The beginning of the end…

In April 2008, while participating in Master Chef contest, I traveled to beautiful Barcelona. My main purpose was to win the contest. Barcelona is considered to be the city that changed the cooking culture of the modern world. It is the city of the Molecular Cuisine and surreal gastronomy. Barcelona inspired Catalan Chef Ferran Adria, in El Bulli, in the mid90s. His dishes mixed taste and art and made Barcelona the capital of high gastronomy.


Gustatory tour


Our tour in tastes is starting! Pablo, our guide, was in charge of introducing us into the food and the atmosphere of Barcelona. We walked to La Rambla, the most famous road of the city. Our first stop was Suquet de l’Almiral. Barcelona is a city with great marine tradition. It’s the port and it was the place where they used to fish. Also, there were a lot of shipyards. This restaurant is well known for its traditional rice production. There we tasted cod fish cubes, Catalonia’s traditional food. The recipe is usually made differently, but there, they used a prepared dough, which is made of beer, flour, baking soda and egg. A good combination, though. It is eaten with rice.

Our next stop was Cañete, a traditional tapas restaurant. We tried many various dishes…a salad with fresh peas, parmesan, mustard vinaigrette and wild asparagus (traditional dish of Barcelona).

Then we ate croquette with jamón ibérico and bread with tomato (pà amb tomàquet). A classic Catalonian dish is meat with seafood, surf n’ turf. Then we tried peas, tuna fillet with seaweed and chives sauce. Finally, we tried bread with truffle sauce, beef and foie grad. In my opinion, in every dish we tried, there was the same way of serving, the intensity, the acidity and generally in salt and pepper.

Then we visited the Granja M. Viader

I felt strange when I came in, it was as if time had stopped in that restaurant. I hoped to try traditional dishes. This place is famous for producing its own milk. We tried churros, a traditional Spanish recipe, which is a trend nowadays. The recipe is too easy. All you need is flour, water and salt (it is very important to be eaten, fresh and hot ) .

Our last stop was the Dos Pabrots, a Mediterranean restaurant. They work with the “sapiens” method, which is inspired by Ferran Adria. That method deals with the study and decoding of old cooking texts, ingredients that are not used anymore, even of old techniques, adjusted to the present. I consider there is a great philosophy behind each part of both food and method. I suggest you try one of the first dishes of the restaurant, fava beans cooked in almond milk and chicken stock.


Testing and tribulation begin


I am in La Boqueria, in one of the most historic open-air markets in Europe, that has been there since 1200. Our first testing is being held there. We have to prepare tapas, not only for the judges, but also for the whole market (about 3000 people) in an hour! The Spanish gastronomy is based on tradition, with simple tastes and a few ingredients. Spanish people are quite selective when it comes to food, they are good in comparing tastes and that’s why the judgement is harsh! The dish I made was: capon with fresh almonds, garlic and chili peppers. Also, roasted sardine with oil and peach, wrapped with peaches. After the testing, we visited the Dis Fru tar, a restaurant which owns two Michelin stars. The second testing took place there. But before that, we met chef, Mateu Casañas (one of the 3 main chefs), who explained us that the decoration of the restaurant is fully combined with the philosophy of the food. The ceramics and the metallic items of the restaurants, point to Ninot Market, which is opposite the restaurant. The ceramics comprise the main component in transport, building construction and in bakers, in all around the Mediterranean. That is the reason why the whole restaurant is made of that. Then we met the second chef, Oriol Castrol (one of my motives. I had never imagined, I would have met him), whose restaurant is “under the sea”. Dis Fru tar is a creative restaurant in which you should be extremely organized if you wish to work. It is very important to study, so a lot of different information is saved every year. It is urgent for them to know what has been made by the other chefs. They have a library with cooking books to study, get inspired and create. Finally, we met chef Eduard Xatruch, who talked about the planning of the restaurant, reciping, computerization and the catalogue. How each catalogue is made and the utility of the planning in a restaurant. Everything is written down on the catalogues. The annual catalogue is divided in two lists, formal and informal. In the formal one, there are all those dishes that have reached the desired creative level. In the informal one, there are those that haven’t, but it is believed to be interesting for later on or they might be inspiring in the future. In all the catalogues there are photos and recipes of all the best dishes that have been made. Then, we watched Oriol practicing one of the most popular techniques in the world, which was made up in El Bulli, in 2003. Spheroidizing. After that Masterclass, it was time for the second testing. We should copy a two Michelin stars’ dish (great challenge, but great chance too). It was egg alla carbonara, with truffle and two flowers (it was a great honor to cook Oriol’s dish). I had to cook 4 such dishes, in two hours time.


A dream comes true


The finals begin and I couldn’t wait to serve the dishes. It was a bit horrifying moment, as it was very important for me to be watched by those 3 top chefs. I had been watching them on the internet, I have read a lot of their books but I could never believe I would be able to cook by their side.