Six months after they met, Sofia and Sergio moved to Paris together. Sergio was working at El Fogón, a tapas restaurant that won a star a month after he started. The experience gained working right next to Alberto Herráiz from el Fogón as well as the two years they spent in Paris, very much influenced this young couple. “We changed the 16-course tasting menu every month. It was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot. Alberto had a strong artistic side and I loved it. Many artists came regularly to the restaurant. I remember whenever Pierre Soulages would come, we would always prepare black rice with squid for him.” They returned to Barcelona with the idea of starting a small tapas bar with a very personal touch. Together, they created La Pepita, which is currently one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Four years later, they’ve just opened their second project called La Cava.
Sergio, when did you start cooking?
Se: I always loved to cook. On Sunday we would always eat paella and one day I started preparing it. I remember my mother would leave me all the ingredients and I would cook the dish. I kept cooking while I was at the university. I realized it relaxed me whenever I was stressed. I would cook some lentils for instance. Cutting with a sharp knife really relaxes me.
You studied industrial design. Why did you change that profession to being a cook?
Se: When I finished my industrial design studies, I started looking for a job but the professional prospects were not what I expected. At the same time, I realized that I could find in cooking what I was looking for in design. You have materials, which are the ingredients. You have manufacturing processes that are the different cooking techniques. And you have shapes, colors and the taste, which is something that makes it even more complex. You can make wonderful things but in the end they need to taste good.
Tapas at La Pepita are very creative. What is the process of creating a new dish?
Se: For me the beauty of cooking is creating. I always encourage our team to bring in ideas for new dishes. I need their involvement and contribution. I like to get seasonal ingredients and start making combinations with those ingredients. However, cooking is 90% work and 10% creativity.
What do you seek when you create a new dish?
Se: I really like complex dishes where you find different tastes at the beginning, at the end and other tastes that linger in the mouth. There are certain ingredients that are very tasty but combined they don’t taste good. At the same time, there are others that you’d never imagine together and once you try them combined they taste amazing, such as piquillo pepper with strawberry or anchovy with condensed milk.
How would you define La Pepita style?
So: In La Pepita we want people to be surprised and to have a difference experience. We aim people to feel comfortable regardless what are their style, age or taste. We welcome people, prepare food and set prices as we would like to be treated when we go out. We do everything with our own style. It’s easier to do it and to defend it; it works for us.
What is a tapas bar for you?
Se: We understand tapas as something to share and eat in one bite. Whenever we eat tapas we like to see the table full of dishes. I like to taste a piece of salmon, a bit of croquette, and basically do my own tasting menu. When a customer orders a few tapas, we bring them to the table in the order that we think it’s the best combination. It is also crucial that a tapas restaurant is a fast place, both the kitchen and the service.
You have just opened La Cava. What is the concept of this new place?
So: La Pepita was created as a tapas bar, but the bar concept has somehow been lost a little bit and we wanted to recover it. La Cava is a vermuteria with our own style. It is a simpler proposal than La Pepita since we base our dishes in preserved food, but at the same time it allows us to be very creative. We serve mussels with a roasted sweet potato cream and carrot pickles. We prepare cockles with a ginger vinaigrette, horseradish and a hint of lime. We serve razor clams with a Bloody Mary and celery sauce. Every dish has our own touch.
What is key to being successful in the kitchen?
Se: It’s crucial knowing the product and different techniques, but the most important thing is to build your own taste over the time. In the end, people are eating food I like. It is very important to try what you cook. This is something that chefs often forget.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
So: I enjoy when we are able to take care of each and every client that visits us. I love when everything flows and we have time to spend with all the customers and talk to them about their impression. That’s what sets the difference. We wouldn’t exist without our clients. That’s something we are very aware of and we want them to know that we appreciate them.
What is the most rewarding aspect of having created La Pepita and La Cava?
So: We have built our own way of doing things, a place that people visit everyday, and where there is always a good vibe. We really enjoy what we do and that is very satisfying. I love that we are able to create feelings. We’ve even seen a marriage proposal here! Such moments are indescribable!
What are your favorite places in Barcelona?
Se and So: We love eating out and trying new places in the city whenever we can. You may find us at Tibet, which in our opinion they have the best cargols a la llauna in Barcelona. Other places we love are Cervería Brasería Gallega, Suquet del Almirall, Can Vallés, Martinez, Tapas 24, La Plata, La Cova Fumada, Vaso de Oro, Dry Martini, Margarita Blue and Nus, which is our favorite tavern in town!
Carrer de Còrsega, 343, 08037 Barcelona
Carrer de Còrsega, 339, 08037 Barcelona