Disfrutar Enters Its Tenth Year: We Are Not Molecular Cuisine

In the world of gastronomy, there are some stories that are truly awe-inspiring. Hidden away on a narrow street in Barcelona, there lies a one-of-a-kind restaurant called Disfrutar. It is a place of constant innovation and passion, with a unique culinary story. The three chefs here – Eduard, Oriol, and Mateu – form an incredible team with over 25 years of harmony.

Many people might label them as a molecular cuisine restaurant, but that is only partially true, despite years of misunderstandings. Their fine techniques in food presentation are indeed solid and I have always been looking forward to revisiting them since Covid. The chefs say that, in order to enhance the overall experience, they nearly halved the number of dining seats. Each dish gives a sense of novelty and anticipation, brimming with excitement. Throughout the tasting journey, there is absolutely no compromise on deliciousness.

(Left)Eduard Xatruch (Middle)Oriol Castro (Right)Mateu Casañas

Chef Eduard reminisces about the early days when they first met at the former world’s best restaurant, El Bulli, and worked with the legendary chef Ferran Adrià for nearly 15 years. It was there where their teamwork began, and it became the cradle of their creative experiments. However, after El Bulli permanently closed in 2011, they chose to continue collaborating with Ferran while also fulfilling their own dreams – opening their own restaurant. In 2012, Compartir (Sharing) was born in Cadaqués, offering people the experience of sharing food at the table. Subsequently, in 2014, they arrived in Barcelona and established Disfrutar, becoming a temple of modern cuisine. The true turning point came in 2016 when they started continuously contemplating and pushing the boundaries of creativity. Eduard emphasizes that they have always seen themselves as chefs, not scientists or other professionals. For them, the creative aspect of gastronomy is the result of teamwork and collective effort.

Speaking about the collaboration between the three chefs, Eduard fondly says, “Mateu isn’t here today, but the three of us learned about teamwork in the kitchen.” They worked together in El Bulli’s creative laboratory until the restaurant closed in July 2011. However, this team did not dissolve; on the contrary, they came together even closer.

Oriol, who loves collaboration, adds, “We are not always in the same place; sometimes Mateu is in Cadaqués, but we always stay connected and have frequent meetings.” This ongoing collaboration allows them to reach a consensus on various matters, including financial and creative aspects.

Witnessing Creativity and Sharing Experiences

When asked about how they maintain a continuous stream of creativity, Eduard emphasizes, “We see creativity as the result of teamwork and collective effort.” They have set up a special creative laboratory in the basement with five full-time members with whom they hold weekly meetings in order to share ideas and experiences, sparking discussions and obtaining feedback. This continuous interaction allows them to constantly innovate and keep things fresh on their creative journey. Within this creatively charged laboratory, there is also the “Chef’s Table,” a place that holds many significant moments and serves as the starting point for the creation of their culinary masterpieces and inspirations.

Oriol points out, “We summarize our results every month, documenting each recipe, each dish, and photographing every creation – this is crucial.” This systematic approach helps them maintain high self-standards, and they update their archive every Friday to see if they have made progress and achieved satisfaction. They treat the archive as their “boss,” a way to exert pressure on themselves. Their almost demanding attitude pushes them to continuously challenge themselves and move forward.

@disfrutarbcn

Next year, Disfrutar restaurant will be entering its tenth year and so far they have created around 700 recipes. These accomplishments are not limited to the confines of their restaurant; they have also been recorded in books, sincerely sharing their years of creativity and experiences. They are generous in sharing the cooking techniques developed by their team, which can now be found in many world-class restaurants. For example, their iconic dish “Pan Chino” was created in 2016. It involves whipping the dough into a foam, frying half of it, filling it with caviar, and then frying the other half. The result is a crispy and light outer layer like air, with the center filled with cold and delightful caviar.

Pan Chino @disfrutarbcn

Eduard points out, “It’s not just about creating new dishes or combining ingredients and flavors; it’s about exploring endless possibilities.” They are dedicated to creating a unique style, which is why they persist unwaveringly. They always emphasize, “If and when we are no longer willing to try new things, develop, and progress, then Disfrutar will come to an end.” This sincere commitment and perseverance have made Disfrutar a culinary sanctuary that perpetually explores, innovates, and improves. Their dedication and authenticity are the secrets that allow this restaurant to shine brightly in the culinary world.

Not Molecular Cuisine

Chef Oriol from Disfrutar restaurant states that they do not adhere to the concept of “molecular cuisine.” The term “molecular cuisine” was introduced by a group of individuals around 1996 and was featured in a conference called “Molecular Cuisine” held in Italy in 2001. Although the chefs working at El Bulli attended that conference, they have always maintained that their cuisine is not “molecular cuisine” but rather “creative cuisine.” Their dishes are prepared by chefs themselves, not by chemists or other scientists. While they may seek advice from experts on certain effects or reactions at times, the core of their cooking relies on fundamental culinary knowledge. Chef Oriol points out that Ferran Adrià, the head chef at El Bulli, never liked the term “molecular cuisine.” As a result, they have never used this term and instead describe their cuisine as “creative” or “techno-emotional cuisine.”

@disfrutarbcn

Witnessing Passion and Creativity

Chef Oriol further emphasizes that Disfrutar restaurant focuses on daily work and strives to maintain consistency. For them, each day is a new opportunity for improvement. However, this team does not consider themselves special; on the contrary, they see themselves as very ordinary people with low material desires.

In Disfrutar’s menu, each dish is treated as equally important, just like parents treat their children. They approach each dish with the same respect and cherish each carefully designed creation presented on the menu. However, what might be the most crucial aspect is not a dish itself but a piece of paper handed to the guests at the beginning of the meal. This paper is filled with many different words allowing guests to think, feel, meditate and associate. Here, the pursuit is not only the shock of taste but also the fusion of emotions and feelings. Many guests are moved to tears while savoring the dishes, as they are brought back to childhood memories. Disfrutar restaurant not only seeks the deliciousness of the dishes but also aims to convey culture and respect through their cuisine, which is closely related to the current era, especially after Covid, where people have a deeper understanding of interaction and perception, making food more meaningful.

Dining at Disfrutar is a luxurious experience. Imagine a restaurant with such a large working team but serving only 40 guests at a time. As they approach their 10th-anniversary celebration next year, they hope that the guests dining at Disfrutar can feel their vitality and ever-progressing energy, experiencing more surprises and emotions. I am very much looking forward to them earning three Michelin stars or becoming the world’s number one next year. Their openness and sharing of culinary research and techniques with chefs worldwide are without reservation. To describe them as the Elon Musk of the culinary world would not be an exaggeration.

(Left)Eduard (Middle)the Author (Right)Oriol

Disfrutar restaurant is the dream of the three chefs, and their achievements are the result of years of hard work, and they will continue to persevere. The harmony and miracles of this team will continue to shine in the world of cooking.

Author: Jocelyn 华姐

Photo: Instagram@disfrutarbcn

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Jocelyn Chen
Jocelyn Chen
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