From scratch to scrap, this circular restaurant is turning foodies into sustainability champions. But don’t ask them to serve seafood.
Somewhere between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees is a land of beech and holm oak woods hiding about 40 volcanic cones and some of Catalonia’s most scenic hikes. Welcome to La Garrotxa, the perfect rural landscape to reconnect with nature and give life a gentler rhythm.
In the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone National Park sits award-winning Les Cols Restaurant, a family-run business on a mission: serving recipes that have the deep emotional connection between food, land, and nature as their main ingredient, and turning foodies into sustainability champions.
Making hearts and tastebuds fall in love with nature is a mouthwatering business — Les Cols was awarded 2 Michelin stars and recently snatched the Green Star, the new award that ‘highlight[s] the restaurants that stand at the forefront of a more sustainable gastronomy.’
Martina Puigvert Puigdevall, Head Chef and daughter of local kitchen legend and founder Fina Puigdevall Nogareda, walked us through Les Cols’ vision for a circular, 100% local gastronomy.
The former apprentice of famed chef Dan Barber is convinced that food can indeed change our future and says that she feels a responsibility to “get to know our ingredients and share our knowledge, and support processes that lead us away from the current overexploitation of species and lands.” At Les Cols,
“Sustainability has always been a guide for our creative process. Nature is our main source of inspiration.”
Martina and her team are putting their money where their (and their patrons’) mouths are. She started the restaurant’s first R&D Department to research new processes and assess the restaurant’s environmental impact. The goal is to reach circular gastronomy centred around the vegetable garden.
The chef says that “the restaurant’s metabolism is circular, rather than linear. The use of new natural resources and ingredients is strictly limited to what’s needed, and our zero-waste practices allow us to return them to the natural environment.”
From scratch to scrap, the garden is the beating heart of Martina’s tasty philosophy. Here you’ll find a henhouse and native crops as well as sheep from a local rare breed called ripollesa. The animals aren’t only a source of food (many say the ripollesa milk is extraordinary) but also take good care of the land and keep it fertilised and pest-free. Plus, they help process food waste.
Anyone who grabs a bite at Les Cols is welcome to take a walk around the garden (which is just a few minutes away from the restaurant) and learn about the organic and permaculture methods that grew the fruit and veggies they’re about to eat. Make sure to ask when making a reservation.
The farm-to-table menu is designed as “a praise to our lively nature and the landscape’s mystical gastronomy” in an effort to “elevate humble ingredients” and preserve the local natural and culinary heritage. Don’t expect seafood on the menu of Olot’s most famous restaurant, seawater is simply too far away. You may find the occasional fish from local rivers, though.
Martina aims to “bring nature’s beauty into the kitchen.” The circular chef remembers how as a child, she used to go look for berries with her grandmother. She taught her how to sow and feed scraps to the hens, and that “every ingredient has its moment.”
Sustainability is a way of life for Martina and her family, who live in an award-winning home cleverly designed to blend into the landscape (and visited by the likes of Netflix and the BBC.) It’s also at the core of Les Cols’ future. Martina explains that she’s currently working towards using more native ingredients in her recipes and finding new ways to educate and engage customers with Les Cols’ values.
“We need to learn how to wait. To follow the rhythms of nature instead of trying to control them is a beautiful thing, a principle that all cooks should follow.”
AtlasAction: Martina invites us all to “listen to nature. Take in the landscape. Understand that all living things are part of an immutable, unbreakable cycle that’s constantly renewing itself.”
Fina Puigdevall Nogareda, Chef and owner of Les Cols
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