New head chef was decade in the making at Cubanas

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It’s taken more than ten years but Cubanas chef Erkland Xhaja is finally in charge.

This week Erkland, who has worked under the command of former head chef Fabian Cruz for 13 years, celebrates his move to head of the Cubana kitchen in Leopold Square with the unveiling of his debut menu.

Fabian himself had been there since the day the venue first opened on Trippet Lane.

Albanian born Erkland moved to Italy as a child before settling in Sheffield as a teenager.

He originally started working at Nonnas on Ecclesall Road, joining Cubana in 2002- Erkland now heads up a team of six.

He is joined by Nicolino Dente, former owner and head chef Ecclesall Road’s Santinos, Stuart Berry, the original head chef at Nonnas and former owner of Chesterfield Road restaurants Kitos and Swanky Franks and Ryan Christian, former owner and head chef of Sharrowvale Road’s The Pasta Bar.

Erkland’s new menu has 12 new dishes, including his own twist on the celebrated Brazilian stew made with diced pork shoulder, chorizo, smoked bacon, black beans, red peppers, tomato puree and smoked paprika, fresh fish dishes including a seafood paella served in a traditional paella pan at your table and several tapas dishes with inspiration taken from trips to the Canary Islands – home of Erkland’s partner.

Cubana co-owner Adrian Bagnol, who also included a squid and chorizo dish he tried on a holiday to Mallorca recently in the new menu, said: “There’s no one better qualified than Erkland to develop the Cubana menu.

“The new dishes the team have come up with are some of the best we’ve served and fit in perfectly with the ever present Cubana favourites for the perfectly balanced tapas menu.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how popular the new dishes will be and receiving feedback from our regular customers.”