the traditional way with just flour, salt, and water—are a healthy option in the world of bready breakfast things. Think about it: Churros are a major component in the diet for any Spaniard and, for the most part, we are fine. Of course, the story changes when you dip them in chocolate and cover them in sugar, but they are actually less caloric when you compare churros to croissants (three times less fat), at least.

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Loading the churro dough into the extruder
EDITED0580 Gently dropping the churros into the oil

When you work in a Michelin-rated restaurant, you learn the art of valuing ingredients and treating all things with the same amount of respect. It doesn't matter if it is foie gras, churro batter, or any other kind of ingredient. A churro seems simple but it is really hard to make a good churro.

It all starts with good flour, in order for the churros to be as light and crunchy as possible. You preferably should use a nice, high-gluten wheat flour. Then you have to think about the oil that you are using. In my opinion, I think sunflower seed oil yields the best result with churros because of its high-smoke point.

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IMG_6099 (1) Churros right out of the fryer

Then there is the chocolate component. I am lucky to live in Portland and have access to so many great local chocolatiers, so we use Cocanú chocolate. Generally, you want to stay within the 65 to 70 percent cacao content; you also want to think about the remaining chocolate being not too sweet, and with the right texture, in order to sip it after you are done with your churros.

I love Portland and I could not be happier in any other city in this world. However, opening up a churro shop in Portland—as amazing as a food community as it may currently be—is a risk because it is very much a donut town right now. But we are happy to give another option to the town and we are hopeful that Portland's food community will love us.

I am 100 percent committed to this concept as I am importing one of the most massive churro fryers known to man from Spain for this churreria. It has a massive metal arm, a touch screen, and makes 1,000 churros per hour. Yet, this is a small price to pay to be able to share something so special to me with the rest of the world.

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Chesa (far right) enjoys churros with his family

My business partner—who also worked with me in that same restaurant in Spain—and I still laugh about going from working together at a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Barcelona to a churreria in Portland. But we are so passionate about churros, their craftsmanship, the memories they conjure up, and their power to create good times and bring people together that we wouldn't have any other way.

As told to Javier Cabral