From Barcelona to Madrid and even beyond Spain, what destinations have most inspired your cooking?
Of course my beautiful country inspires me; Spanish cuisine, especially Catalonian, is very close to my heart. It is what I know from being a young boy – the roots of my cooking. I am also a big fan of 1980s classic French cuisine, which was my initial cooking education and professional experience. I believe that we take inspiration from everywhere and my travels simply enrich and inspire my cooking. Istanbul was another great source for information, as was Mumbai. Launching my restaurant in each of these locations allowed me to play with local produce and adapt my cooking style.
What would you say was the quintessential Spanish dish you couldn’t live without?
It has to be patatas bravas. This is one of the most recognised dishes in Spanish cooking and also one of the most popular. I have my own take on the dish called Arola’s Patatas Bravas. I’d also say that grilled sardines are one of my favourites – simple but delicious and the perfect dish to barbecue on the beach.
What does it mean to you to “make it” as a chef? Does it involve being famous?
On a professional note, winning my first Michelin star in my twenties was a proud moment, however I don’t measure my life in success and definitely not in being “famous”. I am happy to be surrounded by the people that I love and being able to share it with them. Food should be celebrated and enjoyed with smiling faces around a table – that is what I do and that is what it is all about.
Patatas Bravas by Sergi Arola
Where can we find you when you’re not in the kitchen?
It is very rare I will spend a day without being in the kitchen. It is my studio, my place of work and where I am most creative. That said, every morning I begin the day indulging another side of my creativity: my guitars. The day always starts with a jam session. I have many passions that include my motorcycles, my leather jackets and watches. But my biggest passion is my beautiful daughters.
You must be so proud of your Michelin stars. How do you feel when you hear other chefs talk about the pressure that comes with maintaining them?
As a chef, this is an important achievement but I feel the everyday running of the restaurants is more important. My cooking style is simple and that’s how I like my life to be – I don’t need to complicate it. Some chefs believe the next star is more important, but I believe the next service is important.
The fine-dining scene in the UAE is evolving quickly – but what was behind your decision to open p&c by Sergi Arola in Abu Dhabi?
The opportunity arose to work with Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri and I couldn’t say no. I haven’t spent much time in this part of the Middle East but I intend to spend more and more. Spanish and Arabic cultures both have a strong heritage and we both enjoy sharing food – the Spanish have tapas and the Arabs have mezze – it is a shared passion of eating.
The exterior of the Shangri-La in Abu Dhabi
So you’re a fan of Shangri-La hotels?
Shangri-La is exactly what it is: perfection, a utopia. It’s a beautiful brand, recognised as one of the most prestigious hotels in the world. I feel very privileged to have my name associated with Shangri-La.
Where else do you like to travel?
I’m very lucky, I have restaurants all over the world so travel is a big part of my life. I recently went to visit my restaurant in Verbier, Switzerland and was taken skiing, which was amazing. I also like to go to my restaurants in Istanbul and Mumbai – each place has its own beauty and appeal.
What’s your ultimate gourmet destination?
It has to be Spain. For me it has the ultimate cuisine and that’s why I love what I do.
A fresh beef tar-tar