Catalan chef Carme Ruscalleda, who holds a host of honors across her three restaurants (two located in Spain and one in Toyko), juggles her small empire with aplomb. There’s Sant Pau, in the seaside town of Sant Pol de Mar just north of Barcelona, where she has held court for more than 20 years; the Sant Pau in Tokyo, a replica of the original, down to the plates; and Moments, her newest restaurant, located at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona. We caught up with the busy chef to ask her about her schedule.
How do you to stay organized and make sure all three of your restaurants are up to your standards?
A gastronomic restaurant is one of the most complex and demanding [activities] that exists. However, to keep the best quality in every gastronomic standard, it turns out to be only possible if we work with a human team, who are professional, talented, creative and very motivated about our brand philosophy. I am able to work with a team that has these characteristics in Sant Pol de Mar, as well as in Barcelona and surely also in Tokyo. Without this professional organization, it would be impossible.
Is being a seven-star Michelin chef a heavy burden to live up to?
I don’t take it as a load. I live it and feel it, using it to add extra strength to my professional life, renewing continuously the commitment and inspiration that this profession deserves. I share this feeling with my team.
At Moments, there is a prix fixe menu called “The Trip.” Could you talk a little about creating the dishes you chose to represent different cities?
Offering a menu with an original guide like “El Viaje” (The Trip) is the result of teamwork in the three restaurants. Premiering in Sant Pol de Mar, one of the first menus was called the “Paleta de Colores” (Color Palette), and the success of this menu motivated and inspired Moments’ chef Raül Balam [Ruscalleda’s son] and his sous-chef Alberto Castiñeiras to work on a menu inspired by the cities Mandarin Oriental has hotels in. They interpreted each city in a funny and gastronomic way. We are already working on a new menu, with a new guide, which will be premiered in a few months.
Do you have a favorite ritual or method for finding new inspiration for your menus?
I have a very organized life, professionally and personally, which allows me to enjoy certain places that give me the freedom to work on my creativity.
What’s one item you can’t travel without?
I travel with my notebook. Life continuously celebrates us with surprises that we should pay special attention to and take note of the inspiration that they transmit to us.
Do you have a favorite U.S. restaurant?
I have had fantastic gastronomic experiences, and I keep wonderful memories of Alinea [in Chicago], Per Se [in New York], The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood [both in California].
First thing you like to eat when you return home from a trip abroad?
“A knife” dish: A soupy juliana with a variation of vegetables, rice, olive oil and a little bit of fish.
Any new chefs on the scene we should be looking at?
Chef Seiichi Honda at the restaurant Zurriola in Tokyo.
What destination is on your travel bucket list?
I would love to visit Madagascar.
What’s up next for you?
We are creating two new books, one about the purely professional philosophy of the three restaurants, and another one about culinary pedagogy for young people. But I am especially interested to continue with our gastronomic line offering a cuisine that is free-spirited, natural and emotional.