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Chef Carles Tejedor on His Fascination With Oil and His New Barcelona Restaurant

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Photo: Carles Tejedor

Carles Tejedor — the Spanish chef who spent seven years in charge of the kitchen at Barcelona's iconic Michelin-starred Via Veneto — is also the man behind Oil Motion, a project that aims to spread knowledge of oil all around the world. Tomorrow, the next stop for Tejedor will be the opening of a new restaurant named By in Barcelona.

Earlier this year, Tejedor abandoned the stability of Via Veneto to implement his Oil Motion project, which includes By, his two oil laboratories in Barcelona and Beijing (Oilab), and his Oilab app and website. The project also encompasses his participation in the Science & Cooking lectures at Harvard University, and Tejedor's culinary consultancy for restaurants and some of Spain's best oil makers.

Now, after traveling thousands of kilometers around the world learning, teaching, inspiring and getting inspiration, Tejedor is opening the 90-square-meter restaurant By in the center of Barcelona. Along with basketball player and business partner Sarunas Jasikeviciusy, Tejedor wants to provide diners the opportunity to travel the world, just by sitting down in his casual fusion-tapas restaurant. And the opening of By is not Tejedor's only project in the short term: he is also preparing for the launch in January 2014 of an exclusive private dinner space that will be integrated in his Oilab in Terrassa (near Barcelona). Here now, Tejedor on his new restaurant and various other oil-related projects:

How would you explain the concept of your new restaurant openings?

By's menu appears as a constellation with 13 steps.

I have several projects for the next years, but the most interesting ones at this stage are the Oilab BCN private kitchen and the restaurant By. By is a casual, easy-going fusion tapas and cocktail restaurant where I am linking gastronomic concepts and different ways of eating. For example, you will be able to have a salad served as a cocktail or as an ice cream. You can also order steamed dumplings, buns, and vegetables in bamboo baskets, the real Asian style that is really hot in Spain nowadays. Our menu also includes three options for blintzes and a space reserved for the hottest culinary trends that will be periodically changing and evolving.

The menu appears as a constellation with 13 steps, and each step offers three choices of dishes. We will play a lot with seasonal and trendy concepts. The customer can order a la carte or three different kinds of tasting menus: the half-time menu (8 dishes at 25 euros or $34), full menu (13 dishes at 45 euros or $62), and the deluxe menu (13 premium dishes at 65 euros or $90). We are opening on Friday, December 13th, but we will still need some more time to be able to grease By's machinery.

By Menu

Oilab BCN is a space for R&D in oil that becomes a private kitchen for only six people on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The clients will be able to ask in advance for the main characteristics of the menu, such as the price, whether it will be in the traditional or vanguard style, international or Catalan dishes, and so on. In this kitchen, we will be implementing techniques, products and culinary knowledge acquired during all my voyages around the world. Our guests will be sitting down at the counter, Asian style, and dialogue with the diner will be very important. 
Why did you decide to begin this new adventure? 
I've traveled a lot and I have had the great chance to be able to learn many things. I want to keep on learning, evolving. That's why we decided to open a new Oilab in China, a country full of magic and history, where every day you are able to learn new things.

Why did you decide to exchange your stability at Via Veneto for these new projects?

While I was in London, I woke up to the culinary revolution that was happening in Spain.

I should say that I have spent some wonderful years in Via Veneto. I have also been very touched by my experience at the Savoy Hotel in London. While I was working in London, I felt that I woke up to the culinary revolution that was happening in Spain, and also in the world, initiated by Ferran Adrià and the elBulli movement. I realized that being a chef was so much more than just cooking. I realized the emotion that cuisine can generate.

Since then, I knew I needed something else to feel complete. I started with Oil Motion a couple of years ago, while still working at Via Veneto, but didn't have enough time for those projects. That's why I decided to follow my heart. I think now is a good time to take risks. If you are devoted to your profession and if you really believe in your project, everything is possible.
How would you define Oil Motion?
Oil Motion is the concept that includes all my projects together. It is very easy to understand, just two words: "Oil" as our main product, and the "Emotions" we are working to generate. The emotions we can share about oil is the storyline for all my projects. Our Oilab in BCN is like the beating heart that gives life to Oil Motion. A cooking studio, an app, and a team of professionals working in R&D and as culinary consultants.

Oil Motion is also the great opportunity we have had to be able to collaborate in the oil section of the Bullipedia, the culinary encyclopedia created and developed by Ferran Adrià, elBulli team, Pere Castells and Barcelona University. It's a great honor for us to be able to collaborate with such great professionals.

[Illustration: Paco Roca]

How did the oil become the fuel in your life?
Oil always been in my life since my grandmother gave me bread with chocolate, oil, and salt as an afternoon snack. Oil has always been my companion in the kitchen and also it is the only product in the world that can be present in all cultures. That is very exciting.

Olive oil was the starting point of this great voyage.

Four years ago, my first participation in the Harvard [lecture series] changed the course of my life. I suddenly understood that I knew very little about oil, and that there were still so many things to research. I found this fact fascinating, and I understood that olive oil was the starting point of this great voyage. Oil is a fascinating product: It is really difficult to find it in other textures and that's a challenge for me. I am working to find how to change its texture.

When people think about oil, they normally think about olives, sunflower...but, thanks to our Oilab app and website, we have found more than 180 different kinds oil around the world. Also, we have realized there is a great interest in oil. Every month, we have over 4 million oil-related [pieces of] feedback from all around the world. That reaffirms our project. That's why we want to keep oil as the main thread of the story.

What does your collaboration with Harvard mean in your career? 
It means a lot to me. Harvard is no doubt one of the most important universities in the world. As a chef, it is unbelievable to be able to impart a lecture there about cooking and science. The fact that there are normally no chefs among the attendees is amazing.

I think it is a really interesting way to add depth to the kitchen and also approach it from completely different disciplines such as science, history, and design.

What is next?
My next step is to consolidate my projects. I think 2014 might be a good year for us: We are launching various projects and I will do as much as I can to make them work. I am also participating on a cruise in September 2014, the Ship of Excellence for which I will be responsible for the organization and direction of a pop-up restaurant. A total of 18 Michelin-starred chefs, the best chefs and pastry chefs in the world, will cook for 150 people for 15 days. I think it will be something amazing and we will do our best to make it a success. 

—Isabel Conde

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