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This year, the Best Ham Croquette Competition was one of the most hard-fought editions, as there was a record number of entries, with 50 recipes received. On this occasion, the winning croquette was the creation of Juan Monteagudo, chef of the Ababol restaurant in Albacete. His ‘Concretamente croqueta’ was considered the best in the country.
The young chef explained that his champion croquette is prepared “with sheep’s and cow’s milk, cream, butter, Iberian ham and a little fish tail jelly“, and is one of the star dishes at his restaurant Ababol. Among the finalist croquettes were those of Natalia Méndez from Casa Chuchu (Asturias), Víctor Conus from Taberna La Mesa de Conus (Vigo), Ana Losada from Taberna Zalamero (Madrid) and José Manuel Gallego from the Clandestina restaurant (Toledo).
Juan Monteagudo trained in different kitchens such as Mina (one Michelin star), Azurmendi (three Michelin stars), Zarate Jatetxea (one Michelin star), Santerra (which won last year’s Croqueta Campeona de Campeones 2022) or Lobito de Mar. Just before opening his own restaurant in January 2022, Ababol, which he himself defines as “a place to let yourself go, is the tradition of La Mancha with nods to French cuisine in sauces and techniques; this is a restaurant that offers deep-rooted flavours, linked to the orchard and the terroir”. Here he offers two menus, €65 and €95, which earned him his first Michelin star last year.