Can Fabes: the latest culinary casualty

Late chef Santi Santamaría’s doomed restaurant had won three Michelin stars

Barcelona -
The unveiling of the revamped Can Fabes in Sant Celoni last year.
The unveiling of the revamped Can Fabes in Sant Celoni last year.

El Racó de Can Fabes, the award-winning restaurant founded by the late chef Santi Santamaría in the Catalan town of Sant Celoni, will shut on August 31.

Under his leadership the establishment had won three Michelin stars, although it currently has just two.

In a press release issued late Wednesday, the Santamaría-Serra family, which owns the restaurant, wrote that El Racó de Can Fabes was closing its doors “after a wonderful culinary and gastronomic adventure that lasted 32 years on the foothills of the Montseny.”

The reason for the decision is the ongoing crisis. The restaurant, the letter explains, lacks “the necessary financial viability to maintain a project based on excellence,” leading current managers to “put an end to one of the most brilliant chapters in Catalan and European cuisine of the last 25 years.”

Without the presence of chef Santamaría, Can Fabes had lost its soul

Santamaría, who died of a heart attack in February 2011 while visiting another establishment he owned in Singapore, was one of a generation of chefs that also included Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Carme Ruscalleda, Pedro Subijana and Sergi Arola, who placed Spanish cuisine on the international map. At the time of his death he had amassed seven Michelin stars.

His is not the only business to feel the bite of the crisis. In late June, tax inspectors closed down Sergi Arola’s internationally renowned Gastro restaurant in Madrid, alleging he owes some 300,000 euros in back taxes and Social Security payments. Gastro, which employs 14 people, reopened on July 10 after reaching a deal with tax authorities. In the meantime Arola, who owns other eateries in Barcelona, Portugal, Bombay, São Paulo and Chile, has put his Harley Davidson motorcycle up for sale, with a note on Twitter that says: “Dear all, I am forced to sell my little one.”

As for superstar chef Ferran Adrià, he shut down his world-famous elBulli restaurant in July 2011 and has since been working on a foundation that is scheduled to open in 2015.

Santamaría’s restaurant in Singapore, Santi, had already closed its doors in March 2012. A year ago, El Racó de Can Fabes revamped its corporate image, its decoration and its menu under the leadership of the late chef’s daughter, Regina Santamaría, and head chef Xavier Pellicer. But the real trouble started when Pellicer announced that he was walking away to work on a project of his own. El Racó de Can Fabes shut down temporarily between January 30 and February 5 “for maintenance and internal team work.”

But without Santamaría himself there, Can Fabes had lost its soul. Besides his vision of new Catalan cuisine, the chef had also been notorious for his sharp tongue and temperamental nature. In 2008 he published a controversial book called La cocina al desnudo (or, Cooking laid bare) in which he criticized the molecular cuisine favored by contemporaries such as Ferran Adrià, stating they themselves would never eat the chemical-laced dishes they served their patrons.

Hundreds of chefs came out in Adrià’s defense and noted that Santamaría himself also used many of the same additives in his creations, and that, in any case, all ingredients used to create new shapes and textures met Spanish and European health standards.

“These have been the saddest weeks in the history of Spanish cuisine,” said Adrià about the public quarrel, which the media quickly dubbed “The War of the Stoves.”

The Santamaría-Serra family said it was leaving behind “over three decades of indefatigable creation, of a search for top-quality products and perfection in the kitchen and the dining room, of commitment to our culinary roots and to their renewal, all of it presided by an ideal instilled in us by the co-founder and soul of this place, Santi Santamaría: to please the customers, and this we will continue to do with all our might until the very last day.”

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS