Completely self-made, this ingenious chef has established herself through natural talent, relentless study, and an overwhelmingly infectious enthusiasm for the joyful power of food. Carme Ruscalleda founded the gastronomic institution that was "Sant Pau," first in Catalonia (Three MICHELIN-Starred, closed in 2018), and then in Tokyo, followed by other restaurants, "Moments" and the "Blanc" concept, of which she later handed the reins to her children, who maintain 4 Stars. Carme is now dedicated to "Cocina Estudio," focused on research and professional training.
Carme Ruscalleda was born in 1952 into a family of farmers and traders. After completing studies in economics, she began helping out in the family grocery store, where, after marrying Toni Balam, she set up a section for takeout dishes and various homemade treats. At that time, she had no formal culinary training except for a course in butchery techniques, yet her natural talent was undeniable, leading to resounding success. The couple was ready to embark on a grand adventure.
Setting their sights on a stately 19th-century house strategically located by the sea, Carme and Toni planned its renovation, including a spacious kitchen overlooking the beach. The inauguration of their "Sant Pau" took place in 1988 when the chef was already 36 years old – an age that might seem prohibitive for a culinary debut. They started with a safe approach, offering only lunchtime dishes made from homegrown ingredients. However, the bar was quickly raised: there was no trace of timidity; instead, an audacious spirit of the predestined, supported by a product knowledge gained from a decade of selecting and selling.
Their mission was to infuse new life into traditional products, projecting gustatory memory into the future. Critics were won over swiftly: the restaurant entered major guides almost immediately, receiving its first MICHELIN Star in 1991, the second in 1996, and the third in 2005 – the first ever awarded to a woman in Spain. The "Sant Pau," the dream of visionary partners, became a part of the global gastronomic elite. The World's 50 Best also recognized this, awarding Carme the Best Female Chef in the World in 2014, which she declined, raising discussions. "Accepting it would have meant cornering myself," she explained. The place for female chefs is on the same playing field as male chefs, without favoritism or quotas that certify a state of minority.
Ambition called, and in 2004 she opened a second establishment, "Sant Pau" in Tokyo, followed by "Moments" in Barcelona in 2008. Each earned Two MICHELIN Stars, bringing the total to a record-setting seven, later reduced to four with the closure of the Catalan restaurant on October 27, 2018. "We've learned firsthand that this is one of the most complex professions in the world, yet it grants you freedom of action and the opportunity to breathe happily," stated their official announcement. "With our children and now our grandchildren, we have always shared the values of family work, love and respect for the profession, passion for food and gastronomy." However, the thirtieth anniversary of the restaurant prompted them to reflect on their future in the industry, seeking to safeguard their enthusiasm. Part of the restaurant was transformed into a bar run by their daughter Mercé and her husband. Meanwhile, "Sant Pau" in Tokyo, the "Blanc" concept at Barcelona's "Mandarin," and "Moments" continued under the guidance of their son Raul, still proudly holding the Two MICHELIN Stars. Not to forget "Cocina Estudio," a hub dedicated to research and professional training.