Carles Abellan

Creative, bold, playful, generous, ubiquitous, sugar cane, meticulous, successful … Carles represents the new paradigm of contemporary chef, concerned with both pure culinary creation and the reinvention of forgotten concepts and the development of business opportunities. Clean technique, precise gesture, always restless gaze, open mind, management capacity and leadership are some of the keys to understand how that young and enthusiastic chef of the first Bulli is now a national and international gastronomic benchmark. Time has always been on their side.

How did you come across the kitchen?

The kitchen found me! At the age of 21, after military service, not knowing what to do, although knowing that I was skilled with my hands, I signed up for the School of Hospitality in Barcelona, ​​which had just opened. I coincided with Sergi Arola, with José Andrés, with Morros, with Gatell, with Marqués … A heroic generation. But I still didn’t know if I liked it. It was while working at Els Pescadors for training when, bored of making coffees at the bar, I asked for the kitchen and… I was interested!

 

Although the principles are hard …

Of course. Because what I had to do was wash dishes. But I felt there was something wonderful there. I interviewed him shortly afterwards in the Odyssey, with Antonio Ferrer … The “nouvelle cuisine”, the sauces made at the moment …

 

You were on the road …

I really started walking, yes, when I joined a group of chefs with very avant-garde ideas – “Joves Cuiners” – among whom was Ferran Adrià. Having heard that he was half crazy, I asked him to go up to El Bulli to see that … and he said yes. At Easter in 1987 I was already in Cala Montjoi.

And finally, the crush.

Yes. How did you work there! We read the latest culinary books in France, we discussed gastronomy, we talked about the products, we argued with cooking … That was refinement, that was real cuisine.

 

It sounds exhausting.

And it was. So much so that I left it to clarify my future. I started giving cooking classes and a good day … I meet Ferran and Juli at the airport and they tell me if I want to be the chef of their new restaurant in Barcelona, ​​the Talaia Mar. And yes! My first time as a chef…

 

Talaia Mar is a true legend …

It was great. There we developed El Bulli’s cuisine in the form of signature tapas. From there came the famous deconstructed potato omelette.

 

But you ended up not just cooking, but running the restaurant.

Yes … In a meeting with the partners, they demanded Juli Soler to urgently find a director … And Juli, turning to me, said: “I already have it, it’s Carlos.” So, by the face.

 

And you succeeded.

Yes, I made it profitable and turned it into a cult restaurant. With me were Sergi Arola and Oriol Balaguer … At that time I learned well what hospitality management is.

 

But Talaia ended …

I left because already then I was thinking of setting up my own, a project that I was developing night after night… But I met up with Ferran again and he proposed a challenge to me: designing with him all the gastronomy (restaurants and breakfasts) of the Hacienda hotel Benazuza that El Bulli had just stayed in Seville…

 

And I walk south …

It was two years of creative fever. We made unique breakfasts, which have not yet been overcome. We made a restaurant where you could eat the mythical dishes of El Bulli … And a lot of management, of course … Until …

 

… Comerç 24 was made and the story begins…

I already had my project very tight, because I was working on the Barcelona-Seville-Barcelona planes. My idea was clear: miniature cuisine, “signature” tapas, something that did not exist, very new, and with a very contemporary, very New York look. A concept of creative tapas in the framework of a restaurant, with a wine list, sommelier, open kitchen, modern and “casual” atmosphere … I was also a pioneer in management, because there I instituted (in disbelief of all my friends) the two shifts .

 

And in this came Mick Jagger.

Yes, one night he came to dinner, at the last minute and without reservation … It was something brutal. I said to the team, “We can close now.” And then: “Now we have to do much better.” And the Michelin star that I had never imagined came. The truth is that creativity left me …

 

And you “got off” at Tapas 24 …

Yes, it was like a “downshifting” to the world of traditional tapas, to the neighborhood bar but well done, because then tapas in Barcelona were generally very mediocre. I, who like every day of tapas, wanted something where I could eat them well. Good tomato bread, hand-cut ham, quality potatoes and at the moment … Tapas of a lifetime with the Comerç 24 spirit. The success was overwhelming and immediate.

Then it was Bravo, at Hotel W

Due to the great success of my first two stores, they came looking for me from different hotels. The Arts, the W … And there, in the W, facing the Mediterranean, I imagined a different concept: the Bravo. Cuisine of product, essence, origin … bare dishes. The contemporary grill to express the authenticity of the product.

 

And there, in El Bravo, in addition to all this, in addition to a great tapas bar facing the sea, you are launching your new concept, “La cocina de Barcelona”.

Yes. After years of research, in Bravo you can see the lines that mark the confluence of times, movements, genres and flavors that is the cuisine of Barcelona, which has always been very open and permeable to Europe.

Carles Abellan Estrella Michelin

Your new and last restaurant, the Suculent, would be within the concept “The cuisine of Barcelona”, right?

So is. Suculent, which is a fourth concept in my gastronomic world, is a less bourgeois food house than the “fonda” and that was called “fonda house”, with an eminently popular character. And it is one of the parameters that define “Barcelona’s cuisine”. Simple, very succulent dishes, a space that blends in with the El Raval neighborhood (we have Catalan rumba performances during the weekend), no frills but very authentic decoration …

 

We leave another concept, that of “finger food”, that you have opened in Luz de Gas Bar.

This is an adventure in which I accompany Fede Sardà with a very informal concept: music, drinks and food. Sandwiches and tapas; paninis, “farmer”, “mcfoie”, truffled bikini, “papitu”, hamburger, bar tapas … And drinks and music. Everything made with refinement, with love.

 

In the end, Carles, most of your concepts are dignifying culinary formats that were forgotten about quality and good work …

True. In addition to avant-garde creation, for a culinary corpus to be complete it must know how to dignify and raise the level of all its areas, even the most humble.

 

Next steps?

The internationalization of some of my brands such as Tapas 24, Yango, an urban food project … But this is another trip. A trip, that of Carles, who knows no horizons …