A Catalan Farmer In The Modern Era
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/©ICEX
Translation: Jenny McDonald /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Oriol Rovira. Tomás Zarza/©ICEX.
This is precisely one of the culinary gifts that Oriol Rovira offers customers who venture into this part of the Berguedà area: a menu that bows to old-style Catalan cooking, produced largely using vegetables and fruit grown on the family allotments, turkey and pork raised on the family farm, wild herbs and truffles gathered in the nearby forests, hand-made sausages, like their famous sobrassada (cured pork sausage with spices and pimentón - a Spanish type of paptrika) and traditional home-made black sausages.
Few restaurants can be so confident of filling their store cupboards with so many local produce, especially when here, local means not a few kilometers away but only a few meters away from the doorstep. Alongside this choice selection of local raw materials, Els Casals makes sure to pick the very best shellfish from the Catalan coast and Ibérico cured ham from pure breed acorn-fed pigs in Extremadura, among other products not sourced in-house.
Oriol is the visible head of a family clan completely devoted to upholding sustainable cuisine and the restaurant business as a tribute to the land, which always gives its best, provided it is nurtured and cared for. Two examples illustrate the constant search for culinary roots in Els Casals: the Rovira family has managed to recover an almost extinct breed of hen; they have also started to grow local tomato varieties that are barely known outside the region and taste absolutely delicious.
Oriol Rovira knows his heart is in Els Casals, but this is not incompatible with taking part in gourmet conferences, where he proves that humility and thorough knowledge of food products are the best credentials a chef can present to his or her customers. In 2011 he also embarked on a new professional venture: he decided to forge an alliance with the Sagardi group and open a new premises in the center of Barcelona, specializing in filled baguettes made with ingredients sourced from his home base at Els Casals. Trading under the name of Sagàs, this new venue, in Oriol's own words, aims to "recover the ancient idea of using your hands to eat a good loaf of bread filled with fresh, organic products and with no preservatives, additives or colorants". A kind of high quality fast food that's tasty, traditional and makes the most of the Catalan food store.