Any travel plan in Catalonia must include a culinary experience. The sausages from Vic, the calçots from Valls, Cava or the Gerona butifarras are some of the products preferred by the sybarites who visit this ancient corner of Spain.
In Catalan homes and on the street, you can always find mushrooms, rice, meats and typical desserts like panellets, crème brûlée, pastissets, as well as a great assortment of seasonal fruits; and of course good dressings, such as aioli, romesco sauce and the ever-present olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet, the technique, and the so-called ‘surprise factor’ have been instrumental in bringing international recognition to the fabled cuisine of northern Spain. Not to mention the influence of the renowned chef Ferran Adrià.
However, Catalonia’s culinary reputation dates back to the 1960s, when Josep Mercader established the ‘Mòtel’ restaurant in Figueres (Girona) and modernized the traditional cuisine with deconstructive experiments. Today, Chefs Joan Roca and Carme Ruscalleda reinterpret and add a touch of genius to the Mediterranean treasures that comes from the sea, the gardens and the mountains. Basque cuisine is another Spanish contribution to international gastronomy (Mugaritz, Arzak).
Foundation El Bulli, the Sorcerer’s Stone
In July 2011, El Bulli closed its doors after years of innovation and excellence. The restaurant introduced a new culinary vocabulary that serves as an example for an entire generation of international chefs. Located in Cala Montjoi, Roses, the institution made its debut in 1962 and achieved great prestige, especially with the arrival of Chef Ferran Adrià in 1984. Adrià worked to inspire positive emotions with his dishes and introduced molecular gastronomy as well as “spherification” techniques, to recreate shapes and textures. His success soared in 1999, when the prestigious French Chef Joël Robuchon called Adrià “the best chef in the world”. In August 2003, the New York Times featured El Bulli and Catalan cuisine on its cover, and a year later Time magazine included Adrià in its 2004 list of the ten most innovative chefs. After the initial surprise of the restaurant’s closure, El Bulli Foundation was created, in 2014, to safeguard the knowledge generated around the restaurant through training and exhibitions.
Santi Santamaria, Crossing Borders
Santi Santamaria, the first Spaniard in get seven Michelin stars, was one of the main opponents to the “techno-emotional” cuisine of Ferran Adrià. He managed to move to the top of the gourmet universe with his Can Fabes restaurant, which closed its doors after his death in 2011.
Celler Can Roca, ‘Number 1’ in the World
The Celler Can Roca, selected best restaurant in the world in 2013 by Restaurant magazine, was founded by the Roca brothers in 1986. With three Michelin stars, it has replaced El Bulli as the temple of pilgrimage for those who love great food.
Carme Ruscalleda, Gastronomy´s Grand Dame
Carme Ruscalleda is the chef with more Michelin stars in the world: three for her restaurant in Sant Pol de Mar, two for Sant Pau in Tokyo and two more for Moments, in the center of Barcelona. Since 1988, she has been experimenting with seasonal products, integrating Japanese culture and contributing to the internationalization of Mediterranean cuisine. ■