Pescetarian Pleasures met Ella and Alberto recently. They started cooking together 3 years ago, hosting food events on www.eatwith.com and running their own cooking workshops. They are a truly inspiring couple and we had to find out more about their journey.
One thing that comes across when talking to them is how important it is for them to convey their philosophy in their food. Their food style is still evolving and adjusts with the seasons, and when the inspiration takes them. In general it is Mediterranean cuisine which is accessible to people, but still inspiring and thoughtful. Sustainability and seasonality is key, with simple, local ingredients forming the base of most of their dishes. For them creating and producing these dishes should have minimum impact on the environment. Lets find out more about how ´Bear on Bike´ began…
We are always interested to hear peoples stories…where are you from and how did you end up in Barcelona?
I am from Melbourne Australia (Ella) and I came to Barcelona almost six years ago when I had just finished university. I knew it was time for a big shift and heading to the antipode of where I was felt pretty perfect. I had been studying Castellano and I had several catalan friends already here who made the transition really easy for me. I thought I would stay for a year or so and then move on.
I am from Thiene, a little town close to Venice, Italy (Alberto). Seven years ago I participated in a European voluntary service in Galicia and I fell in love with Spanish culture and food. After my return to Italy I was wandering between my home and Budapest and trying to finish my university studies until I couldn’t resist anymore and I decided to try a new adventure in Spain. Barcelona looked the best option for me and my passion for food.
We love the concept of Bear on Bike, how did it all begin?
It kind of began when we met. We had both been hosting events on the home-dining platform Eatwith.com after meeting the guys who were starting it in Barcelona. One of them convinced me (Ella) to do a singles night event at this great industrial loft in Poble Nou where I was living. I thought it sounded pretty cheesy but I got roped in and we invited a bunch of friends and other cooks. We hit it off immediately and a year later when we moved in together we chose a beautiful apartment in the Born where we could host dinners and cooking classes.
The more we cooked, the more we got to know our producers and we became really interested in the slow food movement. Seeing where the ingredients came from and meeting the passionate people who grow and produce them became as important and exciting to us as the end result. When we realised we were doing a lot of things and needed a name to put it all under, we chose the bear. Because we like the idea of a slow movement gaining momentum… and we really love our bikes.
What is your food philosophy?
Our food philosophy stems from our own interest in sustainability and green practices. We’re not about rules: we set ourselves challenges that we know help the earth, and enjoy planning and changing our buying and cooking habits to try and meet them. That means only buying what’s in season and available locally, from organic producers whose practices enrich the land they work. We avoid processed food, preferring to build things up from primary ingredients, and thereby avoid excess packaging and plastic. The new goal we have set for ourselves is working towards being a zero-waste kitchen. We’re still a long way off!
How important is seasonal and sustainable cooking?
An Italian philosopher once said that we don’t vote for our leaders at the election day, but every time we buy at the supermarket. If this is true, it is a chef´s responsibility to lead by example and show that good sustainable practice is not only possible, but more rewarding in its results.
Every time we buy, we make a choice: do we want to support global conglomerates who are squandering our resources, monopolising markets, underpaying employees and ruining the earth for future generations? Or are we willing to pay a little extra knowing that we are promoting and providing for local farmers who are working sustainably, and ultimately consuming a healthier and more delicious product? It´s not about perfection and doing absolutely everything right, we certainly don’t and we don’t expect others to either. But we can all take little steps towards changing our habits. Starting out by just checking that your fruit and veg wasn’t flown in from elsewhere is a great first step, for example.
Bear on Bike has an exciting new home, only recently opened – called Espai Egg. What can we expect to find in this space?
Yes! We’re very excited about our new home. Espai EGG is primarily a foodie space; with a cafe up front, cooking classes in the back, and a co-working kitchen for chefs in between. We are also curating a program of artistic, cultural and social events, collaborating with projects and associations to add value to the local landscape.
By day Espai EGG is opened by collaborators The Deli Kitchen who serve up delicious, healthy and seasonal breakfast and lunch options accompanied by warm service and specialty coffee. In the evenings we host a variety of activities open to the public; from life-drawing and calligraphy classes, to cinema nights, pop-up dining events and a wide variety of cooking classes. We also tailor private events, from launches to celebration dinner.
The ´co-kitchen´, with its collaborative approach and commitment to the sharing economy, is home to independent chefs and food projects. Chefs pay per hour to use the fully-licensed production kitchen to prepare catering, street food events and home deliveries. The setup provides an economical solution for the chefs as well as a collaborative environment in which knowledge is exchanged, coworkers are supported, and the oftentimes solitary work of an independent chef becomes a social experience.
We noticed a big workshop space, what kind of cooking workshops do you offer? You also do market tours?
Originally we were just looking for a place to host our own classes, but we quickly realised that this new space had the potential for much more. We decided to open the door to other interested chefs and create a program with a lot of variety. We run a market tour and cooking class aimed at tourists that focuses on local produce and cooking techniques. We’re also really excited to launch some more specialty workshops at Espai EGG aimed at a more local audience. We would love to do some practical workshops about food waste, for example. We are also really into fermentation and want to run some classes on that topic, as well as bread making and cooking with the seasons. We would also love to start getting Raval locals in to teach the traditional recipes of their home countries. This is a barrio that knows how to cook, and we´d love for Espai EGG to become a place where people can share and learn from each other.
We spoke about the ´foodie fever´ taking over Barcelona, with lots of new concept businesses opening and flourishing. Why do you think that is?
It´s really happening out of necessity. A lot of people open their restaurant or cafe only to realise that they are slaves to a 16-hour day, 7 days a week and barely scraping by. The stress of running or working in a conventional kitchen is no joke, it´s a very intense lifestyle and it´s not for everybody. A lot of the chefs with whom we are collaborating now left that life to start up a food truck, or a catering business, or run pop-up diners. Just like we did, people are discovering more efficient and saner ways to work in hospitality, so that they can be in charge of their own hours and get more worthwhile results.
There´s also the effect of the ´celebrity´chef: now it´s not enough to be served an amazing dish from an anonymous waiter, the punters want to know who´s behind it, what their philosophy is… They go in for an immersive experience. People want to watch the cooking, or know your story, they want to meet the chef or dine somewhere special. People are looking for connection when they sit down to eat and a lot of these new concepts provide that.
Food trends and tastes are changing constantly. What are some hot ingredients to look out for in 2017?
We think the best things never go out of style. Forget exotic, trendy ingredients and look at all your local farmers have to offer! We would love to see people taking an interest in DIY: fermenting, making their own bread, cooking up a batch of jam, and visiting producers etc.
Of course, taking your canvas bags with you to the market is always on trend; as is saying no to plastic straws and takeaway coffee cups!
Visit their websites for more info….
*Photos taken by Iris Humm*