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6 febrero 2023

Interview with Rubén Catalán, Restaurant Torre del Visco. Fuentespalda (Teruel)

Born in Maella, Rubén Catalán studied dining room and kitchen in Cambrils, from which time he began to train in large kitchens in Tarragona, Zaragoza, San Sebastian, Madrid and France. But he was clear that he wanted to return to the Matarraña and, in the Hotel La Torre del Visco, brand new green Michelin star, he made his dream come true.

Rubén knew well the Hotel Torre del Visco, in Fuentespalda, Teruel, because, as he says, “I am from the area and I had always followed its trajectory”, however, when, responding to a job offer as head chef, he arrived and saw the restaurant, its organic vegetable garden, the olive grove… a whole world of possibilities opened up to him. “Bearing in mind that I wanted to return to my land and work here, La Torre del Visco seemed to me the best place in terms of quality standards, type of clientele and culinary concept. I thought I was very lucky because of everything I was going to be able to develop here,” he explains.

When he finished his basic studies, Rubén Catalán felt attracted to cooking and went to the School of Hotel Management in Cambrils, under the guidance of a teacher from Maella, his hometown. In a place and at a time – Catalonia, 2004 – when Spanish haute cuisine was at the crest of the international wave, he became irremediably hooked on the profession.

“We defend a cuisine of the territory, sticking to the product, the season and the recipes of the memory, of the memory”.

Since then, he began a didactic journey through different gastronomic restaurants both in Aragon –Parador de Alcañiz, Monasterio de Rueda, El Patio de Goya, La Bastilla… -and Madrid, Príncipe y Serrano and La Terraza del Casino; Basque Country, Akelarre de Subijana; Catalonia -La Grava, Rincón de Diego, Gaudir and El Corral, all in the province of Tarragona-; even doing a stage in France, in Michel Gérard’s restaurant. During his time at La Bastilla, in Zaragoza, he and his team won the 2013 Aragón chefs’ competition “and we went to Madrid Fusión, representing Aragón, to give a talk on the black truffle,” he recalls.

He still returned a few more years to Catalonia, before, in 2018, his happy encounter with La Torre del Visco came up. “I heard they were looking for head chef and I went there. When I saw that they were very clear about the concept and that it coincided with mine, I felt very fortunate,” he says when describing what his philosophy is in front of the stove: “Above all, we defend a cuisine of the territory, sticking to the product, the season and the recipes of memory, of memory. We make traditional dishes that my grandparents used to cook, Matarraña is an area with a very rich recipe book“. This does not prevent Rubén from using his imagination in the search for new creations, nor does it prevent him from resorting to new techniques, although always on the basis of tradition, origin and season.

“you have to respect the product, pamper it to the maximum and make clean and beautiful dishes”

The expression zero kilometer is an understatement for La Torre del Visco, which has its own vegetable garden and olive trees. “I also love working with wild products from the environment -herbs, mushrooms, truffle…-; to buy fish we resort to the nearest fish markets of the Ebro Delta or at least, Mediterranean ones and in meats we look for those from the area, such as organic veal from Mosqueruela, Maellana breed lamb, which was about to disappear and we try to collaborate in its recovery, Teruel pork, rabbit… everything we can we buy in the territory”.

“With what I have, I make”. With that phrase Rubén sums up his predilection for seasonal and local produce and explains why his menus are constantly changing. “We only have tasting menus, one with a vegetable base, another with fish and a last one that pays homage to the territory”. The first, the Vía Verde menu, varies according to the rhythm of the landscape and the organic vegetable garden; the second, Artigas, is inspired by the fish of the day from the nearest fish markets and the meats provided by their trusted local artisan producers; and the last, Xirigol, updates traditional local recipes, with the best products from the vegetable garden at any given moment. He defines himself as a product cook because, although cuisine has evolved very quickly in Spain, he says, “in the end the bases are always the same: you have to respect the product, pamper it to the maximum and make clean and beautiful dishes”.

It is precisely this concept of sustainable cuisine that has led Rubén Catalán and the entire team at La Torre del Visco to earn their establishment a green star at the last Michelin Star Gala. “I arrived in 2018, two years later the pandemic happened and all that it meant for the hospitality industry, I also had an injury, but at no time did we stop thinking, working… and the result has been this, the green Michelin star,” he says proudly.

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