Fine Dining

Carme Ruscalleda, From Family Minimarket to 7 Michelin Stars: the Story Of a Top Chef

Serena Curto
copertina carme ruscalleda

Carme Ruscalleda i Serra is a self-taught chef who now holds seven Michelin stars and an honorary doctorate from the University of Barcelona for her pivotal role in Catalan gastronomic culture.

The story 

Carme Ruscalleda i Serra (Sant Pol de Mar, 1952) describes herself as a self-taught, perfectionist, innovative, and creative chef who constantly reinterprets traditional recipes and advocates for sustainability. "A self-taught chef is accompanied by a curious spirit, great confidence in their goals, but also deep frustration due to uncertainty about achieving those goals," she stated in a speech quoted by La Vanguardia.

carme ruscalleda El Norte
@El Norte

"That's why one works tirelessly and never stops searching, studying, asking questions, and learning until they reach them." In her journey, she has demonstrated determination, passion, and immense culinary knowledge, leading the University of Barcelona (UB) to award her an honorary doctorate, making her a reference point in Catalan gastronomic culture.

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"It's an honor for me! I could never have imagined, not even in my dreams, receiving recognition of this magnitude!" Ruscalleda exclaimed, addressing an auditorium filled with friends, family, and colleagues like Joan and Josep Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), the Puigvert-Puigdevall family (Les Cols), and Josep Monge, along with other notable figures like the former president of the Generalitat, Jordi Pujol. The university honored the chef for her innovative approach and dedication to preserving the essence of Catalan cuisine, as well as "for the values of effort, hard work, tenacity, generosity, and willingness to share knowledge, which she has cultivated throughout her career and which we share," said UB's rector, Joan Guàrdia.

carme ruscalleda Ceviche de dorade a la catalane

Cristina Andrés Lacueva, a professor in Pharmacy and Food Sciences Degree, served as the sponsor. During her laudation, she emphasized that the Catalan chef meets the criteria for receiving the honorary degree: "She has combined tradition with innovation, distinguished herself for her leadership and mastery, established scientific relationships with the university, and committed herself to creating sustainable cuisine." Carme Ruscalleda grew up in a family of farmers and merchants who owned a small grocery store where she worked from a young age. Together with her husband Toni Balam, she transformed the family business into a ready-made dish shop and later decided to turn the hostel in front of their establishment into the Sant Pau restaurant, in operation until 2018.

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Throughout her career, Carme has earned a total of seven Michelin stars: three at the iconic restaurant, two at Sant Pau in Tokyo (closed this year), and two at Moments, the gastronomic space at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Barcelona. Ruscalleda has been and continues to be a strong advocate for seasonal, locally sourced products and a true activist supporting producers and artisans. "We are heirs to a cuisine that comes from antiquity, a wise and healthy cuisine that treats nature elegantly and enticingly, with humble yet knowledgeable recipes."

carme ruscalleda Isolda Delgado Mora
@Isoda Delgado Mora

For years, she has been spreading this gastronomic culture and has now called on the Generalitat to introduce it in schools: "I hope that soon a subject on cooking and nutrition will be promoted. We are already behind, and there's no time to waste in spreading gastronomic culture."

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