Alberto Ferruz and Emmanuelle Baron (BonAmb)
He would have loved to have his grandmother, Concha, dine at BonAmb. And Vázquez Montalbán. Neither of these two things are possible. But he can have Martín Berasategui, his mentor, at his table. He made Ferruz work hard and taught him what he has internalized: that gastronomy takes time and is based sacrifice and passion. ‘If he came here, he’d tell me off, and that’s good for me once in a while,’ says Alberto Ferruz, who is already good at punishing himself.
He is extremely self-demanding and he very demanding of others, too. ‘I’m quite uncompromising in the kitchen,’ he says, ‘although I’m unpredictable,’ he explains. He is discreet and rascally at the same time; he might go for an eight-kilometre run each morning but then smoke a packet of cigarettes a day; he’ll read Treasure Island in order to return to his childhood or isolate himself to understand the landscape.
His dedication and that of his team is unwavering. And they get results. BonAmb opened in 2011 and it’s on its way to getting a third star. Their pancetta with toasted milk, their marinated noodles, their blue duck... are wingbeats to the summit. One summit after another, and this is what marks the swift rise of this man from Cariñena. Born in 1984, at the age of just twelve, he was already working at his uncle Carlos’s restaurant. ‘The menu is etched into my memory: garlic chicken, grilled mussels...’ The menu he now offers in Xàbia speaks of Time, Sun and Salt. Time as a mechanism, so that new alchemies can flow; the sun, as a source of inspiration and ingredient in his dishes; and salt, the cornerstone of his creativity ‘It’s what gives flavour; without it we wouldn’t be able to achieve these dishes.’
He devours the stuff, ‘I eat pinches of it during meal service when I’m nervous; the team freaks out.’ Emmanuelle Baron is part of this team. She is, like salt, a vital part of BonAmb. It’s why she goes out to speak with diners together with Ferruz; she sets aside her shyness and goes into the dining room to reveal the magic of the menu, and that’s why everything about her exudes talent. Just like it does with Ferruz.
Just like the team that has made this restaurant into an unmissable place of the new Mediterranean cuisine. Or perhaps not so new, ‘Now, that everyone is looking towards the future, we aim to be the guardians of the past.’ What this chef doesn’t know – or perhaps he does – is, whether preserving yesterday will shape the foundations of tomorrow. His and whoever goes with him. A future that whispers a cuisine writ large, and glory on the table.
By Jesús Trelis