Recognized throughout the world, Spanish cuisine has seduced people for more than fifty years, to the point of making the country a true gastronomic destination. Equinox reveals, with chefs from Barcelona, what the secrets are.
Paella, potato tortillas, gazpacho, tapas… For bon vivants, Spain is a paradise. A paradise where everything that comes out of the kitchen smells of the south, the Mediterranean, the sun, and above all delights the taste buds of tourists from all over the world. Are Spanish chefs magicians who enchant us with their cuisine? Equinox posed the question to chefs in Barcelona, to find out what the secrets of Spanish cuisine are.
And they are unanimous: the magic of Spanish cuisine is not the result of a single ingredient. In fact, it is all its typical products that make it so tasty. “Spain is a country with a magnificent terroir. A geography and an agriculture that make it possible to have products with taste and freshness, this is what makes a cuisine of immediacy”, explains Romain Fornell. From Toulouse, the chef is now at the head of the starred restaurant Caelisin Barcelona.
Photo: Marjorie R. Williams
For this passionate about Iberian gastronomy, there is a form of simplicity in Spanish cuisine, but it is not necessarily simplistic: “Without the right products, you can’t cheat. The Iberian ham makes the difference, which is cut instantly, the tomato bread does not come out of the fridge…”
The climate, a key ingredient in Spanish cuisine
Spanish cuisine is therefore not just about one secret ingredient: they all make the difference through their quality and freshness. But there are almost “obligatory” foods: olive oil, seafood, local vegetables or even Iberian ham are part of the DNA of Spanish cuisine, recognizes the French chef.
And if the Iberian Peninsula has products of such good quality, it can thank its geography and its climate. “The great variety of climatic zones makes it possible to find in Spain products which, in normal times, are not all available in a single country. We have dry climates in the center and south, temperate zones with the Mediterranean, subtropical with the Canary Islands, passing through the more humid in the northwest and colder zones typical of the high mountains.”, summarizes Mateu Casañas.
Photo: Belluga Gourmet
According to the Spanish chef, who can be found in the kitchens of Disfruitar of Barcelona (two Michelin stars), it is therefore Spain itself that offers its gastronomy so many products of such good quality, the key to tasty, fresh and diverse cuisine.
But what would products be without proper cooking? Patatas bravas, fried seafood, meat grilled, grilled, octopus in the oven, stew cooked over low heat, paella over a wood fire… Spanish cuisine covers the simplest cooking techniques, but with a some unique skill. “Frying, for example, is a simple cooking technique, and yet it has nothing to do between France and Spain.”, remarks Romain Fornell: “it is a form of culture and culinary art”.
And of course, who says cooking in Spain says the essential quality olive oil, which “defines a way of being, of living and therefore also of cooking”, for the head of the Disfrutar and the Comparein Cadaques.
Traditions and a culture of shared meals
But the variety of Spanish products is not the only secret of its cuisine. What we love are above all the typical dishes of the regions, traditional, these small dishes simmered by the abuelas over a wood fire or gas, recipes that go back generations. The other key to Iberian cuisine is its traditions, says Mateu Casañas. Traditions that vary according to regions, sometimes even cities, and together give a very rich Spanish cuisine, a host of recipes that make it impossible not to like just one.
Photo: Hofmann Barcelona
The magic doesn’t just happen in the kitchen. If we love the dishes of the Spaniards so much, it is also thanks to the human warmth that characterizes them. “Being close to customers, cooking right in front of them, talking to them as you can in a tapas bar, for example, makes all the difference“says Romain Fornell.
There is a real culture of shared meals in Spain, which begins when shopping, continues in the kitchen and then at the table and with the famous “sobremesa”, a moment of sharing at the table between the guests when the meal is finished, says Luís Rovira, chef trainer at the School of Hospitality and Catering hofman from Barcelona. For him, this culture, associated in particular with the climate, contributes to the fact that “the art of eating and socializing make Spain an idyllic country”.
Photo: Can Jubany
Beyond the meal, it is also all the associated Spanish traditions and customs that make Spanish cuisine what it is. Current tapas, for example, are defined much more by a way of sharing a meal together, rather than a recipe itself. There is therefore a real love that the Spaniards have for the art of eating, and which Romain Fornell, as a chef of French origin, fully recognizes: “in Spain, it is still enthusiasts who cook”. An exceptional and varied terroir, respect for tradition and a lot of passion, this is the secret of Spanish cuisine.
Read also: The (unknown) origin of tapas