Spain has long been at the epicenter of the global foodie revolution and leading the charge are the innovative chefs of Catalunya. Although undoubtedly inspired by local boy Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame, these 10 Catalan cooks make food that is distinctively their own, whether creating Barcelona fusion cuisine, traditional Pyrenean fare or Michelin-starred meals on cliff top hideaways. We discover more about the top 10 Catalan chefs to watch right now.
As the head chef at Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca, which knocked Denmark’s Noma off the top spot in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants listing, Joan Roca is certainly one to watch. His brand of experimental cuisine, akin to Heston Blumenthal’s molecular gastronomy, results in a tasting menu that runs to 20 courses and encompasses dishes such as ceviche topped with frozen lime and sourdough ice cream. Most notoriously, Roca has experimented with ‘perfume cooking’, in which he created a range of dishes infused with famous perfumes, it may not be to everyone’s tastes, but a waiting list that runs close to a year can’t be wrong.
When he was 24 years old, Jordi Cruz became the second youngest chef ever to be awarded a Michelin star. Now 37, the Barcelona native has four stars under his belt and heads the kitchen at ABaC Restaurant & Hotel. His style of cooking, which Cruz himself terms as ‘evolutionary and restless’, sees ABaC roll out dishes such as casarecce pasta with sea cucumber, Wagyu beef with barbequed foie gras, and tonic water bubbles with candied lemon and juniper. The architect-designed restaurant space and terrace are a hit with diners and even the rococo Versace tableware can’t detract from Cruz’s masterful cuisine.
The scion of four generations of bakers and one of Barcelona’s most familiar culinary figures, Cristian Escribà is surprisingly approachable. On most days he can be found chatting with regulars in one of the two branches of his family’s eponymous Barcelona patisserie, which since 1906 has been rolling out the best croissants, cakes and chocolates in town. With Cristian at the helm however, the Escribà brand has gone from being a mere patisserie to a member of the Academia Española de Gastronomía and the French Culinary Academy. A recognized maestro of chocolate and candy creations, Cristian Escribà counts the likes of King Felipe VI, Leo Messi, Ferran Adrià and Pedro Almodóvar among his devotees. Check out the photos of them that line the café walls as you breakfast on Barcelona’s crispiest croissants dipped in hot chocolate so thick the spoons stand upright.
Escribà, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 546, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 01 60 27
Escribà, Les Ramblas 83, Barcelona, Spain, +34 934 54 75 35
Jordi Herrera once harbored dreams of becoming an anthropologist, but Spain’s foodie community can be thankful that he plumped to become a chef instead. With a penchant for traditional Catalan flavors, Herrera has cornered Barcelona’s trend for ‘nose-to-tail’ eating. In his Eixample restaurant, Manairó Herrera brings the traditions of the Pyrenees down to street level and then applies his blowtorch style of cooking. There isn’t much on the menu that hasn’t been put to the flame, from the sardines a la plancha to meloso de cordero. The genius of Herrera is to take these traditional flavors and infuse them with new energy, which is why he and Manairó hold a Michelin star.
Jordi Vilà sees himself, according to his website, as a ‘provocateur’. What’s certain is that the rest of Barcelona’s gastronomic community sees him a much-respected figure. Having started out as a baker’s apprentice at only 15, Vilà rose through the ranks of the city’s best restaurants until, in 2002, he opened Alkimia, with a Michelin star soon following in 2005. With a playful approach to traditional Spanish dishes, think staples such as lamb, almonds and pan con tomate jazzed up with dashes of vermouth and bergamot, Vilà’s food is classic and considered, a tendency reflected in the minimal, determinedly untrendy interiors: both Vilà and Alkimia are led by food, not fashion.
Alkimia, Ronda Sant Antoni 41, Barcelona, Spain, +34 932 07 61 15