We interviewed Damien, the owner and cook of Market Cuina Fresca. Market is a restaurant focused on healthy meals made of seasonal ingredients that find the perfect balance between elaborate and simple. Opening his restaurant in Poblenou in 2011, Damien was considered a pioneer with a great idea. His project would add tremendous value to the people working and living in this neighborhood.
You are from Australia. How did you find your way to Barcelona?
When I lived in Toronto one of my friends suggested traveling around Europe for the summer. When we were in Barcelona we went out for dinner with some friends and at that dinner, I met my wife. I haven´t left since. I have been here now for almost 5 years.
Why did you choose to open Market Cuina Fresca in Poblenou?
My wife has a production company (literally on the street behind the restaurant) and has been in this neighborhood for 12 years. There are many creative businesses in this neighborhood. When I opened, there weren´t any options for the people who liked to eat differently and healthy. There were only the typical, old bars. So we thought setting Market up here would add value to the neighborhood.
How would you define the concept of Market?
We have a manifesto which is to make food that is healthy, creative, makes you think and is everything but Spanish. I sometimes make dishes that are Spanish or Catalan because I enjoy making them, but I don´t make the traditional ones.
We want people to be able to go back to their jobs and be inspired and productive instead of full and sleepy.
How would you define your cooking style?
I believe in simplicity. I try to use products naturally and capture the essence of things. I also like to use many varieties of vegetables because I believe people here don´t consume enough vegetables. In Spain there’s a lot of eggplant, peppers, zucchini and cabbage. I would love it if more of the local farms started growing a wider variety of vegetables like kale, Asian style vegetables, different kinds of beets and lettuce…
Your menu changes daily. Where do you source your ingredients?
Everyday I shop at the Santa Caterina market. Normally I’m the first one to arrive at the market at 7:30 in the morning. I really like the vendors I buy from. They only sell seasonal products. They are a bit more expensive but I believe you pay for the quality and the freshness. In addition, I try to collaborate with local artisans like Cloudstreet or Edge Brewing.
How do you compare the Spanish food culture to the Australian?
I like that people in Europe are very proud of their products. Whereas in Australia, people are proud of their food but they also want to use the best things from around the world. For example, in Spain only some top-end restaurants will use some French or German wines. But in Australia, it is common to find a greater international variety of wines. However, it’s a fact that it´s cheaper for them to import wine from other countries than to buy it from Australia, because Australian wines are just so expensive. If I had a restaurant in Australia, I would absolutely be using Australian wines because I like using local products.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The most enjoyable part is seeing people that understand my vision. For instance, when asparagus is in season I like to serve them raw. It is different and fresh. People in Spain are used to eating asparagus from a can. I love when people say “oh I can´t believe what you´ve done with the asparagus, it was amazing”.
You have a nice partnership with Espai 88. What kind of events you do?
They have such a beautiful space. We held a brunch there. We wanted to hold an event where people could sit, eat, listen to good music and be surrounded by beautiful flowers. We wanted to introduce people to Market, Cloudstreet, Skye Coffee by having them come and enjoy brunch. We also did a Poblenou dinner party. It was a networking dinner for all the creative people in the neighborhood. It was a great success with 88 people in attendance. Everyone keeps asking when we´re going to do the next one.
What´s next for you?
We´re in the process of opening another restaurant. We are currently looking for a space. It’ll be a similar concept however it will be a bit more high-end. Our goal is also for it to still be affordable. And it’ll be only open in the evenings. We´re hoping to have it open by the end of the year. I´m working with the guys from Espai 88 to design the space.
Finally, could you share some of your favorite places to eat in Barcelona?
Once a month we go out with some Australian friends and try to find new places to eat. We like Mont Bar and every once in a while we go to Xemei. My wife and I eat in a lot of top-end restaurants. Our favorite place is Dos Palillos in Raval. For me it’s one of the best restaurants in the world. The food is amazing and they are very consistent. That’s how we like to spend our money: on food and travel.
Market Cuina Fresca
C/Badajoz 83, 08005 Barcelona