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Is the Economic Crisis in Spain Stifling Modern Cuisine?

The kitchen staff, and stagiares, of Mugaritz
The kitchen staff, and stagiares, of Mugaritz
Photo: Mugaritz/Facebook

A struggling Spanish economy is putting haute cuisine in its place. Or so argues a recent article in newspaper El País. In rather dramatic fashion, the piece recounts how not even a decade ago, Spain was a mythical place for gastronomy. elBulli chef Ferran Adrià was the symbol of a revolution where creativity trumped economic results and the chef's vision superseded the customer's preferences; every young cook wanted to come be a part of it.

But in the last few years, several restaurants of note — like the 30-year-old, Michelin-starred Ca' Sento in Valencia — have closed their doors in the face of economic troubles. In place of thirty-course tastings, writes Jesús Ruiz Mantilla, came casual eateries, lower check averages, and more home-cooked meals. "Will it be the case now," the article asks, "that Spanish stagiaires have to leave the country to learn?"

For example, David Muñoz, the young chef who runs Diverxo, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant that might be Madrid's best, has said he will probably leave the country before 2014 because of the economic climate.

A recent article in the New York Times would seem to support El País' argument. The Times article described how higher taxes and a 24% unemployment rate "are battering restaurants, from high-volume taverns to upscale dining rooms that once catered to bankers and politicians." In 2009, over 5,000 bars and restaurants closed, and many upscale restaurants transformed into more casual eateries. Adrià provided comment for that piece, stating that "really good restaurants aren't anywhere near closing, but the ones that do close are those probably run by businessmen who didn't really know much about gastronomy."

In that spirit, the El País article concludes with the quote that "creativity and the avant-garde will of course survive... there are many talented, courageous people that won't be able to avoid being brilliant, crisis or no crisis."

· La crisis baja los humos a la alta cocina [El País via @GerryDawes]
· Chefs in Spain Must Adapt to Economic Crisis or Fail [NYT]
· All Spain Coverage [-E-]