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Dessert at El Celler de Can Roca © City Foodsters
Dessert at El Celler de Can Roca © City Foodsters
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7 Chefs Who Defined Contemporary Spanish Cuisine

Picture of Tara Jessop
Updated: 11 October 2017
For a long time it seemed that France was going to dominate the gastronomic world forever – at least in Europe. Not so. These days the country that gave the world haute cuisine has some fierce competition across its borders. Here in Spain, a host of contemporary chefs around the country have firmly established Spain’s standing in the culinary world.

Ferran Adrià

No mention of contemporary Spanish cuisine can omit the name of Ferran Adrià. One of the most influential 21st century chefs in the world, he is considered one of the forefathers of the trend known as ‘molecular gastronomy’ – a term he personally rejects. His cuisine, as expressed in his now closed elBulli restaurant, is a reinvention of classic dishes and flavour combinations to give them new appearances, new textures and new personalities. One of his most iconic creations is the spherified olive: an olive which looks like an olive, tastes like an olive but appears as something different in the mouth.

A spherified olive
A spherified olive | © Charles Haynes

Juan Mari Arzak

At the tender age of 75, Juan Mari Arzak is something of a veteran on the Spanish culinary scene. Born into a family of restaurant owners in the Basque Country, he took over from his parents in 1966 and brought a fresh new perspective to the recipes that had been in his family for generations. A torchbearer for what is now referred to as ‘New Basque Cuisine’, his restaurant, Arzak, was awarded 3 Michelin stars in 1989. His daughter Elena has since joined him in the kitchen and has been spotted as one of the world’s best female chefs.

Martín Berasategui

Another of the founders of New Basque Cuisine, Martín Bersasategui began working at a time when there were no Michelin stars in the Basque Country and has gone on to hold the most stars of any Spanish chef ever. He received his first star in his parents’ restaurant at the age of just 25, while one of this most recent accomplishments involves running the first restaurant in Barcelona to receive three Michelin stars.

Vegetable salad at Lasarte-Oria
Vegetable salad at Lasarte-Oria | © Lou Stejskal

Joan Roca i Fontané

Born as an annexe to the main family-run restaurant located near Girona in Catalonia, El Celler de Can Roca has since twice been voted best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. Behind it are the three brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca – head chef, sommelier and pastry chef respectively. Grounded in traditional Spanish and Catalan cuisine, Joan Roca’s dishes make use of avant-garde techniques to offer guests a new experience of the familiar.

The world in five snacks at El Celler de Can Roca
The world in five snacks at El Celler de Can Roca | © City Foodsters

Carme Ruscalleda

Becoming one of the country’s best chefs is tough in any case but doing so when you’re a woman is even tougher. There can be no other testimony of Carme Ruscalleda‘s hard-work and talent than the fact that she has successfully become the world’s only female chef to be awarded five Michelin stars. Born to a family of farmers from rural Catalonia, Ruscellada now runs a two Michelin star in Tokyo alongside her main restaurant, Sant Pau, in the seaside town of Sant Pol de Mar and Moments in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona.

Carme Ruscalleda