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Massaging A Top Cuban Chef

On our recent trip to Cuba my wife and I thought we’d try a restaurant called Atelier. It had excellent write-ups and sounded interesting.

When we got there we were greeted and shown up some stairs to the restaurant and to a table. It was, indeed, an interesting place. It was simple and stylish. For decoration there were sophisticated but simple paintings, vintage tills and vintage radios – sounds strange, but it worked. I decided to take some photographs.

Atelier restaurant, where I massaged

Vintage Cash Register At Atelier Restaurant, Havana, Cuba

I went out on to the expansive roof terrace. At the far end of the roof terrace someone in chef’s whites posed for a photo. I went over. It turned out he was the chef. He was eating a chickpea dish he had made. He offered me some. They were exquisite – I told him so. I also told him it was my birthday. He took me into the kitchen and introduced me to his staff. I spent so long chatting to them that a waiter had to come and find me to tell me our meal was ready. I asked the chef (Liuyen Alvarez Gallego) to come and say “Hello” to my wife.

Chef Liuyen, who benefited from a shoulder massage!

Chef Liuyen and me

After we ate our meal (this, too, was exquisite), Liuyen came to sit with us. He showed me a book he had published. By this time a waiter had joined us. The waiter informed me that Liuyen was one of the top chefs in Cuba. The book was a work of art and the recipes looked delicious. I asked if I could buy the copy of the book. Liuyen said he had none at the restaurant and the one I was holding was inscribed and it was the restaurant owner’s copy, but they were for sale at a restaurant about 5 minutes’ away. I asked if it would be possible for someone to pick up a copy from that restaurant, but I was informed that it was a busy time and no one was available. In the end Liuyen borrowed the waiter’s motorbike and went off to get me a copy. (Can you imagine Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver doing that…)

Chef Liuyen's book

Chef Liuyen’s book

Whilst he was gone I was brought a dessert with a lit candle in it which he had made for my birthday.

He autographed and inscribed the book with the words: “To my friend Rakesh with much love from Cuba. I hope you enjoy the book”.

I had told him I was a massage therapist with a massage therapy practice in York, and told him where he had a knot in his shoulders which would benefit from massage. I ended up massaging his shoulders – it was the first massage he had ever had and found it beneficial. I was told by the waiter that the pastry chef was always asking for a massage, and would I mind massaging her? Of course, I agreed. I ended up massaging her shoulders too. She found the massage helpful as well.

As with so many Cuban people, I found him to be friendly, kind and gracious. It was a pleasure and an unforgettable experience meeting him and everyone who worked at the restaurant.