Sunday, 9 September 2007

In Pursuit Of My Dream

Sorry I couldn't say anything earlier, but following my recent visit to Catalunya I've had some serious thinking and planning to do. Much as I enjoyed my work experience at La Gigantea, there were some issues that finally tipped the scales against my taking up a position there this autumn. The sudden departure of the Head Chef and the instability that inevitably resulted would not have been a good start for my career. And although the hotel was unbelievably beautiful, it was also located in a very isolated village with no easy transport links. So in the end I regretfully decided not to progress the offer further.

At the end of the day, you have to pursue your dreams or life is not worth living. And my dream is to be at the heart of a busy, thriving, modern urban environment producing some of the world's greatest eclectic food. For those who haven't already guessed, I'll let Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folc and the late great Freddie Mercury explain which city I'm heading to in three weeks' time in search of my dream.


On the 8th of October 1988, when I was just less than one year old, Freddie and Montserrat gave the final performance of this iconic song in Montjuïc Park, just a mile from the restaurant where I will be working. A Zoroastrian and a Catholic singing on the Jewish Mountain - you can't get much more eclectic than that! Within days Freddie became too ill to ever perform again and he finally passed away three years later. A piece of musical history made more poignant this week by the death of Luciano Pavarotti, a man whose signed photograph stared down at me from the walls of perhaps the first truly great restaurant I ever ate in - Mama Lucia's on Foster Avenue, Midwood, Brooklyn.

Having chosen my destination city, I needed to identify the right place to work. After a great deal of careful research, one restaurant stood out for me from everywhere else. That restaurant is Comerç 24, located in the Bari Gòtic district of the Ciutat Vella (Old City). Click here for more information about Ç24 and, if you have Google Earth installed, fly there by clicking on 'View in Google Earth'.

The three factors that drove me to apply to Comerç 24 were the food, the food and oh... the food.

C24 describes its cooking as a cuisine d'auteur with strong emphasis on the alternation between creativity and tradition. Their dishes are often served as small portions in the style of tapas, which Ferran Adrià himself explained are "the emblem and expression of a sense of play in food". This style of thinking is widely recognised as being the essence of the new Catalan cuisine. The roots are deep in Catalan tradition, but are built upon with strong influences from Italy, Japan, the Basque Country and elsewhere. They refer to the cuisine as "glocal" - a 21st century product deep rooted in local cooking, but curious, open-minded and always ready to incorporate the best that global cooking has to offer. Food without boundaries, but from the most intimate, local and personal point of view. Food that truly pushes the envelope. It might be the familiar presented as the unfamiliar or vice-versa, it could even be the same dish presented in two ways: the origin and the evolution. The cuisine practised at Ç24 is inspirational, thought-provoking, intriguing, evocative.

And that's why I want to be there, right at the heart of the storm.

Carles Abellan
The food may be the principal attraction, but that's not to ignore the chef, of course. Executive Head Chef/Patron of Comerç 24 is Carles Abellan, protégé of Ferran Adrià and now one of the most highly respected chefs in Catalunya and, indeed, the whole of Spain. Click on the photo strip above for his bio.

I have accepted the offer of a three-month apprenticeship or stage (pronounced 'starge' as in French) at Comerç 24, commencing on 2nd October and running through until New Year 2008. Training under the guidance of Head Chef Arnau Muñío, I'm sure I'll learn a huge amount and take a major step forward in my development. As an unpaid apprentice, it means I'll have to live in student digs (unless anyone out there can offer me anything better) and probably work in a local bar on my days off. But I'm sure it will be more than worth it. This restaurant cooks and serves food the way I want to cook and serve food. And that's what counts at the end of the day. Sponsorship and donations gladly accepted.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck Trig. I'm sure that this is a well thought out decison. Wishing you the best. AP.

Casey said...

Barcelona is such a fabulous city with access to wonderful cooking ingredients -- to me the seafood there is amongst the best in the world. I can't wait to read your upcoming posts.

Trig said...

Cheers AP

Casey - I can't wait to get out there

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Well done! Much better to be in Barcelona. As much as you wont be paid in cash you'll be paid tenfold from the experience. Look forward to hearing all about it. Good luck and have fun!

Kathryn said...

Comerc 24 is one of my favourite restaurants ever, I had the most amazing meal there, not just a meal - an experience. It was wonderful.

Everyone knows about it already but in case you don't, you have to go to Bar pintxo in the market. Whenever I go to Barcelona I go there before I've even checked into the hotel to have the most amazing croquetas I've ever tried.

Jeanne said...

Oh how wonderful! You are going to come back poor in cash but so rich in experiences. There is nothing like working in a foreign city to really broaden your horizons - it is just a completely different experience to visiting for a week or two. Barcelona is a fantastic city - it really does have everything, from art to architecture to the beach to awesome restaurants. I really do envy you and wish you luck with your time there :)

dan said...

Excellent news Trig. Best of luck.

Make sure you keep blogging. If you have time.....

Trig said...

Amanda - That's the plan! Although, this is only the first stepping stone on my travels. After my 3 month stage I will either stay on at C24 if they're willing to take me on, or move on to my next step...

Kathryn - I'll be sure to stop by the bar as soon as I have the chance.

Jeanne - Thanks! However as I've told Amanda, this is only the first step. I plan on being on the road for a good few years in total, so I'll have plenty of time for making money!

Dan - I plan to keep the blog running, but I'll have to change how it works. I will try my best!

GODrums said...

Trig!

Congratulations on the apprenticeship. I cannot imagine how excited you must be. Having recently switched employment myself, I know how stability comes into the equation.

I do some part time work with Pascal Olhat in California. He makes some beautiful food. Too bad, Orange County wasn't the place you wanted to be. HA!

We all look forward to reading about your life in Spain. It'll save on travel money.

Take care and God Bless!

West at the Caddywampus Cafe

Trig said...

Thanks Godrums, and I look forward to writing about my experiences!

Karen said...

Congrats on the position! You're so lucky to go to Barcelona, it's gorgeous!

William said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
William said...

Congratulations! I have booked Comerc 24 many times for clients and they rave about the food. Hey - it must be nice to see your name in print on the menu!

Trig said...

William - Thanks! That must be a good sign.

Margaret said...

Good luck! Have fun!!

Trig said...

Thank you Margaret!


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