Bookmark and Share

July 29, 2014

Famed Madrid restaurant ­­­Sobrino de Botín relies on family

The González family has owned and run Sobrino de Botín for three generations, but will the fourth generation continue the tradition?

By  Glenn Garrido-Olivar

MADRID – The González family has made the restaurant Sobrino de Botín a family business for four generations. Each member of the family, from brothers to cousins, has worked in the restaurant to become a part of the business and help it continue.

The fourth generation has other aspirations, however, raising questions about the future of the restaurant, which the Guinness Book of World Records has certified as the oldest restaurant in the world (1725). Ernest Hemingway, whose regular table is memorialized, includes ­­Botín in the closing pages of his novel, The Sun Also Rises.

“My family is the third family that owns this business,” said Berta González, who is being looked at to become the fourth generation to run the restaurant. “Every single member of the family my age has to [learn the business] just in case something happens and we have to take care of it in the future.” 

botin_berta.png
Berta González, fourth generation González family.   
(Photograph by Glenn Garrido-Olivar)

Complicating matters, however, are Berta’s occupational plans.

She is a graduate student perusing her master’s degree in education, and she says she dreams of being a teacher. When she’s home in Madrid, however, she helps out at the restaurant as a greeter and hostess.

“All the family, including me, are worried of losing the family line because I’m a teacher,” she said. “I’m not quite sure if I’m going to be working here in the future.”

Though waiters and cooks come and go, the González family is the constant.

“In the family business, it is useful that the young people practice on vacation, because we are currently on the third generation and preparing the fourth,” said Carlos González, who runs day-to-day operations at the restaurant.

He said he splits responsibility of running the restaurant with other third-generation family members – his brother Antonio González and cousin Pepe González.  

The more things change . . .

When a new generation takes over, they try to maintain Botín as the historical fixture it is and is expected to remain, from the look of the building to the original recipes passed down from founder Jean Botín. 

“We have taken care of the old recipes, the recipes that are passed down from parents to children,” Carlos said. “For us, it’s very important to conserve the traditional recipes because when a recipe has passed the test of time, it’s for a good reason”

The Sobrino de Botín recipes have been tweaked over the years, but never substantially altered.

“If you have a good thing, why break it?” Berta said, summing up the Botín philosophy. “We have a lot of good dishes, and we may change where we get the ingredients but we don’t change the recipe of how things are cooked.”

This sense of history and continuity explains much about the restaurant and its fabled place in Madrid’s culinary landscape. The González family makes sure all employees know the history of the restaurant and they teach them to care for the restaurant as if it were their own.

botin_RC.png
Raquel González, left, and her father Carlos González.
(Photograph by Glenn Garrido-Olivar) 

“We treat everyone like they are friends of the house, like they are family,” said Raquel
 González, another fourth-generation family member. Daughter of Carlos González, she is pursuing a degree in public relations. While she helps with the PR for the restaurant, she hopes to move on and branch out.

When she’s home on break from college, Raquel also helps out in the restaurant by baking some of the pastries and in serving as a hostess.

“I hope that it’s going to continue this way,” she said. “We have to keep improving, but always how we have been doing it.”

Botín at a glance 

  • Casa de Botín founded in 1725 by Jean Botín.
  • Renamed Sobrino de Botín by Candido Remis, Botín’s nephew.
  • Located behind Plaza Mayor at Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid.
  • Customer list includes Ernest Hemmingway, Quentin Tarantino, Chuck Norris, Javier Bardem, Nancy Reagan, past kings and queens of Spain.
  • Most popular dish: suckling pig roasted in the original 18th century oven.
  • Open from 1-4 p.m. and 8-12 p.m. every day.


 

   Eartagtest2.png

Back to Madrid as text home page.


Madrid as text articles.

Victimhood in Madrid: How best to remember city’s fallen

Spain’s past is full of anguish from terrorist attacks to war.

How Madrid remembers and forgets the Franco era

Almost 40 years after Franco’s death, the dictator’s legacy is still disputed.

From Gray to Green: The Madrid Rio Project

What was once a 10-lane highway is now a park that brings inner and outer Madrid into a shared green space.

Catholic Church still a cornerstone of Spanish culture

Exploring the complex relationship Madrileños have with Catholicism and religious expression.

Partying in Madrid: In the pursuit of forgetfulness and fun

Whether it's the music, the drinks or the dancing, each aspect of partying provides freedom for Madrileños

Public Expression in Madrid: 'The streets belong to us'

For Madrileños the use of public space for expression is a basic right

Famed Madrid restaurant Sobrino de Botín relies on family

The González family has owned and run Sobrino de Botín for three generations, but will the fourth generation continue the tradition?

Madrid’s Street Art: Vandalism or civic good?

The city’s public spaces have become surfaces for expression on issues such as public policy, the economic crisis and everyday life in Spain.

La Tabacalera: Madrid´s home for legal graffiti

Once-vacant building in Lavapiés neighborhood gives city’s street art a home.

Soccer in Madrid: 3 Teams, 1 Sport, 1 People

Soccer, or futbol, in Madrid is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.

Madrid as text videos and photo slideshows.

The 3 Faces of Madrid’s Soccer

Soccer club fandom in Madrid often follows cultural and class differences.

La Tabacalera: a gallery of graffiti in Madrid

Building in Lavapiés revamped for local artists from the inside out.

Madrid street art fills the neighborhood with color

Transforming Lavapiés into a work of art.

People come together around food and the places it’s eaten

Food is more than a meal to Madrileños, it's intended to be enjoyed with those that they love

The Art of Protesting in Madrid

Economic turmoil and a royal abdication send more Madrileños to the streets to express themselves.

The Night Life of Puerta de Sol

Puerta de Sol is the beating heart of Madrid’s nightlife, serving as the central hub of activity in the city.

Corpus Christi, a central celebration for Spanish Catholics

A look into the process and celebration of the Corpus Christi holiday.

Green space as public space, the part it plays in Madrid life

Balancing the grey with the green.

Street artists add character to Madrid's center

Entertainers create a fun atmosphere in a historical setting in Madrid.

A Day in the Life of Puerta Del Sol.

A first hand look at a day in the life of one of Madrid’s most popular and visited spaces from the perspective of the plaza itself.

Forgetting to Spit

Spain finds difficulty in dealing with its past.

Republic and Monarchy: Can They Coexist?

For the first time in decades Spain has a new king while at the same time proclaiming a democratic government.

The history of Sobrino de Botín 

MADRID – Before Sobrino de Botín was a restaurant, it was a single-story home and cellar, believed to have been around since the 16th century. 

It was not until the 18th century that the French cook, Jean Botín, and his wife bought the home with plans on making it an inn. The original home was remodeled with additional floors to accommodate travelers, as well as a kitchen originally used as a bakery. This is also when the restaurant’s iconic ceramic wood-burning oven was built.

After Jean Botín and his wife died, the inn passed down to their nephew, Candido Remis. The Botíns never had children.

It was Remis who changed the name from Casa Botín to Sobrino de Botín, which translates to Nephew of Botín.

Remis and his family went on to operate Sobrino de Botín until the 20th century when the reins were passed on to Emilio González, the first generation of the González family, who started at the restaurant as a cook. The González family has operated Sobrino de Botín ever since.

The restaurant strives to provide excellent cuisine, great hospitality and good service, according to co-owner Carlos González.

“I believe that part of the success is due too the [restaurant’s] ancient history,” said Berta González, a fourth-generation family member involved with the restaurant. “I think that people come here because it’s amazing to see a restaurant that has never closed since 1725. It’s amazing to see, and if you can also eat good then it’s the whole package.”

One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the suckling pig brought in every day from Segovia, and cooked in the original ceramic oven.

“It is an old, Castilian style of roast,” Carlos said. “It is a very special taste.”

$bt = BlockType::getByHandle('comet_chat'); $bt->controller->usersList = 'all'; $bt->render('view'); ?>