CULTURE

New Michelin stars give boost to Spanish restaurants struggling with coronavirus crisis

Three new establishments earn two stars, 19 receive their first, and 21 are awarded a new distinction, the Green Star for sustainability

Jordi Artall (r), the head of Cinc Sentits, a family-run Barcelona establishment that was awarded the Green Star.
Jordi Artall (r), the head of Cinc Sentits, a family-run Barcelona establishment that was awarded the Green Star.IVÁN RAGA / Restaurant Cinc Sentits

The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the food industry has not stopped the Michelin Guide from announcing its list of top restaurants in Spain and Portugal for 2021 at a virtual event held in Madrid on Monday. The prestigious organization has awarded stars to 234 Spanish establishments, and of these, 11 have retained the top three-star status that they had last year.

The accolades are welcome news in a sector where some of the greats have had to shut down due to the crisis, including Madrid’s Zalacaín, the first Spanish restaurant to receive three Michelin stars back in 1987. After 47 years in business, this iconic eatery was forced to closed its doors in early November. And many of this year’s winners are temporarily closed as they wait for restrictions to be lifted.

This encouragement is really nice after fighting for so long
Javier Olleros, co-owner of Culler de Pau

The inventory of top Spanish restaurants has barely changed. None of the establishments that made it into the star-studded list last year has dropped out. Three more have moved into the two-star category: Bo.TiC (Corçà, Girona), Cinc Sentits (Barcelona) and Culler de Pau (O Grove, Pontevedra).

“This encouragement is really nice after fighting for so long,” said Javier Olleros, who co-owns Culler de Pau along with his wife Amaranta Rodíguez. Right now, the establishment is closed and its team on furlough due to the coronavirus crisis and the mobility restrictions, but the plan is to reopen on December 18 if possible. “If they don’t reopen the cities, who is going to come? We’ll have to keep holding on.”

One of the dishes served by Bo.Tic in Corçà, Girona.
One of the dishes served by Bo.Tic in Corçà, Girona.Bo.Tic

Another 19 won their first star, bringing the total number of one-star restaurants in Spain to nearly 200. Many of these are located in sparsely populated areas, such as La Lobita (Soria), El Ermitaño (Zamora), Hospedería El Batán (Sierra de Albarracín) and Retama (Ciudad Real).

There are no new names in the three-star category, but the 11 that held this distinction last year continue to claim it. These include Arzak, the San Sebastián restaurant that has held three stars for the last three decades and is credited with starting the new Basque cuisine movement. The city and its surrounding area are home to other three-star establishments, including Akelarre and Martín Berasategui. The other names on the list are Lasarte Barcelona, Celler de Can Roca, Quique Dacosta, Azurmendi, Aponiente, ABaC, Cenador de Amós and DiverXO.

This edition of the Michelin Guide Spain and Portugal also includes a new distinction, the Green Star which “aims to highlight exemplary establishments operating at the forefront of sustainable gastronomy with virtuous initiatives.”

The Michelin Guide awarded stars to 234 Spanish establishments, and of these, 11 have retained the top three-star status

In Spain, 21 restaurants have been awarded the Green Star. Many of them already hold a Michelin star, but some do not, including Somiatruites in Igualada (Barcelona) or Llar de Viri in San Román de Candamo (Asturias).

“We don’t depend on a big hotel or a business group. This is a personal adventure, a great example of teamwork,” said Jordi Artal, head of Cinc Sentits, a family-run Barcelona establishment that uses local produce from small suppliers. Artal, who was born in Canada after his parents moved there from Catalonia, is a self-taught chef who describes the Michelin Green Star as “a boost” for the team’s morale in these days of reduced opening hours and limits on capacity.

Javier Olleros, from Culler de Pau, says that the Green Star is what he is most excited about. “It’s an interesting distinction so that everyone can see that responsible work does get acknowledged. For quite a few years 85% of our products have been organic, and we also make compost,” he said. “This award lets us tell our story with greater exposure.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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