Photo courtesy Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I
Contributor Mary Noe shares her Barcelona cooking class experiences at the luxurious Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I hotel
Spain is one of today’s top culinary destinations, and Barcelona is a foodie favorite. On a recent family vacation at the award-winning Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I, we enjoyed traditional Catalan and Spanish cuisine at the luxury resort’s excellent restaurants.
The culinary team is led by Chilean-born Executive Chef Claudio Aguirre, who is inspired by his own family’s home cooking and the culinary knowledge he acquired during extensive travels in his youth. Aguirre and his team are committed to using the freshest local ingredients and ecologically friendly practices, and source seasonal vegetables and fruit from a small local farm in El Prat de Llobregat, on the outskirts of the city.
A highlight of our stay at the Fairmont Barcelona was a specialty cooking class, one of a series of exclusive, seasonal small-group culinary workshops designed by Chef Aguirre and led by the hotel’s excellent sous and pastry chefs. Luring both hotel guests and local Barcelona residents, workshop themes range from authentic local cuisine to specialty desserts, cocktails, wine, and the immensely popular “Mini Chef” offerings for budding cooks.
Inspired Barcelona Cooking Class and Exclusive Culinary Workshops
Our family hit the ground running and attended a class on the day we arrived at the hotel. The workshop celebrated a favorite local tradition, the Coca de Sant Joan, and was a delicious, hands-on introduction to regional Catalan cuisine and culture. Created with layers of translucent sheets of dough, this unique Catalan pastry has historically been baked and enjoyed around June 23, the Feast of Sant Joan (St. John’s Eve).
Our workshop leaders demonstrated the traditional coca, topped with dried fruits and crème, other traditional sweet varieties made with chocolate, fresh fruits, and nuts, and savory versions featuring lardon (matchstick pieces of slab bacon) or roasted vegetables.
We were welcomed by our gregarious host, and the hotel’s head bartender, Baptiste Etcheverry, who invited us to enjoy a unique local aperitif, an ice cava cocktail brightened with dried orange, along with nibbles of potato crisps and Spanish olives.
The hotel’s cooking classes are very popular with Barcelona residents and during our class, my family and I were the only hotel guests and native English speakers in the group. Since the class was conducted in Spanish, we had our own personal translator, pastry chef Laura Egea, who expertly translated the demonstrated techniques and shared local customs. We learned a variety of cooking techniques and tips, like “what to do if you over-knead your dough,” and instructions were tempered with laughter, smiles, and calls for patience.
Popular Culinary Workshops
Our workshop was very interactive and guests were invited to be as involved as they wished. The group observed and asked questions, sampling tidbits of dark cocoa chips and tastes of crème flavored with St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, until we had the chance to create our own unique cocas.
We split into small groups and worked together, sharing piping bags, colorful toppings, and laughter. While our masterpieces were baking, we munched on samples from all the choices and got to know our convivial fellow students.
The cooking demonstrations were done as a team effort by several of the hotel’s chefs, and the atmosphere was amiable and fun. The other students were there to learn and socialize and were serious about the lesson but friendly and chatty. Most lingered after the class was over to interact with the instructors and other guests.
Linger After Your Fairmont Barcelona Cooking Class
Although our class was held early on a Saturday evening, neither the staff nor the students were in a rush to leave, and the instructors were enthusiastic about sharing knowledge about cooking and the Catalan culture.
Class themes evolve seasonally, and upcoming workshops include international food and wine pairings, traditional and modern Panellets, Indian cuisine, baking with brandy, “mini-chef” classes, and holiday and European Christmas dishes and desserts. And be sure to make culinary workshop reservations in advance, as they usually sell out!
Rates, Reviews, and Reservations: Check out our official hotel partner at Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I for the best rates and reviews.
Contributing Editor Mary Noe is a freelance writer who loves soaking up local customs and culture at international street markets. Barcelona is home to more than 40 markets, and she’s looking forward to exploring all of them.