The Catalan constellation of Michelin stars suffers from the absence of El Bulli and Santi Santamaria

The 2012 Michelin Red Guide has awarded a second star to the Barcelona restaurant Àbac, and a first star to the family restaurant Casamar on the Costa Brava. However, the total number of Michelin stars in Catalonia has dropped due to the untimely death of the chef Santi Santamaria and the closure of three restaurants, including Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, considered for many years to be the best restaurant in the world. The Celler de Can Roca and San Pau maintain their 3 stars, as well as the rest of the restaurants with two and one. This confirms that Catalonia continues to be a reference point for Haute Cuisine.


November 25, 2011 08:35 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The 2012 Michelin Red Guide awarded fewer stars to Catalan restaurants compared to 2011. The reasons are due to the closure of three awarded restaurants and the death of Santi Santamaria, Chef of Can Fabes. However, all Catalan restaurants already awarded, and open, kept all their stars, and two others were awarded an extra star: the Àbac in Barcelona and the Casamar in the Costa Brava (in Llafranc). The 2012 guide also confirmed the three stars for the Sant Pau restaurant at the seaside village of Sant Pol de Mar and those of the Celler de Can Roca in Girona –which was recognised this year as the world’s second best restaurant by the Restaurant magazine–. In fact, some of the people there to witness the presentation of the Michelin Guide’s Spanish edition, held in Barcelona on Thursday evening, stated, with some pride, that all the stars lost were due to causes of “force majeure”. The closing of Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, which had been considered the best restaurant in the world for several years, represented the automatic loss of three Michelin stars. In addition, two other restaurants with one star each closed their doors, Drolma in Barcelona city centre and Lluçanés, not far from the port. However, the saddest loss was for Can Fabes, a restaurant at the top of world cuisine since 1994. The guide believes that the restaurant’s team has to prove they deserve the third star after the sudden death of Chef Santi Santamaria in February, and only awarded Can Fabes two Michelin stars. Santi Santamaria’s daughter said they will continue working hard to honour her father’s memory as “if they had won three or twelve stars”.

The ceremony for the presentation of the Michelin stars took place on Thursday evening at the Palace Hotel, in Barcelona, a city that reflects the culinary tradition of Catalonia as well as Catalan cuisine’s internationally recognised quality and creativity. The world recognised chefs Joan Roca (Celler de Can Roca) and Carme Ruscalleda (Sant Pau) were displaying their art and offering their creations, combined with those from other chefs. The food for the ceremony was provided by the restaurants Celler de Can Roca (three stars), Sant Pau (three stars), Àbac (two stars), Dos Cielos (one star) and Caelis (one star).

In the prestigious 2012 Michelin Red Guide, two Catalan restaurants were awarded with one star. Àbac, in Barcelona, recovered the second star that it had lost last year, and the family restaurant Casamar in the Costa Brava village of Llafranc obtained its first Michelin star. The closures of El Bulli, when the restaurant was at its best, Drolma and Lluçanés, represent a loss of five Michelin stars in Catalonia, which are to be added to the 1 star lost by the multi-award winning Can Fabes. This last example is also an exception, as its Chef and owner, Santi Santamaria, passed away in February. The Red Guide decided to award the restaurant only two stars and not three, which is already a very high distinction, as a way to recognise Santi Santamaria’s added value. It was a way of asking the new chef of Can Fabes to work hard to win the third star back.

Can Fabes faces a new challenge

Santi Santamaria’s restaurant Can Fabes is now run by Santi Santamaria’s daughter Regina Santamaria. Xavier Pallicer, who was the restaurant’s Sous-chef, is now in charge of the kitchen. He remained optimistic and added that “the restaurant is still among the elite and maintained two stars”. “Those responsible for the guide have assured us that this is not a punishment for our cuisine, but a consequence of Santi’s loss, and it marks the start of a new era for the restaurant”, Pallicer explained.

Regina Santamaria, on the other hand, said that she expected the loss of the third star, but also believes that Can Fabes will keep on working as if it had “three or twelve Michelin stars”, as the current main objective is to work on the new project without her father in charge.

Àbac gets its lost star back

Jordi Cruz, Chef at Àbac restaurant in Barcelona, was “very pleased” to know the restaurant’s team had recovered the star they had lost last year. Cruz found the reasons for this turnaround in the “philosophy” of the restaurant. He said that there is a commitment to working with “a great product”, which also has “a high cost”. Therefore, this level was difficult to maintain in a year that he described as “complicated due to the crisis”.

An unexpected present for Casamar

The family owned restaurant, Casamar, located north of Barcelona in the Costa Brava town of Llafranc, did not expect a Michelin star. Nevertheless, Quim Casellas, Chef at the restaurant, admitted that “it couldn’t have come at a better time”.

Casamar is part of a small hotel with the same name that opened its doors next to the beach in 1954. Quim and his sister are the third generation working in the restaurant that their grandparents started. “I had my doubts whether a restaurant that had the same name as a two star hotel fitted in the Michelin project, but we have now confirmed that it does”, said a satisfied Casellas.

The combination of traditional cuisine –specialised in fish from the same coast where the restaurant centres its activity– and culinary innovation is, in Casella’s opinion, one of Casamar’s most distinct elements.

Tribute to Santi Santamaria and Ferran Adrià

The Michelin star ceremony was also a tribute to chef Santi Santamaria, who died on February 16th last and was the first Catalan cook awarded with three stars. During the presentation, the Michelin guide’s Director also wished Ferran Adrià the best of luck. He ran the 3 star Michelin star restaurant El Bulli, which closed its doors in July because he wanted to end a chapter in his life and start a new project. The world renowned chef is now working on the El Bulli Foundation, an innovative culinary think tank that will open in the old restaurant’s location in 2014.