Bar Lucia’s Recipe for Ceviche

Head chef at Bar Lucia, Katty Sabrina Calderón Santibáñez, sits down with T Australia to talk about her Michelin starred resume, her favourite produce to cook with, and her recipe for the restaurant’s beloved ceviche.

Article by T Australia

Bar Lucia_Credit Kitti-Gould_6The checkerboard floor tiles at Bar Lucia in Sydney's Potts Point. Photography by Kitty Gould.

Chef Katty Sabrina Calderón Santibáñez’s road to the kitchen hasn’t been an easy one. “My experiences as a female chef have usually been hard,” she says. “I know that is not an industry for everybody, and most of the chefs around see this career as an option to make easy money, but my passion in what I do is what gives me the energy to keep growing and sharing my experiences and knowledge with new generations.”

Following school, Calderón Santibáñez envisaged herself working in a medical field, and studied nursing and veterinary medicine over four years in Chile. But her passion was food. “I saw in [the] chef’s life something that motivated me, such as cooking and travelling, so I decided to enrol to study international gastronomy for two years.”

Today, she is the head chef at Milpa Collective’s newly opened Bar Lucia, a wine and tapas-focused venue situated on Potts Point’s Kellett Street. Inspired by the flavours of Spain, Calderón Santibáñez works alongside chef and co-owner Pablo Galindo Vargas on the tightly curated menu of small plates, cured hams and seafood. Bar Lucia’s interiors – designed by Imogen Reed – echo its European flavours, with checkerboard floor tiles, candelabras and walls lined with classical-style artworks.

Below, Calderón Santibáñez talks with T Australia about how she unwinds after service, approaching her role as head chef, and shares her recipe for Bar Lucia’s Ceviche.

Bar Lucia's ceviche. Photography by Kitty Gould.

Where were you before Bar Lucia?

I started my professional career in the best restaurant in Chile [Borago], ranked 27th in the world’s 50 best restaurants at that moment. I did my professional practice over there for three months. This place opened my vision about fine dining, and I discovered that this was the kind of restaurant that I was looking for. After a year, they contacted me for a job offer as a chef de partie, so I took it.

I applied to Gaggan in Bangkok – a two Michelin-starred venue and the best restaurant in Asia for four years. I moved to Thailand, I worked over there and I had the chance to stay, but at that moment I was looking for new experiences. Once I finished, I was accepted in Gaa, a restaurant with the first female Indian Chef who got a Michelin star. Both experiences were an awesome period of my life. Then I was curious about Japanese culture, so I moved to Tokyo, to L’Effervescence, a three Michelin star restaurant with a green star. It was an amazing experience.

In the meantime, that I was traveling and learning and applied for a job to Alinea in Chicago, the best restaurant in the USA for a few years with three Michelin stars. I moved to Chicago to start this new experience. It was a hard kitchen, I grew up a lot as a chef and definitely I learned a lot about my skills and myself.

I moved to Switzerland for a year-and-a-half to work in Bistro Bar. When my time over there was finished, I started an application to move to Shanghai and worked as a head chef of four venues. I went back to Chile and after a long waiting time process, it didn’t come along. I saw my options, of where could it be the most exciting country to move forward, looking for higher challenges and that’s how Australia came to my life.

Bar Lucia_Credit Kitti-Gould_36
Mealtime at Bar Lucia in Sydney's Potts Point. Photography by Kitty Gould.

How do you unwind after service?

At my earliest, grabbing a beer around the corner with my colleagues, sitting in the street, sharing the time to get to know them better and became a family afterwards. After eight years, I keep doing the same thing, but with time, I became a quiet person, so when I come back home I just watch a movie or series, relax and rest.

What are you enjoying cooking with at the moment?

At the moment I enjoy cooking with beautiful veggies, mushrooms, and here in Sydney with seafood and fish. All the sea products have always been a wonder for me, and I know that Chile and Australia share this amazing richness around the sea. Mushrooms are also very exciting ingredients with different characteristics, flavours and textures. A kingdom in which I see a promising future due the meat industry.

What do you cook at home?

Honestly, I always enjoy going out to new places to eat. So in my time off I like to go around the city, and try different kinds of food. I prefer to be a guest that a chef when I’m at home.

What excites you most about what you’re doing at the moment?

It’s my first time as head chef, so there are new challenges and knowledge to learn. I have always been a curious person with the desire to learn and teach, so this new opportunity is exciting. We are a small team, but I see potential in this new family.

Bar Lucia’s Recipe for Ceviche

Serves 4


500gr King fish (yellow tail) or blue eye cod with bones
1 rocoto chilli (if you can find it) or any red chilli
1 red onion
1 white onion
1 small piece of ginger

Clean the fish, diced it around 1cm size, and keep it in the fridge. Put the leftovers and bones in a blender. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning fish, buy fillet and ask the fisherman for the bones.

Cut the rocoto or chili in half, take the seeds out, and then cut it in brunoise (small cubes) and place it in a bowl. Keep the leftover side and do not touch your eyes.

Peel the red onion, take out the heart and finely slice it . Add the onion and add salt to a strainer, and gently squeeze it until the liquids go out (strong flavour of the onion). Make sure that you don’t do it too much, so you don’t lose the crunchiness. Rinse with water and add it to the bowl with the chilli in brunoise.

Peel the white onion, take out the middle part and cut it in four pieces. Add it to the blender.

Pick some coriander leaves and chopped it finely. Add it to the bowl with the red onion and chilli. Take five coriander stems (the skinniest) and add it to the blender.

Peel the ginger with a spoon or a peeler, quarter it add it to the blender.

Leche de Tigre

1/2 stick of celery
1 cup of water (or as much as you need)
3 large ice cubes
1 shot of Pisco (or grappa)
Optional Salt
2 lemon juice
1 lime juice

Fish bones, white onion, coriander stems and ginger are already in the blender. Add celery (cut it in big pieces), the shot of pisco or grappa (an optional flavour punch), three big ice cubes, water, lime and lemon juice and salt, and blend it at high speed. Check the texture – it needs to be liquid but with some thickness. Add more water if you need.

Once you get the right texture and flavour (aim for sour and salty), add the leftover of the rocoto chilli and a few more coriander leaves. Blend it just for 30 seconds.

Strain the mixture.


There are two ways to enjoy a ceviche: rest it for a few hours (to “cook”) in the leche de tigre, or mix all the ingredients just before serving it.

Mix the Leche de Tigre with the diced fish. Add the red onion, chilli and coriander and let it rest in the fridge for around one hour.

Option 2
Mix the Leche de Tigre, the diced fish, and the veggies in the bowl (chilli, red onion and coriander) with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

Serve it in a bowl with bread and enjoy.