Joel Castanyé, the magician who takes fruit "from the tree to your mouth"

Miguel Lorenci


"We are trying to do with fruit what Adriá did at elBulli, and the results are wonderful"

Joel Castanyé (Mollerussa, 1976), chef at the restaurant La Boscana de Bellvís - in the Pla d'Urgell, twenty kilometers from Lleida - is a magician who is determined to take fruit "from the tree to the mouth". He demonstrated this at Fusión Alimentos de España in Madrid, where he did his magic by mixing techniques and influences, always with fruit from Lleida as the main ingredient. "We are trying to do with fruit what Ferrán Adrià did with cuisine at elBulli, and the results are wonderful," he said on Monday.

"We are a fruit-growing power in Europe and we are looking for sustainability", said a chef who manages his orchards "as another part of the kitchen". "We cook from the tree to the mouth. We treat fruit as if it were the best seafood, the best meat, the best vegetables or the best truffles in Piedmont", he said. "We apply all the techniques we know to the world of fruit and this gives us enormous variability", boasts Castanyé.

"We have 60,000 square meters of land and only eight tables", stressed this magician who has raised fruit to the highest level of haute cuisine, discovering flavors "that we had never tasted before". He said this before presenting some of his fascinating dishes, such as the persimmon sausage, made with this baked fruit stuffed into a pork casing.

He also talked about his apple water, which he freezes for twenty-four hours to melt the block of ice with a cheesecloth. The water is completely transparent and wonderful; fruit water macerated with thyme, rosemary, basil or lemon verbena and served hot with Escudella broth.

Red kiwi

Another essential dish is a red kiwi, which the chef planted for the first time in Lleida. Grilled with the skin on, it is served with water from the kiwi itself and a sour cream with a little caviar and virgin olive oil. "The fruit is the protagonist, but we add caviar to show that fruit can be on the same level as the best caviar”.

Hollow out a local lady's-neck fig to stuff with king crab. Pickle kiwis with water and vinegar and add a mayonnaise with chive oil and fig leaf oil "with very special nuances". "We have also made nectarine curries with lobster thanks to the heads we have left over from weddings - he has celebrated more than 4,000 in his restaurant - tartlets filled with sausage and pork cheek, pig's trotters and cheeks blanched three times in cold water with a sofrito of shallots and white wine", he says.

"We made a grilled paraguayo, one of the many curries we make, barbecue and apple miso", says Castanyé, who never stops experimenting and is even making a line of fruit-based soaps in collaboration with a perfume company.

"Thirty percent of fruit is thrown away in supermarkets because it is ugly. With a Catalan artist who lives in Norway, we are making dyes for textiles," concludes Castanyé, the architect of a project that goes far beyond a gastronomic restaurant: it is a way of life and a "dream" that was awarded a Michelin star in 2016.






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