‘We’ll close a few days over Christmas. It’ll be the first time in many years that I’ll be spending these special days with my family.’ Eduard Xatruch, like Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas (the trio at Disfrutar**, Barcelona), don’t know much about resting: They do about gastronomy and about haute cuisine, something these three worked on for years at elBulli as head chefs, where you could count holidays and days off on the fingers of one hand. This Christmas, they will rest. But not every day, as Compartir (the eatery they opened in Cadaqués in 2012) will be open until 3 January. Then, maybe they’ll stop for a few days. Four, to be precise. On the 8 they will go back to work in Barcelona, showing why Disfrutar made the biggest leap on the recent list released by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (going from 55 to 18), why two stars shine at their door, and why their interventions at Madrid Fusion always leave everyone amazed. It is innovation in its purest state: conceptually, technically, materially. This year they will return, and with surprises in store. As you’d expect.
This year, on Monday 28 at 12.20, and focusing on combinations of textures, the trio will reveal their latest new ideas in the Auditorium at the Madrid congress. ‘Contrasting textures is one of the defining axes of our cuisine; we come up with dishes whose flavours are appealing, which play with the minds of diners, and which allow us to express ourselves.’ Xatruch speaks from his space where he creates, and where they gather every morning before service; a place where they store their new recipes – up to 380 – since opening in 2014.
‘To make something crispy, to get any texture, you can use a technique but also a particular ingredient. For instance, to make an orange-juice jelly you can use a gelling agent – a technique – or, if you know how to use a specific ingredient properly, you can use a salmon head to make it.’ In the end, sums up the chef, ‘each ingredient has its own texture and each technique produces one.’ So hard to execute, so easy to explain and see in situ, via, among other things, their famous sequences, ‘where textures entertain and change by using the same ingredient that plays an essential role.’ The version now on the menu is a prawn and seaweed one.
To illustrate a suggested combination, Xatruch announces that in Madrid they will present some new fresh cheeses made with Iberico ham. ‘It’s not really cheese; it’s a spherical curd created using temperature, made with a technique that gives it its silkiness.’ And, within the sequence where this dish is offered, he says that they will also introduce a new technique used to make flourless puff pastry. Technique and ingredients. Disfrutar does not make promises in vain. Nor cheat about who comes up with each idea. ‘At elBulli we would take an ingredient and draw everything possible from it. Everything must have started with the vegetable stew in ’96, although more than a sequence it was a declension of ingredients. The concept, obviously, is not new, but perhaps the techniques used to present some ingredients are.’
Via textures, gastronomy also reaches the diner’s brain, building up and dismantling precepts, offering fun, playing, making people enjoy themselves. Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?