Víctor Quintillà and Mar Gómez: a triumph for local cuisine

17th November 2023

Success Stories

Restaurant Lluerna, Santa Coloma de Gramenet (Barcelonès)

Haute cuisine with local ingredients in the heart of the Barcelona metropolitan belt. It may seem impossible, but Víctor Quintillà, the chef at Lluerna in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, and Mar Gómez, maître d' and sommelier at the same restaurant, have turned it into a reality.

Víctor is a native of Santa Coloma and, captivated by the world of cuisine since adolescence, he chose to pursue a career in gastronomy. Early on, he had the opportunity to hone his skills with the best at El Bulli, an experience that left a profound mark on him. “What impressed me the most was the freedom you were given to do what you wanted and the courage to do it”, he recalls.

This courage led him and Mar Gómez, his partner and business partner, to create their own restaurant, Lluerna, with a radical focus on local cuisine that earned them the only Michelin star in the metropolitan area.

The fish couldn't be fresher

“Santa Coloma may not seem like a very welcoming city, and we can't compete with Barcelona's monuments,” Víctor begins. “But we have natural surroundings nearby: the Maresme is our great pantry, and we are just two minutes from the Parc de la Serralada de Marina.”

This latter space, despite being unknown to people in the greater metropolitan area, is a key part of Lluerna's cuisine. “My trusted farmer, Pau, is just 5 minutes away”, explains Quintillà. “That's why we're not in Barcelona.”

This connection with the local area began just over 20 years ago when Mar and Víctor opened the restaurant. “There were some products we didn’t have, and through Mar's contacts, she’s an agronomic engineer, we started getting to know small quality producers with an eco-friendly philosophy.”

This bond with the surroundings gave rise to the gastronomic idea they wanted to embody in their restaurant. “The importance of family tradition in gastronomic culture; gathering around the table and tasting traditional dishes. Allowing people to enjoy their food”, Mar emphasises.

Hence it was inevitable that the project would strengthen the relationship with local producers over time. And now, this bond is so strong that they have even served fish that had been in the water just two hours previously. A successful concept of connecting with the region can only be explained by the local product philosophy that Lluerna puts into practice.

This same approach is maintained with all suppliers, with the Maresme region’s fields supplying all the fruit and vegetables. A sustainable cuisine marked by seasonality and availability that is still evolving. “We want to use ancestral wild plants from the Serralada de Marina and also offer vegetarian menus”, Quintillà insists.

This approach has encouraged them to appreciate modest ingredients that, at first glance, may not seem suitable for a haute cuisine restaurant. Such is the case of the white aubergine, a once neglected vegetable that, thanks to this collaboration with the local region, is now cultivated again. “It is a traditional product that we've managed to recover”, says Victor.

Sustainability is ingrained in Lluerna's DNA, and that is why they began to collaborate with a consultancy to address responsible management comprehensively, based on a prior diagnosis of the situation. “This is how the concept of 360-degree sustainability was born, a pioneering project in the European Union's restaurant industry”, explains Mar. A focus on R&D, close relationships with suppliers, economic promotion of the region, and proper use of resources complement the restaurant's commitment to responsible management.

That's why the connection with local cuisine has been accompanied by other initiatives such as reducing food waste and using reusable containers. This responsible environmental management earned them a Green Michelin Star in 2021, the highest recognition for sustainable restaurants. They also received the Josep Mercader award from Fòrum Gastronòmic for the best sustainable restaurant.

“We convey this philosophy to our diners: when people enjoy a dish, we bring a series of benefits. It's a learning process for the customer”, concludes the sommelier. “We understand sustainability as a process of continuous improvement”, emphasises the chef, “and we create a reality consistent with what we want to be.”