Getting Intimate with Spain's Reigning King of Cuisine, Sergi Arola
Superstar chef Sergi Arola has garnered an international following of culinary connoisseurs who flock to his establishments for samplings of the kitchen virtuoso’s heralded cuisine. His flagship restaurant, La Broche, remains Madrid’s must-taste fine dining destination for locals and travelers alike, while Arola, his new venture in the extension of the Reina Sofia Museum, offers visitors the chance to partake of an artful meal after a long day of perusing Picassos, Dalis, and other Spanish greats.
Art and Living: As a follower of Ferrán Adrià’s school, how do you view the relationship of both yourself and your food to Adrià?
Sergi Arola: At this point, Adrià is more a friend than a teacher.
A and L: So, you’re saying that the disciple has surpassed the master?
SA: No, the disciple follows one path and the master another, each with his own defined personality. My menu is something else that is not aelicoidal olives; that’s not my interest, I believe the use of technology has a limit that is given by what people ask for. Americans have a saying—“give the people what they want”—and this Anglo-Saxon pragmatism is what I try to follow strictly. My cooking opposes other, more intellectual and scientific practices. With it, I try to find an identity and an equilibrium between aesthetics, texture, taste and technology.
A and L: In your mind, are you an artist or a businessman?
SA: I consider myself an artisan—a businessman who has the luck of knowing not only the numbers of his business but also its essence. I live in a constant state of schizophrenia between being an artist and a businessman.
A and L: What do you say to those out there that call you a true artist?
SA: If what Adrià does can be compared to what Picasso did, I would like to compare myself to Juan Gris who, though he wasn’t the outright inventor of Cubism, took it one step further than Picasso, analyzing it more profoundly and from its roots.
A and L: How do you feel about your two newest projects: Arola, the recently-opened restaurant at the Reina Sofia Museum, and overseeing catering on Iberia Airlines’ international flights?
SA: Well, in the Reina Sofia Museum I have tried to make a good museum cafeteria that both serves the Madrid public and follows the Spanish way of eating, the tradition of the tapas. It has a playful character—very different from La Broche—with a lot of things happening, fun music and a hipper atmosphere. The Iberia project simply puts my know-how at the service of airplane catering. My way of understanding food, tastes and the eating experience has been applied to airborne dining.
A and L: What about the restaurant you opened in Miami?
SA: My colleague, Angel Palacios, and I opened a restaurant in Miami shortly after 9/11 and had to close it since it was an unfortunate time for its debut. Anyway, I feel very comfortable in the States and like the American lifestyle. In New York or Miami everyone is both from there and from nowhere; there’s this great multiracial and multilingual quality. We have contacts on the East Coast, in Las Vegas and in New York, and would love to open a restaurant in the near future.