Head chef of the renowned Barcelona restaurant Manairó awarded with a Michelin star in 2008 Jordi Herrera in person is a restless spirit, inventive charming and almost hyperactive. Having recently embarked on a new and risky initiative in collaboration with the Hotel Adagio Jordi is expanding his creative universe to an area of Barcelona not normally associated with high-end gastronomy. Located right at the epicentre of the city’s tourist industry, C. Ferran 21 on the ground floor of the Hotel Adagio, a small boutique hotel adjacent to Plaza Real and Plaza Sant Jaume.
The space is small but cozy, noisy but personal- in reality it is the reception and lounge of a small boutique hotel above with a view onto the always frenetic C. Ferran. Here Jordi has come up with a device to join together the traditional circular marble topped tables found in cafés in order to accommodate larger groups, when required. He also developed an ingenious device for steaming crayfish which together with his Fakircook grill (a metal plate with spikes) can now added to his repertoire of culinary inventions. Serving utensils and dishes also bear witness to this marked penchant for metal and sculpture El Viatge Circular.
Flame cooked veal served in metalic art sculpture
'Romana' style Squid
The kitchen (on full view) is somewhat restricted in area but nonetheless the tapas menu is varied and includes some specially designed dishes for AdagioTapas; Smoked Bonito (tuna); Steamed Crayfish; Fried Egg ‘Calamar’ served with ‘engrasadas’ Potatoes (partially cooked in fat); Rice with Scallops, Tripe and Chistorra (type of cured pork sausage); Catacuba an original recipe featuring egg yolk, cauliflower puree, Truffle Oil and Burnt Rum Shortbread; Flame cooked Veal (using a blowtorch in full view of diners), Bull’s Tail served with Potato Puree as well as a range of desserts like the Passionfruit Cubalibre and Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce.
Rice served with Scallops and tripe
Inspired by Traditional Catalan dishes combined with a genuinely avant-garde culinary experimentation and featuring strong flavours the food here feels distinctive. Despite only having opened recently AdagioTapas and Jordi Herrera won an ‘Alegría de Vivir’ award in July within the gastronomic category (an initiative set up to recognise talents in the arts, sciences and sports who bring happiness to their various sectors). B-Guided had the chance to find out more about his culinary roots and very specific collaborations with other artists as well as this latest project.
Manairó was awarded a Michelin Star in 2008, what sort of commitment does that entail and how do you manage to keep yourself motivated and inspired? What is the target market for Manairó?
The commitment is clear, carrying out the same work we did before we won the Michelin Star, so it’s all about doing the same as always. Manairó’s target are customers who enjoy the search for good food, who are looking for something more than just food, something beyond the necessity to simply eat, who want to be motivated, appreciate 'audacity', who believe that food should be thought about and put together just for them. Who think that art closes the circle of what gastronomy should be. The challenge is to maintain the motivation of satisfying our customers, we don’t work simply because we are fascinated with this or that, one is fascinated yes, but the most important thing is that customers enjoy what they eat; in reality we are looking to put a smile on our customers’ faces here.
The recently launched AdagioTapas initiative located on C. Ferran right at the epicentre of mass tourism Barcelona is an attempt to bring gastronomic values to a new sector. How will you compete with the vast array of culinary offerings available here?
We are not looking for travellers or non-travellers, we are not targeting a specific sector, it’s also true that people who come here are not just only looking for us. We are interested in letting people know that we are here and that's how we want to work. Our food is affordable to everyone, whether they’re from Spain or abroad.
How did the collaboration with the Adagio Hotel come about will the teams for both Manairó and AdagioTapas be interchangeable or are we talking about two completely separate projects?
The collaboration came about because of the shared feeling with its owners. They know my other restaurant and appreciate the idea of ‘thought about’ food, a coherent gastronomic approach and wanted to try it on a street where what’s on offer is aimed at a different sector.
The location of Manairó, right at the heart of the Eixample, within an established residential area in very specific. Was that a deliberate decision back then?
The location of the restaurant, when we started Manairó, was chosen because it was the only area in Barcelona that we could afford at the time. I knew it would be a problem to begin with, but later it would become an advantage. People go to Manairó because they want to eat what we offer there, they don’t go to Manairó because it’s close to something else or because they want to go for drinks somewhere or other nearby, and that over time is an added value because you have to be better, or perhaps not better but offer something that others don’t. The people who go there want to be there and it’s a very good in terms of its gastronomic offering.
Could you also say the same about the location of AdagioTapas?
I liked the idea of putting a Michelin star quality restaurant like this here, I liked the idea of getting involved with mass tourism, I liked that a client might come along with a backpack, leave it beside the table, try a few tapas quickly and leave happy, I liked having the mayor of Barcelona and a backpacker in the same room.
Some of the sources of inspiration for your creations which you have quoted include unlikely sources like sculptor Miquel Aparici, La Fura dels Baus (together with Pep Gatell you came up with the plancha de clavos Fakircook) and German Consetti (sculptor, with whom you worked with for the opening of El Viatge Circular). How would you describe these relationships and how does that translate into a creative collaboration?
In my case creativity is nothing more than a parallel way of working. Or in other words there is a series of hard drives constantly working in parallel with one another. Basically what lead me in this direction was my friends. I have a particular empathy and friendship with these people with whom I talk about art and shared visions. The sculptures that we have on the tables are by German and Miquel will soon be bringing along another sculpture, Marcel·lí (Antunez, La Fura dels Baus) has been an important influence and helped me to realize the thing’s in my head.
Can you quickly describe your background and how you came to be interested in cooking in the first place? Who are the chefs that have a direct influence on your career?
When I started working in kitchens it was to earn money to study what I liked, which was anthropology at the time, then decided I wanted to be a chef. While there I realized that I liked what I was doing. The chef told me: "you're young, you're smart, why do you want to be a chef?" Back then it was very different, it wasn’t well looked upon to be a chef. But I thought, what do I care what people say, if I’m enjoying it! So the reason I started off in kitchens is important, it was because I enjoyed it.
Which restaurants and or chefs in Barcelona do you think are doing interesting things currently and why? Where do you go for a meal out when you have the time?
Well, I go to the restaurant is in front of my house called Dips a lot, it’s a typical couple living in the neighbourhood who do what they please and treat customers how they like and joke around with them. I also love going to restaurants in the Port Olimpic, any of them will do me. And I like Alchemy and Saüc.
Could your food be defined as traditional Catalan cuisine, made contemporary perhaps?
You can put any adjectives you want on it, today there are numerous sources of information to draw upon, these influences are really important. What it is however is Jordi Herrera’s cooking, whether you like it or not, but you can’t find what you've eaten here today anywhere else in the world, the squid, or the prawns ... For me the most important thing a chef has to offer is what he knows how to do.
This point of view then is also connected to your family background?
Obviously it has to do with my cultural background. A person’s tastes are always connected with place and depend on your personality and that personality depends on culture where you were reared and brought up. Culture means home, it means country, it means earth.
You teach cooking at the Escuela de Hostelería y Turismo CETT here in Barcelona and have provided employment for many students in your kitchens. Are the Manairó and AdagioTapas teams interchangeable or are we talking g about two completely separate operations?
The two proposals are totally different which means the teams are not interchangeable, but because of their training, and the time they have spent working with me learning about the way we do things, they would be perfectly capable of operating elsewhere.
Exterior view of AdagioTapas on C. Ferran