The culinary world bids farewell to Santi Santamaria in his native Sant Celoni

The top Catalan chef Santi Santamaria, who has 7 Michelin stars, died from a heart attack in Singapore on Wednesday. His remains arrived today in his native town of Sant Celoni (45 minutes North from Barcelona). The chefs Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Sergi Arola, Pedro Subijana, among others, attended the good-bye ceremony.

CNA / Margalida Amengual

February 18, 2011 09:40 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The world of Catalan and Spanish cuisine is in mourning. One of the top chefs, Santi Santamaria, died two days ago. Santamaria was the first Catalan chef to get 3 Michelin stars for his restaurant, ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’, in Sant Celoni bak in 1994. In fact, ‘El Racó de Can Fabes’ holds this top distinction for the last 18 consecutive years. In the last decade, Santamaria opened other restarants, some of which also have Michelin stars. In total, Santi Santamaria held 7 Michelin stars, becoming the fist Spanish chef to get so many. Santamaria had 2 restaurants in Catalonia, 1 in Madrid, 1 in Toledo, 1 in Dubai and 1 in Singapore. While visiting this last restaurant, Santamanria, aged 53, collapsed and died some minutes later from a heart attack. The autopsy confirmed the cause of the death and his remains were repatriated back to Catalonia. His remains arrived today at his home town of Sant Celoni (45 minutes North from Barcelona) and a chapel of rest was set up at the local theatre, as a public homage. Thousands of people congregated to say their last goodbye to the cook and pass their respect to the family. Among them, the top and world-famous Spanish and Catalan cooks, like Ferran Adrià, Martín Berasategui, Juan Mari Arzak, Pedro Subijana or Sergi Arola. A farewell ceremony took place at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, with the attendance of the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, among other authorities.

The chapel of rest, with Santi Santamaria’s coffin, opened this morning at 12 o’clock and was open for two hours. It opened again at 3 o’clock in the afternoon for another hour. Thousands of anonymous citizens congregated to say their last goodbye to the town’s most famous son. The chapel was set up at the Sant Celoni’s local theatre, l’Ateneu. Next to the family members, friends and workers of his restaurants were the most important chefs of the world’s cuisine, coming from Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Joan Rosaura, one of Santamaria’s close friends and the family spokesperson, wanted to thank everybody for their support and the authorities for the fast repatriation procedure. He affirmed that the family’s intention was to make Santamaria’s memory grow. He also defined Santamaria as “a man of his village and country”, which “he extremely loved”.

The Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, internationally recognised on many occasions as the best chef in the world, also wanted to say his goodbye to Santamaria and express his sorrow. Adrià and Santamaria were involved in a bitter quarrel in the last 2 years because of Santamaria’s book ‘La cocina al desnudo’. Santamaria was a defender of the Catalan traditional cuisine and the exclusive use of natural products. In this book, he criticised the use of non-natural products in cuisine, focusing his critics on Ferran Adrià’s “molecular cuisine” and his innovative techniques. Many chefs defended Adrià and his creativity, and Santamaria was then criticised for what many considered to be “frivolous” and “prejudiced” accusations. Adrià wanted today to give his support to the family, despite a controversy he did not deny but that does not hide the friendship they both shared. “We do not have to be hypocritical now, because everybody knows the differences we had, but during many years we have been friends and now I have to be next to his family”, he said. Adrià said that he “would have liked to have the time to fix it [his friendship with Santamaria], but it cannot happen. Now the most important thing is not to be hypocritical and to be next to the family”.

The Basque chef Pedro Subijana, who also has 3 Michelin stars, stated that “it is a very harsh hit” as Santamaria “was a reference in the Catalan and Spanish cuisine”. Subijana added that Santamaria “was a great professional” and that “he loved the profession”. Subijana concluded on a positive note saying that “the chance is that he was surrounded by people that were following his steps and that they will keep the same level in his honour”. Another Basque chef, Juan Mari Arzak said that Santi Santamaria’s death was “incredible”. Arzak concluded that “he was a person in a great professional moment as he opened to the world”. Santamaria had opened a restaurant in Dubai, called ‘Ossiano’, and another in Singapore, called ‘Santi’ and led by his daughter Regina. Martin Berasetegui ensured that for him, Santamari “was a mirror” and he reminded that when he was still “a moron” he was already admiring him. “I loved him, as everybody in my class, and it has been an honour sharing a friendship with him”. The Catalan chef Sergi Arola said that Santamaria “was a person who lived what he was doing with passion”. Other chefs such as Joan Roca and Carme Ruscalleda already said in the last days how sorry they were for his loss and how important Santamaria had been for Catalan’s cuisine.

The President of the Catalan Governemnt, Artur Mas, attended the farewell ceremony, scheduled at 5 o’clock in the same theatre. Mas wanted to underline the “great personality and the human quality” of Santamaria. The Catalan President referred to Santamaria’s farewell card, which defined him as “son, husband, father, grand-father, friend and cook”. Mas said that Santamaria “was known as a cook, but he was the rest of things”. He concluded stating “he was a person of this country who also worked to build up the country in every moment”.