Disfrutar: a shining star

Interview with the creators of the Catalan restaurant that stands out thanks to its creative and original cuisine

12-10-2015
Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro together with part of

Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro together with part of the team at Disfrutar. They are two of the three founders of the restaurant in Barcelona (tel. +34.933.486896): the third, Mateu Casañas, didn’t participate in this interview only because he was working at a second restaurant the three partners have opened, Compartir in Cadaqués

"Disfrutar" is the Spanish verb for enjoying something and sharing this experience. This name perfectly describes the experience anyone sitting in this magnificent restaurant will feel. The dining room is at the far back and to get there, you need to walk through all the production areas, with an architecture that leads you through clearly Mirò-inspired coloured ceramics, then the bare walls of the kitchen and finally the white polished ceramics in the diaphanous and light dining room, illuminated by a large window overlooking the terrace.

Disfrutar’s offer is based on two menus: Menu Disfrutar with 18 courses and Menu Festival with 27 (68 and 98 euro respectively, excluding drinks). Whatever your choice, you gradually realise you cannot stop smiling, your heart is thrilled at every course and sighs of pure delight flutter in the air. Already by the end of the aperitifs you can’t resist and seek the complicity of the other guests, who, like you, look around to share... their joy. And you wouldn’t want to leave. The service is relaxed and the staff is smiling but those who know them know this is a place of rigour: here the “bulliexperiencia” docet.

We chat with Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro, while Mateu Casañas is absent because he’s directing restaurant Compartir in Cadaqués, the three partners’ other restaurant.

How much of El Bulli can be found in yourselves and how much can be found in Disfrutar?
We’ve spent many years at El Bulli, were we trained as people and professionals. When you stay so long in one place it is because you like it and love it. It’s a way of intending life and cooking which we have interiorised and will always bring with us. But we have a different project from El Bulli both in our intent and concept.

Disfrutar is an ambitious project...
We chose to offer creative cuisine with a large and complex infrastructure that requires attention and dedication, with a significant team to whom we must convey our own passion. All this requires lots of time and in this phase, with a very modern and personal cuisine, the thread separating success from failure is very thin. Only nine months have gone by. Aware of the virtues and defects of what we’ve obtained, we still need to look ahead and improve. Juli Soler and Ferrán Adriá have taught us never to make to, if a dish gets excellent feedback, you immediately need to do better in something else. Our cuisine, here and at Compartir is nonconformist. Why so? Because we love cooking and thus evolving.

How do you handle creativity with three people?
We’re three persons who work on this project in unison. We meet at least once a week to speak about cooking, present ideas, share experiences and intuitions. These short spans of time allow us to sediment and freshen up our ideas and get the most out of our three brains, thinking about the same project separately but with the same research method. All this leads to amplified results.

What characteristic marks each one of you?
The sum of us all. The personalities emerge during the creative process and are then mixed in the culinary production. We’ve cooked together and with the same objective for such a long time that we have the same approach to cooking. We “trained” with parameters that were so defined that we now all look for the same thing. We can use different words for the same dish but the essence coincides. We’ve changed the project but as people, as professionals and as a team, we’re the same. The line, the style and the mentality are the same, all directed towards our project. This is why we are so close. In this you need to be very pragmatic: two restaurants, a very large staff, a significant production: if we didn’t get along it would be a chaos. If we’ve chosen to stay together it’s because our trust and values are the same, when it comes to important things and daily life.

Was it demanding, to turn from employees into entrepreneurs?
It certainly was a big change but it came very natural. We are very prudent and studied the commitment we were to take with attention, but we knew that by doing these projects together, with liveliness and decisiveness, everything would have been ok. We’re experiencing a gratifying moment. Entering the kitchen and seeing our beautiful team at work makes us happy. Seeing that clients leave with a satisfied expression repays us for all our work. A real chef doesn’t work for money. If his goal were to make money, he wouldn’t risk with a restaurant like this. From this point of view, we’ve aware that El Bulli as a business took risks with offers that were very daring and this is why it was an impossible to repeat restaurant.

A thought goes to Juli who recently passed away. What did he teach you?
Many things: how to connect with people, have them involved, his relationship with staff and guests was equally important. I believe Juli imagined a before and after for the dining room, creating a calmer, formal but very warm service.

Is tradition an anchor, or does it set you free?
It sets you free. It’s a heritage that gives you energy, strength and inspiration to do something modern. Unless you have a past, you cannot move forward. Tradition is in constant evolution and it is in fact free.

Menu narrative has developed following the evolution of tradition. What story does the menu at Disfrutar tell?
In our menu you can sense the Mediterranean Sea from start to finish. The first thing that lets you get an idea of a cuisine are products, territory. We give the main role to simple products such as pine nuts or a humble anchovy, a mackerel or traditional Mediterranean techniques and condiments. We live in the kitchen and with all that surrounds us but we’re close to nothing. We have travelled at length and we’re interested in all of the world’s cuisines, but there’s always a Catalan temperament in our dishes.

A wish for the future, where do you want to get?
We don’t want to get anywhere. Today we’re happy and if in one or two or three years’ time we will continue to be happy, it will mean we have grown. Doing things properly, a happy team, a satisfied client: this is what we want. The rest will come by itself, if it must.

Speaking with these extraordinary chefs is natural, easy and pleasant. After personally experiencing the most extraordinary chapter in the history of cooking they have opened a new one that is already shining in its own right.

The open view kitchen at Disfrutar

The open view kitchen at Disfrutar

The dining room
The dining room
Maître Albert Guerrero

Maître Albert Guerrero


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