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Eduard xatruch  joan valera
Joan Valera
Interviews

My Life in Plates : Eduard Xatruch

The Catalan chef reflects on the food and flavours that he loves.

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Alongside Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch is part of the trio of chefs who head the restaurant Disfrutar in Barcelona and Compartir in Cadaqués. He spoke to FOOD AND WINE's Elodie Noël about the dishes that stand out for him. 

Born in 1981, Eduard started working at elBulli in 1999, where he met his two companions. The three of them held senior positions in the creative culinary team at the legendary restaurant before starting their own venture after it closed in 2011. The team opened Compartir in Cadaqués in 2012, and Disfrutar two years later.

Listed n°9 by the World’s 50 Best and crowned with two Michelin stars, Disfrutar follows in the footsteps of elBulli with an avant-garde Spanish cuisine, where a gazpacho is served as a sandwich and salad comes in a liquid form. We spoke to Eduard Xatruch to learn about his culinary heritage and the dishes that marked his life. 

What is your first memory of taste?

I remember what my mum used to cook when I was a child. Especially one dish she used to make for Christmas, a stew with prawns and mushrooms. It was her version of the fricandó, a classic Catalan dish that I usually made with beef. She used to make it with langoustines and it was delicious. 

What is the plate that made you want to be a chef?

More than a dish, it’s a way to appreciate gastronomy. In my family, food was always important, at home and for parties and celebrations. My mum cooks very well. I always enjoyed eating and that’s why I wanted to be a chef. 

READ MORE: My Life In Plates: Grainne O'Keefe

Disfrutar
Disfrutar

Where your parents supportive when you decided to be a chef?

Oh no, it was a drama! It was about 25 years ago, and a chef wasn’t considered a good profession. In school, I had good grades and the teachers said I should study to be a lawyer or something like that. When I told my parents I wanted to be a chef, they weren’t happy. But then they were supportive and now they are delighted for me. Nowadays, the profession has a better image, but the reality of the work isn’t like what you see on TV. Being a chef is hard but if you like cooking, you will enjoy it.

What is the dish that could make you cry?

It depends on the moment, the company, who you are eating with. I think you can find emotion with very simple food, like an omelette or a fried egg. Whether it is a complicated dish or something simple, what matters is that it is made with love. 

What is the dish you don’t understand?

I don’t understand why people eat salad with honey! (he laughs) When I was little, I went on a trip and I spent one week eating salad with honey and it was horrible. For me, a good dressing is virgin olive oil, sherry or Modena vinegar, a bit of mustard and salt and pepper. 

What is the dish you wish you had created?

There are a lot! Maybe bread. It’s such an important food. My favourite is barrot, it’s between a ciabatta and baguette, with a hard crust and spongy crumb. 

What is the dish you can’t admit you love?

I like a lot of sweet things. I have two daughters, they are 5 and 8 years old, I enjoy eating toasted bread and Nutella with them. 

What is the dish you could eat every day for the rest of your life?

I think a very good ham, and red prawns from the Mediterranean. I could eat that my whole life and be happy.

What is the dish you are the most proud of?

We are three chefs, Mateu, Oriol and me, and all the dishes we make, we make them together. The dishes we are the most proud of are those that involve a new technique. For example, all the dishes that we make with a multi spherification, like the tatin of corn and foie gras, or the pesto with eel. We are also proud of the flourless pizza, or the panchino filled with caviar - it’s an iconic dish in Disfrutar. 

Multi-spheric pesto with smoked eel
Multi-spheric pesto with smoked eel

How does it work with three head chefs in the kitchen?

We are a team. When we met each other at elBulli, we met working as a team, in a creative way. It’s the same here; we all have ideas and we all put our knowledge together to make the dishes better. Most restaurants in the world work as a team, it’s not only one chef. Chefs have a sous chef or a strong team behind them. We divide the work between us in a gastronomic way, but when it comes to make the dish we are all together. The morning is our creative time, and in the afternoon we do the preparation for service. And we have a great team behind us.  

Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas
Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas

What is the last dish you had?

Today, I had a fideuá - it’s a fish dish, typical of Spain, like a paella with pasta. I ate it with the staff at the restaurant, we always have lunch together. 

What is the dish you’d make for the person you love?

For my wife, I’d make a salad of strawberries, tomatoes and parmesan. 

What is your death row dish?

Maybe a fried egg with black truffle, and for dessert some fruit or sorbet. 

What is the best plate you have ever eaten in a restaurant?

Twenty years ago, the first time I went to El Celler de Can Roca, I had a parmentier of potato with calamari. The taste was delicate, the texture was beautiful, it was a demonstration of the elegance of cuisine. 

What is the next dish you have in mind?

Today in Disfrutar, we are working on a version of vitello tonnato. We want a dish with the flavours of the vitello tonnato but in a different way. We are making a gelatin of meat consomme, and we’ll make an ice cream with the sauce. I think it will be very good. 

Author: Élodie Nöel

Élodie is a French journalist who relocated to Dublin about three years ago. She immediately fell in love with the island and its amazing food and has been writing about it on her blog Lemon Lipstick. You can follow Élodie's food adventures on  Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.