Martina Puigvert Puigdeval, chef at Les Cols de Olot (Girona), often uses the plural when talking about life, cooking or whatever fascinates her. He is very clear that his success is a collective success, and that we, together with others, learn and improve, in a display of sensitivity that inevitably translates into conscious, ethical and imaginative prescriptions that bring together many disciplines and influences. We spoke with the chef about the menu she proposed for the Veraz restaurant at The Barcelona Edition hotel, where she shares the kitchen with Pedro Tassarullo, but also about recovering ancestral tastes, the importance of the connection to the garden or how technology can connect with nature. Martina thinks in the plural. Yes, but its uniqueness is unbeatable.
– Hello Martina! Explain to us why you decided to join Ferraz Restaurant with this pop up.
— From the beginning I loved the values and philosophy of Edition. They take details into consideration, and I can tell you they understand luxury in a different way. It is also a place committed to art, they even have Salvador Dali armchairs, and is sensitive to architecture, as is also the case with Les Cols.
– How did you choose the dishes that could be tasted during these months?
– I wanted to embody the philosophy of Les Cols through several proposals. The first is A royalist Sweet onions, a very humble product, are part of the landscape of La Garrotxa. It also embodies this understood luxury in another way that we talked about before, very far from caviar or shrimp.
-You will also make a dish in which the protagonist is the egg from your Biyanya garden.
— Yes, eggs are always on our tasting menu, although they change with the seasons. In the version we will serve it with four different vegetables, each of which gives it a specific color. Its taste is reminiscent of Russian salad, but visually it takes us back to Kandinsky; It's very artistic.
— Years ago, it was decided at Les Cols not to cook fresh fish. The third dish she suggests follows this line.
— Exactly, it was decided to cook only using canned, salted or mountain fish as a matter of philosophy. At first, it was difficult for customers to understand this. But we wanted to reflect the cuisine and culture of a region where it was previously very difficult to find fresh fish, and therefore river animals such as trout, crabs, frogs… or salted fish such as cod, which is our third proposal.
-What did you prepare for dessert on this menu?
— I was excited that the dessert was vegetables, because we have a very green kitchen and we also have our own garden. We chose carrots that we serve as a Catalan crème brûlée with a different texture.
— Is there any item you would like to highlight in the future from this garden, as you did with Santa Paw beans?
— The garden serves as a space of knowledge and allows us to recover tomato and eggplant varieties. The apple too SiriAnd corn from the cross or buckwheat with carmi which is produced here. We also have a mill to get corn flour naturally.
— There is also Casa Horitzó, your R&D center. Give me an example of a proposal you are working on.
— For us, R&D is about recovering local varieties and connecting with artisans. For example, we have created new serving tools or methods, such as a Brussels sprout stem to place appetizers or a boxwood where we place Four small ones. We also want to be consistent with the environment, and for this reason, we compost plant residues and give bread scraps to chickens and lambs… Our R&D is in touch with nature.
– Biologist Maria Coldicarrira, and naturalist and geographer Miquel Macias, also work on the orchard team. What does his appearance give you?
— In the restaurant, we always liked to mix specialties. It is important to have an outsider present, because they have a different perspective on what we are doing. For example, Mikkel convinced us to put owl boxes in the garden, because there are fewer and fewer of them, and now the space is healthier. We are also working with Guillem Coromina, an agronomist. With Maria, we also gave one of the presentations I liked the most so far, at Fòrum Gastronòmic.
– Speaking of conferences: a few years ago, at San Sebastian Gastronomica, I presented a study on the concept of rancio. What can this flavor contribute to fine cuisine?
– Rancio is a taste associated with Catalan farms and pig slaughter, which originates from storing sausages in the pantry. A spoiled taste is considered a defect, but we…We wanted it to become a virtue because it actually shows gastronomic culture. At that time, we prepared dishes with pork fat by local artisans. Among them, river trout soaked in butter or stock with spoiled pork bones… We were looking for the exact percentage so that rancidity would not be a defect.
— At Les Cols, did you serve any dishes that tasted rancid?
– Yes! In the fall, we collaborate with Jordi Villarasa, an artisan who raises pigs and makes his own sausages. He stuffed the chanterelles into the raw sausage, achieving that decadent point we were looking for.
– Before entering Les Cols I did this Phase At Gusto, in Bolivia, as well as at Blue Hill in Stone Barns by Dan Barber, a chef who says, “It's not just what we eat that's important, but what we eat is what we eat.”
– They were two very different experiences and I learned a lot from both. In La Paz the project was more social and connected with the producers. In New York, I learned a lot about methodology. With what you're saying, I remember that at Blue Hill, they served red yolks because their chickens ate the peppers. Sometimes we focus so much on cooking and texture, which is so important, that we forget other aspects.
-And from your mother, Vina Puigdvall, what did you learn?
– everyone! (He laughs). She passed on to me her passion for the work, especially the way things are taken care of: the equipment, the space, the chickens… I have a very close and intimate relationship with her and, in fact, with the kitchen. It is a small part of everything that unites us. So, entering the restaurant was a very natural process for me.
— Do you believe, as your mother once said, that a restaurant team should be an extension of the family?
– Completely. Our restaurant is a horizontal restaurant where the team is an extension of the family. I joined when I was 22, but there are people who have been there since day one, that's over 33 years! For example, Carme Roca has been operating for a week before opening. He saw me until I was born!
— It is clear that the spirit of family prevails at Les Cols, and perhaps for this reason, you have dedicated the Michelin Award for Best Young Chef of 2024 to your parents, sisters and the team and producers who work with you. What does this award mean to you?
-I didn't expect that at all! I still don't know what to say, and in fact, I can't quite believe it. I loved receiving the award, of course, but I think I loved even more the joy it brought to my environment. I feel like I'm really involved; It's not just my merit, it's the merit of many people. I'm still amazed when chefs congratulate me!