Celebrated in Barcelona, a city with genuine historical importance in Spain’s rich gastronomy, the gala night for the launch of the 2024 edition of the guide, brought together the great and the good of the world of Spanish gastronomy.
On a night of high emotion, much joy and a few disappointments, 31 restaurants were awarded one star, a solitary establishment was elevated from one to two stars and two restaurants went right to the top, making the jump from two to three stars.
Though the guide is primarily known for the stars, it is important to remember that it is about much more than those restaurants who are privileged to hold one, two or three stars. Originally conceived in 1900 as a drivers’ directory, it is first and foremost a guide for people on the road looking for somewhere to eat on their journey. The star rating system was not launched until 1926 – almost 100 years later, the Michelin Guide is revered by chefs as a serious measure of the industry.
In Spain the publication recommends a total of 770 restaurants, of these 91 are new additions this year. Among them 229 hold a Bib Gourmand, which signals value for money. In the 2024 guide there are 23 new of those recommended in Spain.
In recent years the green star distinction has gained traction as the wider industry is turning a focus to sustainability. This year 12 restaurants were afforded this honor.
The 2024 guide sees 31 new restaurants receiving one star, five of them in the capital city of Madrid and two new ones in Barcelona. Despite a couple of restaurants being tipped as potential recipients of the two-star distinction, on this occasion just one actually received it on the night.
The restaurant Venta Moncalvillo, run by brothers Ignacio and Carlos Echapresto who first opened in 1996 have firmly placed their village of Daroca de Rioja, with just 50 inhabitants, on the gastronomic world map.
“Year after year Spain impresses our inspectors as the country’s chefs continue to work on one of the most creative gastronomic panoramas, inspiring the entire world,” says Gwendal Poullennec, international director for the Michelin Guide. “The level of creativity and personality found in the pioneering restaurants of any country is a reflection of the culinary tradition and respect for the land that together makes up a genuine gastronomic mosaic.”
The evening reached a crescendo when not one, but two restaurants were announced as the latest additions to the list of those holding the top honor. Three stars are awarded to restaurants described as having “exceptional cuisine and thus worth a special journey”.
The first, Paco Morales from Córdoba in Andalucía, embarked on a cultural gastronomic venture when he opened his restaurant Noor exploring the origins and heritage Andalucian cuisine through time. With the third Michelin star his efforts to uncover cultural history on the plate have been rewarded.
But the biggest applause of the night went to Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro of Disfrutar in Barcelona. When Elisabeth Bucher, global director of communications for the Michelin guide made this final announcement the room erupted in wild celebrations.
The trio opened the restaurant – also named the second best restaurant in the world by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants this year – in 2014 after working together in elbulli, the cradle of Spanish creative cuisine pioneered by Ferrán and Albert Adriá.
With that history the natural expectation has long been that the team would be awarded the third star and it was apt that when it finally came it was on home ground.
The evening also saw several individual awards handed out. For the first time the top sommelier was recognized and it was perhaps no surprise that this inaugural award went to Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, a much admired and respected industry leader.
Another individual award, for the young chef of the year, went to Martina Puigvert, from Les Cols – a two-star restaurant in Les Cols in Catalonia that she runs with her two sisters and their mother Fina Puigdevall.
The service award was handed to Juan Carles Ibañez from Lasarte while Juan Mari Arzak, was named the mentor chef and in truth there must be few chefs in Spain who have not passed through the kitchens of Arzak, which was first awarded three stars in 1989.
Catalonia back on top
As a region, Catalonia and its capital city of Barcelona, holds a vital place in Spanish gastronomy, but it has had its fair share of challenges in recent years.
The political unrest related to the campaign for independence in conjunction with the shocking terrorist attack in central Barcelona in 2017and closely followed by the Covid pandemic, which imposed tough restrictions on the city, took their toll on a once flourishing hospitality sector. Albert Adriá, among the most prolific restaurateurs in the country was forced to close all seven of his restaurants in Barcelona.
Adriá has now reopened his flagship fine dining destination Enigma and it is symptomatic of a city that is experiencing a change in gastronomic fortunes. The wider Catalonia region now holds 55 stars – far ahead of any other region or city.
Similarly, the three stars awarded to Noor and Disfrutar take Spain to new heights in gastronomic terms, with 15 restaurants holding the top distinction and cementing the country’s position as a genuine leader and innovator in world gastronomy.