How Catalan gastronomy took over the world

Top chefs reflect on the gastronomical revolution that, coupled with a rich culinary tradition, catapulted Catalan restaurants to stardom

Chef Joan Roca from El Celler de Can Roca (by Xavier Pi)
Chef Joan Roca from El Celler de Can Roca (by Xavier Pi) / Alan Ruiz Terol

Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

August 7, 2021 07:42 PM

For decades —or centuries, some will argue—, France was seen as the standard-bearer of top-notch cuisine, and French chefs lauded as the epitome of creativity and sophistication when it came to food.  

But at some point at the turn of the 21st century, the focus shifted south: to Spain and, more specifically, to Catalonia.

Chef Ferran Adrià and his culinary innovations were largely responsible for this shift. "To say, as people everywhere have been doing for quite a while, that Ferran Adrià is the world's greatest chef, is to miss the point. Or to fall short of it, at any rate," wrote John Carlin in The Observer.

Ten years after Adrià closed El Bulli, the restaurant located in the Costa Brava from where he took over the gastronomical world, his colleagues recall the influence his work continues to have internationally.

"He created new concepts, which spilled over to the rest of the world," says chef Carme Ruscalleda, who formerly stood as the female chef with most Michelin stars. "You can travel to the US, or to Tokyo, and you’ll find adrianades," she says, referring to dishes conspicuously inspired by Adrià’s techniques.  

Speaking to Catalan News, Ruscalleda explains that while Adrià and El Bulli were instrumental in attracting international attention to Catalan cuisine, the gastronomical revolution had long been in the making.