When they were only eight years old, Sergio and Javier Torres had a plan: to become chefs and reach the top. More than forty years later, their plan continues to bear fruit: they have just been awarded their third Michelin star.
To reach their Holy Grail, the two brothers, whose choice of career surprised their family, decided to train separately in order to gather as much knowledge as possible.
“When we left Barcelona, the idea was that Sergio would follow one path and I another and that we would only meet again when we were ready,” Javier recalls.
Formative years in three countries
Their formative years took them to various star restaurants in Spain, Switzerland and France. Before settling in Paris, where he worked for Alain Ducasse, Sergio spent two years at the Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (south of France) with two other three-starred twins, Jacques and Laurent Pourcel.
“We worked in separate places but every month we would meet in a restaurant, eat well, spend the little we had earned and work out the next steps in our strategy: 'you the meats, vegetables and game, I the fish, bread and cold dishes,'” Sergio recalls, sitting next to his brother in their restaurant “Cocina Hermanos Torres” (Torres brothers’ kitchen) in Barcelona.
Opened in 2018, this restaurant is the culmination of the dream of these two children from a working-class Barcelona neighbourhood. They were introduced to cooking by their grandmother, who, like so many others, fled the south of Spain to seek a better future in Catalonia in the northeast after the Civil War (1936-1939).
"We grew up in the kitchen!"
“Our grandmother looked after us and as she spent the day in the kitchen, we grew up in a kitchen. In the true sense of the word,” explains Sergio. A warm atmosphere that they wanted to reproduce when, four years ago, they took the step of opening their own place after having already won two stars in a first project in a large hotel in Barcelona.
They visited more than 200 places before choosing this former industrial warehouse where 50 customers eat at each service on tables arranged around three central islands where the cooks work in front of them.
This experience costs €255 for the tasting menu, plus an additional €160 for a wine and food pairing. This is a very high price for many Spaniards, when the minimum wage in Spain is around €1,000.
Sole investors: the Torres twins
But haute gastronomy, with its high costs, is not as lucrative as one would like to think, the Torres brothers assert. To finance this project, “we did a lot of things in parallel” such as television programmes or recipe books, because “it’s an investment of almost €3 million by Sergio and me, without any other investor,” Javier stresses.
It is midday and the 50 people in the kitchen and dining room are working on the final details before the customers arrive. Many of them are young and eager to succeed in a profession whose thanklessness is sometimes forgotten.
It's a very difficult job
“We have the impression that the chef is now a super star” who appears on television, admits Sergio, even though “it’s a very difficult job, with long hours, and it’s very hard to succeed.''
You have to be incredibly consistent, but “you have to take risks, give it your all because otherwise you don’t make it,” Sergio concludes with a smile.