The Catalan chef Santi Santamaria, with 7 Michelin stars, dies at 53

Santamaria was at his Singapore restaurant when he died. The actual causes of the death are still unknown, but the family talks about a heart attack. Santamaria was a defender of the Catalan traditional cuisine. He had two restaurants close to Barcelona and one in Madrid, Toledo, Dubai, and Singapore. He was the first Catalan chef to get three Michelin Stars for his main restaurant, ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

February 16, 2011 11:46 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The famous 53 year-old chef Santi Santamaria died today when he was visiting his restaurant in Singapore. Santamaria was a well-known defender of Catalan cuisine, which he combined with creativity and a certain degree of innovation. He defended natural products and he launched a bitter controversy with Ferran Adrià –recognised by many as the best chef in the world- on how top innovation was used in cuisine. However, despite last year’s controversy, Santi Santamaria and Ferran Adrià led the Catalan cuisine since the early 1990s and pushed for its international projection. Santamaria was 1 of the 4 Catalan chefs with a restaurant awarded 3 Michelin stars. In fact, he was the first one to get them, back in 1994, for his restaurant ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’, in the village of Sant Celoni (45 minutes North from Barcelona). ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’ never lost the 3 stars since then and Santi Santamaria increased its constellation with 2 stars for his restaurant ‘Santceloni’ in Madrid, 1 for ‘Tierra’ next to Toledo, and 1 for ‘Evo’, close to Barcelona’s airport. Santamaria recently opened a restaurant in Dubai called ‘Ossiano’, located on the palm-tree-sized artificial surface, and another one in Singapore, called ‘Santi’ and led by his daughter.

Santamaria collapsed when he was showing his Singapore restaurant to a group of journalists. He was immediately transferred to a local hospital. However, despite resuscitation attempts, he died around 13h (CET). The family thinks he suffered a heart attack. The autopsy will take place tomorrow and the exact causes of the death will then be clarified.

Santi Santamaria’s death represents an important loss for Catalan cuisine. Joan Roca and Carme Ruscalleda, both also with 3-Michelin-star restaurants, emphasised Santamaria’s talent, creativity, passion, and love for cuisine. They both stressed his leading role defending Catalan traditional cuisine and fostering its international projection.

In 1981 Santamaria transformed the family traditional restaurant into ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’, together with his wife, Àngels. In fact, Santamaria was always affirming that his main cuisine teacher was his mother. In 1988, he got his first Michelin star and in 1990 the second one. In 1994 he got the third one, becoming the first Catalan chef to receive this top distinction. In fact, Santi Santamaria was also the first Spanish chef to collect up to 7 Michelin stars in the same year. ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’ repeated the maximum distinction non-stop in the last 18 years.

In 2006 he opened his restaurant ‘Evo’, in the hotel Hesperia Tower, close to Barcelona’s airport. ‘Evo’ was awarded with 1 Michelin star. In 2007, he opened his restaurant ‘Tierra’, next to Toledo, also with 1 Michelin star. Santamaria was the owner of the 2-Michelin-star ‘Santceloni’, in Madrid’s downtown. Recently he opened ‘Ossiano’ in Dubai and ‘Santi’ in Singapore.

Santi Santamaria was a collaborator of the Catalan News Agency and he wrote a couple of articles on CNA’s blog ‘Catalan Views’. The articles were two reminders of the seasonal feasts. The first one explained how he remembered his childhood summer meals, while everybody was celebrating the village party and the patron saint day. The second article explained the tradition to celebrate Christmas around a table and an exquisite meal. In fact, Santi Santamaria used to collaborate with many media, such as the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.