Carola Smits: “Where East meets West”

Carola Smits, a talented chef hailing from the vibrant culinary haven of La Sobremesa, possesses a remarkable ability to blend a wide array of international flavors onto a single plate.

Though born in the Netherlands, Carola’s heritage did not provide an abundance of bold and seasoned dishes. In fact, she says that Dutch cuisine is often characterized as rather bland. Yet, Carola’s culinary journey took an exciting turn thanks to the influence of her father, a gifted Dutch home chef with an adventurous palate and a keen interest in Oriental flavors.

Under the guidance of one of Rotterdam’s finest Chinese chefs during the 70s and 80s, Carola’s father mastered the art of crafting exquisite Chinese dishes. These experiences left an indelible mark on her, igniting a deep appreciation for the enchanting world of exotic herbs and spices.

For Carola Smits, founder of La Sobremesa, each jar of herbs and spices evokes vivid memories and tells a unique tale. Lovage from a dear friend’s garden in the Netherlands, Indonesian herbs thoughtfully brought by family members from the local Toko, and dried oregano acquired from a shepherd in Samos, Greece—each jar holds the power to transport her to a different time and place. Even the fiery madame Jeanette powder, gifted by English neighbors who had ventured to the exotic isle of Saint Vincent, sparks excitement and wanderlust.


Carola’s culinary exploration leads her to the rich tapestry of Spanish herbs and seasonings. Among these, saffron stands out as a true gem. Renowned for imparting its vibrant yellow hue to Spanish paella, the saffron from the Castilla-La Mancha region in Spain is hailed as the finest in the world. With its earthy and slightly bitter taste, saffron must be used judiciously to achieve the perfect balance.


“Pimentón”, the renowned smoked paprika powder housed in beautifully designed cans, captures Carola’s attention. Crafted by smoking special peppery peppers over an oak fire, it comes in both sweet and spicy variations, adding depth and complexity to her dishes. Fresh laurel leaves, plucked straight from the tree, or dried, contribute their distinctive flavor to stews and soups. And the dried “ñora peppers”, with their deep red and purple hues, infuse a delightful sweetness when stewed or transformed into finely chopped purees.


Garlic, a staple in countless recipes, holds a cherished place in Carola’s heart. Whether it’s the pungent white cloves or the intense and complex notes of fermented black garlic, this versatile ingredient adds depth and character to her creations. Freshly made aioli and tomato, combining homemade goodness, are always a treat for Carola and her guests.


Carola thrives on the joy of experimenting with seasoning. With a dash of this and a pinch of that, she crafts harmonious flavor profiles that awaken the taste buds. From enhancing fish dishes with vadouvan mix to elevating meats with the intricate blend of ras el hanout, Carola’s kitchen is a playground of endless possibilities, limited only by her imagination.


As a seasoned culinary explorer, Carola also has tips for kitchen enthusiasts. In moments of excessive seasoning, when a dish leans too salty, Carola recommends adding a touch of sourness along with a hint of sweetness. When confronted with overly sweet flavors, she advises introducing acidity through lemon, vinegar, or tomatoes, as well as a pinch of salt or the savory notes of ginger or red pepper.

Should a dish veer toward excessive sourness, Carola suggests countering it with sweeteners such as honey, sugar, or maple syrup. In cases where bitterness takes hold, triggered by an overly generous hand with saffron, turmeric, or curcuma, she advocates for the addition of acid flavors coupled with a touch of sweetness.

In the realm of La Sobremesa, Carola Smits shines as a culinary genius on the Costa Blanca. Drawing upon her Dutch roots, Oriental influences, and the richness of Spanish herbs and spices, she weaves a symphony of flavors that fascinates the senses.

Contact Carola and discover the joy of cooking to create unforgettable experiences!

Contact details:

Rada de Moraira, Alicante – Spain


Instagram @lasobremesalife

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