Xavier Lahuerta and Xavi Pellicer.
A kitchen for a change.
Being granted the chance to discuss gastronomy with Xavi Lahuerta and Xavi Pellicer, models for projects and their lifestyle is a chance that can’t be wasted. The best part of this opportunity is that we get to do it in “El Menjador”, the new proposal of Xavi Pellicer.
Mr. Pellicer, you have been working with the best chefs in Paris and Catalunya in the most recognized restaurants on the cities. I would like to know, who was the person that influenced the most in the kitchen?
The person who influenced me the most was Jacques Maximin, the French chef from Negresco, whom I shared two and a half years in Niza with. He influenced me with his interpretation of the kitchen, the way that he connected with the product and by his qualities to attract younger and energetic people.
Lahuerta, where did you and Mr. Pellicer meet each other?
I met Pellicer in a restaurant called “Abac”. I started as just an ordinary guy, but then I began interacting with him when I had the chance to get closer and we immediately started to create a profound professional relationship that evolved during the last years into a mix of friendship and professionalism. By learning from his professionalism and his honest work, my vision has been positively affected towards the product; the different ways to apply it and the importance of having an organized day to day attitude. He was working in a mass production kitchen when he arrived at “Abac,” he saw an opportunity to make that kitchen more personal.
Pellicer, Santi Santamaria has been a huge reference in Spain on the field of gastronomy, but do you believe that this has given the same or better recognition as one of the most influential chefs in the Catalan cuisine?
I don’t believe that I am the indicated person to say if there has been justice towards Santi’s title. History has its toll and Santi has been one of the most influential chefs in the last two decades. Some people know him by his rivalry with Ferran Adria. Santi has been promoting a kitchen based on the roots of the place, the territory, and the matriarchal root into the restaurant. This is a recurring topic that always reminds me of Santi.
Lahuerta, was Santi Santamaria always the person who influenced you the most or do you have another?
In my opinion, Santi is both an innovator and a visionary. He influenced the path for the cooking line which (at least for me) reminded me what a real kitchen was. On a personal level, he is a loyal man and distinguishes himself with the culture of the culinary field.
Both of you have a profound respect for natural products, agriculture, and anything related to nature, but do you both believe that someone can make it in life with a healthy lifestyle?
Yes, if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have our restaurant. I believe that when you decide to go for a more natural and healthy food, you create a small system in which helps promote the idea of promoting families that sell the products and that when you buy the ingredients, you have a familiar name and face, something that builds trust and authenticity. After all, we are what we eat.
Pellicer, even when this is an obvious question to ask, do you aspire to have “El Menjador” receive the first “Michelin Star”?
This project is on the pilot phase, so I do not believe that we should need to work towards that objective now. If Michelin sees this project as valuable enough to get recognized by it, that would be great. However, we would continue working as hard as we have been since the beginning,
Lahuerta, you have been recently selected as the Chief Executive of the Mercer Hotel in Barcelona. What are the set goals for this year?
In order to answer that question, I have to connect it with the one about healthy food. If we talked about the healthy food, everyone thinks that it is easy, but what we have been able to manage is to give recognition to a job that didn’t have it before. With the same beliefs as the visionary Santi, we thrive to work with products such as vegetables that only passed on the farmers hand, not by a middle guy. We work with the respect they deserve and with the mentality of high-end luxury results.
Pellicer, what does it mean to you when people say that you have learned to appreciate the small things?
When we talked about the feelings and how to enjoy the small things, such as the energy that people get in this place, if they don’t feel a welcome energy then they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the place in the moment. I have been working with this project for eight or more years, while it just became popular in the last two to three years. That shows that I don’t move with the current flow of popularity and that I have faith on his. I know that I am not a saint, but I do believe that a lot of my habits have changed and that it is shown in my way of cooking.
Lahuerta, you are one of the highest members of the “la Chaine des Rotisseurs,” which celebrates an international event in Barcelona on October. What would you say will make the event special?
To me, this event is very special because it will represent the starring international chapter with me sitting in the board of la Chaine des Rotisseurs from Catalunya. Mrs. Rosa, in her presidential position in the group, has trusted me with the events of gastronomy in October. Barcelona is the perfect place to create a combination of cuisine with different cultures. Our goal is to move forward and that the stars of Michelin decide to cook together; a complete privilege to see and enjoy.
Pellicer, could you explain to me if you have any kind of professional or personal projects at the international level for this year?
I can tell you that there are a couple of interesting propositions, but to be entirely honest, there is nothing concrete. Besides, the more that stays at home the better for me and for the group. On March, I finish my counseling in San Diego and I cannot wait to go back ato working at home.
Lahuerta, you have specialized in treating the international client. Do you believe that those type of clients are more understanding and appreciative than the national customer when we talk about gastronomy?
We are ambassadors of the culture and cuisine of our country, of our city, and of the people and organizations that trust us. The international clients are the people that come to our city in search of quality and excellence. If we meet their expectations, more people will visit from around the world and the national interest of us will grow. We hope that with this intention, it will make our brand more recognized in the world.
Pellicer, do you believe that we need to protect more of the Barcelona Brand in gastronomy so we can project it at the international level? How can we organize it so that our value becomes higher?
When we look at the world of cuisine and gastronomy, we can see that the center of it contains huge names and egos next to each other and is fighting for more space. The only way to ensure that Barcelona as a brand grows and moves forward in the world is to be able to hopefully utilize the people who are recognized as stars and ask to work hand in hand towards a common goal. Only in that way will we be able to make Barcelona rise to the spot that it deserves.
Pellicer, in your opinion, which are the products that we need to enhance in order to have a stronger representation of our gastronomy?
When we talk about our products, we can choose from our oils to our wines. But to be entirely honest, we believe that there is something more important; that the products are our personality. We defend our own culture and we do our best to respect the roots that we came from. We use our products to attract the attention of our members and to create the feeling that “this has to be here”. We enhance the ecological, biodynamic, and non-chemical products so we can offer the best to the best.
Pellicer, Have you thought about making cooking shows in other countries? Do you believe that the demand for it exists?
If I decided to do cooking shows, I would do them in “El Menjador”, where we have at our disposition an amazing kitchen equipped with the latest technology.
Without a doubt, two of the best chefs in the world with their own personal brand don’t limit themselves in the mundane things, but they look for a change in their routines that will give them a transformation. Thankfully in Romero, we are obsessed with gastronomy as one of the strongest keystones at the level of international projection of what it means “luxury”.