Thursday, 26 November 2009

Three Years, Three Michelin Stars

2009 was my third consecutive year as a chef in the great country of Spain... and the third consecutive year I've been touched by Michelin.

The Fat Man Cometh

Carles AbellanOn Sunday 9th September 2007 I announced my choice of restaurant in which to start my professional training in Catalunya. Seven weeks later, on Thursday 22nd November 2007, I was thrilled when that restaurant - Comerç 24 - won its first Michelin star. Thrilled for two reasons. Firstly because when the team of which you are a part wins one of the highest accolades that can be awarded to your profession you are inevitably delighted. Secondly because a few months earlier I'd sat in London researching hundreds of restaurants in Barcelona and, of all of them, I'd chosen Comerç 24 as the one most deserving of award. It gave me enormous confidence in my judgment when, having read the menus and looked at photographs of the food but never tasted it, my mental palate rang bells. "The three factors that drove me to apply to Comerç 24", I wrote on this blog, "were the food, the food and oh... the food."

Nine months later I read about a place in Barcelona being named amongst the six best eateries in Spain by El País and listed by Condé Nast Traveller as amongst the world's 80 best new restaurants. These comments could have been so much hot air, but I simply had to go and see for myself.

On Tuesday 19th August 2008 I wrote of Cinc Sentits: "If you chose to go down the route of simplicity, you have to justify that by using the best ingredients and preparing them with perfect execution. Cinc Sentits does all that and a great deal more. I know where I want to work next..." Three months later I sat down with my father to enjoy another fabulous meal at Cinc Sentits. Imagine my unbridled delight when the following morning, Thursday 20th November, I discovered that Jordi, Amèlia, Roser and their staff had been awarded a highly-deserved first Michelin star. In my congratulatory post I explained that I'd been discussing a job at Cinc Sentits for some time. I'd wanted to work there ever since my first experience of the food and I'd come very close to joining Jordi's kitchen team. I can't claim to have contributed in any way to the accolade, but I'm so pleased with my gastronomic judgment.Jordi and Amèlia Artal

So that brings me to 2009. In recent years the Michelin awards for Spain & Portugal have been embargoed for publication on the third Thursday of November. But this year the announcement was put back a week to yesterday, when it was made in Madrid's San Miguel market at a Michelin gala celebration of the centenary of the guide publication in Spain. And today the news is out across the web.

The Fat Man Isn't Ready YetHow I would love to be telling you that Restaurante Ferrero had just won its first star. But, alas, it was not to be. Based on my experience of eating in Michelin-starred restaurants and working with experienced chefs from around the world, I'm convinced that our kitchen team at Ferrero have been producing food not just at 1* level but at a 2* level of precision and consistency of execution. But I suppose there are many other considerations to be taken into account. And at the end of the day it's not my opinion that counts, but that of the Michelin inspectors and their masters. Sadly, they've decided not to recognise Paco Morales and Restaurante Ferrero with an honour this year.

Like everyone who worked at Ferrero since it reopened in April, I'm bitterly disappointed. I'd already given notice to finish my contract last week, hoping very much that my departure would be shortly followed by the news that every member of our kitchen team had been hoping for. As they strive for recognition in the coming year, I shan't be part of that team. But I'll bet my worldly fortune that my friends at Ferrero will achieve their first star in a year or two. The food is simply too good to ignore.

So if Head Chef Paco Morales didn't win an accolade from The Fat Man this week, how come I've entitled this post "Three Years, Three Michelin Stars"? Well, Restaurante Ferrero isn't the only place I worked during the 2009 Michelin season. From January to March this year I spent an excellent period on stage at Martín Berasategui's Lasarte at Hotel Condes de Barcelona. And today I'm over the moon to share the news that Head Chef Antonio Sáez and his kitchen team have been rewarded with their second Michelin star. Once again I can't claim much of a contribution, but it fills me with pride to have been just a tiny part of that success.Antonio Sáez

One final ironic note. I reported last Sunday that I was considering restaurants in Galicia and Madrid for my next step. Today one of those restaurants was also honoured by Michelin. I must just be star-struck! And one note of slight embarrassment. This evening I must also add my congratulations to the team at Restaurante Julio in the tiny settlement of Fontanar dels Alforins, less than 15km from my former home in Banyeres de Mariola. Well done on your first star. I'm sorry I never got round to experiencing your food, but I'll definitely make a point of visiting next time I'm back to see my old friends.

This year's awards for Spain are as follows...
2* to 3*:El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Catalunya: Joan Roca)
1* to 2*:Casa Marcial (Arriondas, Asturias: Nacho Manzano); Lasarte at Hotel Condes de Barcelona (Barcelona, Catalunya: Antonio Sáez); La Terraza del Casino at Casino de Madrid (Madrid: Paco Roncero); Les Cols (Olot, Catalunya: Fina Puigdevall)
New 1*:Asador Etxebarri (Axpe-Marzana, Euskadi: Victor Arguinzoniz); Enoteca at Hotel Arts Barcelona (Barcelona, Catalunya: Paco Perez), A Estación (Cambre, Galicia: Beatriz Sotelo), M.B. at Abama Golf & Spa Resort (Guía de Isora, Tenerife, Islas Canarias: Paolo Casagrande), Bo.Tic (Corça, Catalunya: Albert Sastregener), Casa Julio (Fontanar dels Alforins, València: José Luis Ungidos), La Fonda Xesc (Gombrèn, Catalunya: Francesc Rovira), Cocinandos (León, Castile and León: Yolanda León García & Juanjo Pérez Robredo), As Garzas (Malpica, Galicia: Caco Agrasar), La Cabaña de la Finca Buenavista (El Palmar, Murcia: Pablo González-Conejero), Alejandro (Roquetas del Mar, Andalucía: Alejandro Sánchez), El Torreó de L'India at Hotel Villa Retiroin (Xerta, Catalunya: Francesc López), La Broche (Madrid: Ángel Palacios), DiverXO (Madrid: David Muñoz), Kabuki Wellington at Hotel Wellington (Madrid: Ricardo Sanz) and Ramón Freixa Madrid (Madrid: Ramón Freixa).
2* to 1*:Tristán, (Portals Nous, Mallorca, Balearics)
Lost 1*:Kursaal (Donostia-San Sebastián, Euskadi); Gallery Art & Food (Gijón, Asturias); Lillas Pastia (Huesca, Aragon); El Chaflán (Madrid); Solar de Puebla (Santa Cruz de Bezana, Cantabria), Read's Hotel (Santa María del Camí, Mallorca, Balearics), La Taberna de Rotilio (Sanxenxo, Galicia); Alejandro del Toro (València).

Postscript: Along with so many other chefs and gourmets, I'm absolutely delighted to see the Roca brothers win their third star. One year ago next week, just after they failed to achieve this ultimate accolade, I was privileged to eat with them. It was (and remains to this day) the most sublime dining experience of my life. I said at that time that they would surely receive the recognition they so deserve this year and today, along with many others worldwide, I'm so pleased to be proved right.


Roberto N. said...

Nice Track Record! I should ask the owners to ship you over here... Except there's no Michelin here. You're much better off in Spain anyway.

James said...

Stars seem to be shining brightly!

Got a good Christmas cooking tip for me?

Trig said...

Thanks guys. I'm looking forward to getting back into the fray in the New Year. The smart money is on Galicia.

EasyWheels run flat tyres said...

Nice post, I will have to rob the budda pictures it made me laugh :)

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