Martina Puigvert Puigdevall (Girona, 1994) is the present and the future of the Cols, the restaurant that his mother, Fina Puigdevall, put at the center of the culinary map of La Garrotxa, the natural environment that gives meaning to everything they do. Although trained at the Basque Culinary Center (in this case, being born in the kitchen would not have been enough background), when the time came, she took a step forward, and even if she imposed herself a priori, the results confirm her decision.
We chat with a cheerful and positive-minded leader who does not weigh the responsibility more than necessary. It is the head of the Cols, an idyllic place at the gates of the Pyrenees that would not exist without the gaze and the genius of a family entirely dedicated to praising the treasures offered by the environment.
At what precise moment in your life did you know that you would be a chef?
I don’t think I’ve ever known for sure, even though I’ve been surrounded by this project since childhood, the Les Cols restaurant that my mother launched 32 years ago. I always wanted to be without knowing it. When I had to study, I was very clear that it was going to be something food-related, but I didn’t know how to approach it, and then when I went to the Basque Culinary Center open house, I got excited and saw that I had to be there yes or no. It was something I knew I wanted to do, but I wasn’t aware of it. The same for fear of everything that amounted to saying that I wanted to continue the family project, but I always wanted to. I think of professions and none come to mind.
Martina Puigvert, the present and the future of the Cols
What ingredient have you recently discovered that you can’t get out of your kitchen? Why?
Buckwheat. It is a product of Les Cols restaurant. It was lost in La Garrotxa and we recovered it by growing it in the orchard. Today it is becoming more and more fashionable, but here it has always been the essential product next to corn. It was closely associated with the war, and it was no longer used, so Carme Rovira, a farmer, and my mother planted it and were able to recover this native seed. It is a very important product for us; it is always present on the menus and we are studying different ways of cooking it: in grain, in flour, by hydrating it…
What should the kitchen have in the future?
It must be sustainable, above all. It must have essence and purity.
What is the restaurant that you will never forget in your life?
Les Cols could be one of them, but if not, Michel Bras.
Which restaurant, bar, or tavern do you usually like to go to?
There are so many that I spend the day eating. For example, I really like Cam Po, which is a restaurant where I usually go on holidays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. It’s in Rocabruna, in Camprodón. It’s very familiar and with very traditional products. I really like going there.
What things can never be missing from the physical space of your kitchen?
Colors and joy, passion. Vegetables, eggs, and natural light. Complicity
When you sleep, do you dream of cooking? If so, what was your most incredible dream?
Well yes, I sleep very well and often, but it’s true that sometimes I dream of cooking, with services, with people from the team, with clients… everything. These are punctual moments, like when we think of a dish. These are not dreams that I remember at all. Maybe if we have an event or something out of the ordinary, I could dream about it. But I never had a nightmare or woke up in the middle of the night or anything like that. Then I just woke up and while I’m in the kitchen I say to myself: “The oysters I dreamed of yesterday…”. These are normal things. In the end, it’s my life. I dream of that as I dream of other things.
In less than 140 characters, how would you describe your cuisine?
A regional cuisine based on local products that tries to support local producers and collectors, with whom we try to establish very positive synergies that also contribute to and identify the project. I think it’s a very essential cuisine, with even primary products and with few ingredients in the same dish, trying to give value to this product, to the way it was grown. I am trying to get to the essence of the product and convey it to customers so that they can enjoy the product they are eating.
What dish from your childhood would you like to reinvent?
Well many! This Easter, I made the donut that I love. My grandmother always makes it with matalahva, anise, etc. This is a typical donut with fresh chicken eggs. Also, since he always had leftover donuts, we left them for the next day, and he mixed them and soaked them in milk or coffee.
We reinterpreted it: as it was too thick for a dessert, I made an ice cream donut, an ice cream made from the same donut. What I did was make an ice cream dough of dry donuts from the day before, a way to take advantage of the product, and then with the fresh donut dough, I covered it. It was a dessert that we made two months ago. It’s a donut that’s hot on the outside, cold on the inside, very light because, in the end, it’s ice cream, it’s eating a donut but in a different way. There is more, like a typical San Joan coca that we have also reinterpreted. We really like to reinterpret things that take us back to our childhood. A Catalan cream that we made with carrots, with vegetables from our garden… We made it.
What dish would you like to be remembered for?
For a plate with different colors and textures, a very cheerful plate, the same with vegetables and greens. In fact, at university, I had to make a dish and I remember that I made 100 vegetables, different cooking methods, different temperatures… It was a very cheerful dish, with lots of colors and a very fresh product. For a vegetable dish with the same vegetable juice, the same boiling broth… Very simple but full of color, playful, fresh, full of flowers, you have to have everything on the same day. Simple but complex.
If you only had five ingredients, what would they be and what dish would you make with them?
One of them would be the egg, no doubt. After the vegetables, I would use corn, buckwheat, and a flower, of course: the nasturtium with the leaf and water. I would make an egg cooked at low temperature with cream of corn: of course, as I can cook the corn in different ways, I would make it in cream. I would use the corn variety of the Cross, which is an indigenous variety of Bianya that we have also grown in our orchard and that we also have with a hydraulic grinder. Later, I would also use it in the grain and make a veil with the flour. I would use different parts of the same product. Then I would use the buckwheat in liquid to accompany the dish, making a beer from this product. In fact, we have one in the restaurant that we make with buckwheat from our garden. Then I would finish with the nasturtium, leaf, and flower, which is a yellow-orange flower with a green leaf, and with the water, cornmeal, and buckwheat, I could make a muffin to go with the egg.
Which is the best gastronomic city of all those you have visited?
Donosti, I love San Sebastian. I studied there for four years when I graduated from the Basque Culinary Center, and I think that, without a doubt, the products they have and the gastronomic tradition and the gastronomic restaurants, traditional and new, make it one of the best cities in the world, without a doubt.
Which restaurant you haven’t been to would you like to be in?
Aponiente, I was not. I wanted to go in January. We were next to the family food route, which we do every year, and it was closed.
What do you do when you’re not cooking?
I really like doing sports in my free time. I also like resting, even if I don’t do that much. I also like taking time for myself. I really like walking in nature, following the same path to see the colors and textures change. Without a doubt, one of my main sources of inspiration is nature. I really like to walk around and see butterflies, ladybugs, and flowers. I think it helps me when I think about dishes.
Which cliché about cooks is true?
just like we drink a lot of coffee. In fact, I have two today. I like to take two or three maximum. I think coffee is a real subject. I think we drink a lot of coffee. Also, because we have it very easily, in the end, we have a coffee maker in the kitchen, and it is very easy to fall into temptation. It may be true that most of us are very good coffee producers.
What would your perfect gastronomic day look like?
Eternal breakfast because I love breakfasts. Have a breakfast of Bolivian fruits. Have a breakfast of these with pasty oats, which I love in Copenhagen. There is a street which I love where the Relae restaurant is, Manfreds. I don’t know what the place is called, but there is a place that does brutal breakfasts. There I would have the second, and then I would have the coffee in Colombia. I would eat at Michel Bras. We can have sushi from Koy Shunka, and Hideki, who I was interning with, is sure to open up to us because he loves us very much. At dinner with Dan Barber, for dessert, Rocambolesc ice cream, which I love; sheep’s milk ice cream, or baked apple ice cream; and cocktails in Cadaqués, in Boia Nit. Not so bad, right? We have everything; fish, vegetables, coffee, cocktails, desserts… I think we have everything.
What should a good gourmet have, yes or yes?
You want to eat. Those gourmets who don’t eat, I don’t understand. To have a desire to learn, to know about new cultures and new products, to have an open mind in this sense
With which dessert would you end this interview?
With the flow of Michel Bras