Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Since taking over his father’s trattoria with his late brother Jonray in 2006 and transforming it into one of the South West’s most acclaimed restaurants, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias has established himself as one of the country’s most talented chefs. With everything from a Michelin-starred tapas joint to a rooftop Mexican restaurant now to his name, he continues to demonstrate his impressive ability to create refined yet highly accessible menus.

Chefs often talk of being immersed in the industry from a young age but few can claim this more than Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, who grew up living above his parents’ Bristol trattoria and by the age of seventeen had taken charge of the kitchen. Having gone on to turn Casamia (now closed) into a cutting-edge Michelin-starred restaurant alongside his brother, as well as open a flurry of other equally renowned restaurants covering a variety of different cuisines, it’s fair to say that Peter is a chef with both immense skill and ambition.

Peter was just fourteen when his parents opened Casamia in 1999 in the Bristol suburb of Westbury-on-Trym but, already obsessed with food, he was quickly enthralled by the goings-on in the kitchen and began to help out. ‘I’d just spend time watching the chefs and was totally captivated by what they were doing and creating,’ he smiles, ‘cookery has always been this amazing marriage between creativity and food for me.’ Living above an Italian restaurant whilst having a father with Spanish roots also meant that Peter had a wide range of different culinary influences growing up, which is clear to see in his portfolio of restaurants today. ‘Dad had wanted to open a Spanish restaurant initially,’ explains Peter, ‘but it just didn’t make sense in Bristol at the time. What that did mean though, is that at home he’d cook us Spanish dishes like paella every few weeks to introduce us to different types of produce. We’d obviously also then get leftover food from the restaurant brought back in cartons. Pizza was always the holy grail.’

Certain that cooking was all he wanted to do, Peter decided to leave school at fifteen to attend culinary college in Bristol. Whilst there, he continued to help out in the kitchen at Casamia until the head chef at the time moved on and Peter stepped up to take charge of the kitchen, with his older brother Jonray joining him behind the stoves a year later. ‘Things just clicked between the two of us in the kitchen,’ he smiles. ‘We worked so well together and there was such respect between the two of us. Whenever the going got tough, we’d drive each other on.’ Together, the brothers began progressing the menu at Casamia, obsessing over produce and improving the quality of the dishes, until it reached a point where there was nothing left to change without tearing up the menu and starting again - an idea which their father felt would alienate their loyal customer base.

Determined to start cooking their own cuisine, Peter and Jonray’s next move was to relocate to Cheltenham to set up their own Italian-leaning restaurant Fratelli’s, where they began serving food which was more progressive in nature than that at Casamia. However, despite it proving popular amongst critics – Peter recalls an encouraging conversation with a visiting Michelin inspector in 2005 – it didn’t prove a commercial hit, something that he puts down to their naivety at the time. Fratelli’s closed in 2006 and the brothers returned to Bristol with their minds set on transforming Casamia into a cutting-edge restaurant, and importantly their father was now ready to let them do so.

‘Our dad was keen to do things step by step so that we didn’t leave our customers behind,’ Peter nods, 'so we started to make the menu even more Italian but far more high-end, stripping out old dishes bit by bit. We were looking at the best Italians in the country like the River Café for inspiration, and tried to apply that same minimalistic approach. Me and Jonray had also got really into cookbooks like Thomas Keller’s and the El Bulli one from that period, and also had amazing meals at places like The Fat Duck and Jason Atherton’s Maze. Those books and meals really helped provoke our feelings in food and also gave us the courage to do things like introduce a tasting menu, as only a handful of places were doing that in the UK at the time.’

The reinvented Casamia went down a storm and by 2009 had won a Michelin star (taking the brothers by complete surprise), as Peter and Jonray made it their mission to elevate the Italian menu further and further. Their next move was to relocate Casamia to a smarter harbourside premises where they’d chase further accolades but in 2015, a matter of months before they had completed the move, Peter lost his brother to skin cancer. ‘It obviously changed everything,’ he says, ‘but we’d known about it for a long time so we’d done a lot of planning. I was always of the belief that there was more to do with Casamia and it just made me determined to do it.’ Casamia reopened as planned and with it came two additional new restaurants – Pi Shop (closed in 2018), a more causal pizza joint, and cavernous tapas bar Paco Tapas.

Named after his father, Paco Tapas was a nod to Peter’s heritage and saw him cook a style of food that people weren’t used to from him at that point in time. ‘We’d grown up going to Spain so the cuisine was in our blood. The idea was to keep the food really simple, using amazing ingredients and cooking them over fire. I didn’t want any faffy garnishes or fancy presentation,’ explains Peter. Despite its simplicity, Peter’s food at Paco proved an instant hit, winning him another Michelin star within a year of opening, and cementing him as one of the prominent chefs in the South West. A year later, Peter also further expanded his reach, after being given the chance to oversee the menu at high-rise Mexican restaurant Decimo located atop London’s Standard hotel – an opportunity he says was ‘meant to be’.

Perhaps the biggest decision of Peter’s career however, came after the pandemic, when he made the call to close the doors to Casamia just over fifteen years after him and Jonray first took charge. ‘Luckily I’m not hugely sentimental,’ says Peter. ‘I’d already said goodbye the kitchen that me and Jonray had first cooked in back in 2015, so this was already a new chapter and it just wasn’t making sense from a business perspective any more.’ This wasn’t the end of Casamia entirely though. In 2022, Peter open Casa – a more accessible Italian restaurant, harking back to Casamia’s early days as a neighbourhood trattoria – in the same space. ‘I wanted it to be more like Paco in feel,’ he explains, ‘a flexible restaurant where you’re as at home having a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta, as you are having a more gastronomic experience. To me that’s the future of restaurants.’

Peter admits that deep down he still yearns to run a small kitchen where he can push for the highest accolades, as he and his brother always aspired to, but that would come down to the right opportunity arising. Regardless of his next move, there’s no question that his impressive portfolio of restaurants has already proved Peter to be one of the most thoughtful and talented chefs out there.