Josep Espuga

Biography

Josep was captivated by food and gastronomy since a very young age. When Josep was 12 years old, his neighbour, who was a bit older than him and was studying in a culinary School, used to explain to him how fun it was being in the kitchen with a tall chef hat learning how to use a knife. From that moment Josep couldn’t stop thinking about how great it would be to work in a kitchen, wearing one of those tall white hats and he started a research to find out what was necessary to enrol into the culinary school. Once he had all the information, it was time to discuss with his parents. They were very clear with the young Josep and they explained to him how hard it would be to become a chef. However, it was something he had already decided and nothing and no one could change his mind.

When Josep was 13 years old, he started studying at the culinary school in Lleida. The same one where his neighbour was also studying. Josep’s mother and grandmother had previous experience in hospitality and that same year, together with Josep’s father, they opened their own restaurant in Oliana (Oliana is Josep’s hometown in Spain, north of Catalonia, close to the French border). He studied for 5 years at the culinary school. He used to spend the weekends helping out at his parents’ restaurant where his grandmother was the chef. It is precisely from his grandmother where his best culinary memories come from and from where Josep found the inspiration to develop some of his dishes. After finishing his studies, he worked for 3 years at Can Boix in Peramola (Spain). He was working at the pastry section and he developed good pastry skills at a very young age being trained by Albert Adria and Ramon Morato in the Chocovic School in Barcelona. He fell in love with desserts and chocolate and he didn’t want to come back to the flames, but his Chef and mentor in Can Boix, Joan Pallares, recommended him to try something else no just desserts because Josep was still very young.

Josep decided to get more involved in the kitchen and he started developing new skills and new interests. Those interests took him to Madrid where he landed when he was 20 years old to work with the 2 Michelin Star Chef Sergi Arola at his restaurant La Broche, one of the top world restaurants at that time and a reference for many other restaurants and chefs around the world. Josep started working there as a stagier, without being paid. Knowledge was his pay and that was enough for him. He was learning new recipes and techniques every day and he was able to meet the best chefs worldwide who would come to La Broche to eat or to collaborate with Sergi Arola. After 5 months, they decided to keep Josep in the team and he got offered a position as an assistant in the meat section. After a month Sergi Arola gave him a Chef de Partie position in the meat section. This is a day Josep will never forget.

After working for 2 years at La Broche, Josep had to suddenly leave the restaurant to take care of his family: unfortunately, his dad had a stroke and Josep decided to leave his career behind to spend time with his parents and to take care of the family business. When his dad was recovered, Josep started working with Taurus Group to develop a recipe book for their last project, Mycook. During the first 2 years, he focused on developing a worldwide recipe book and the following 2 years were spent promoting this cooking appliance and developing new recipes for Mycook. Josep travelled around Spain, Europe and the USA promoting the recipe book and Mycook. At the same time, he found the time to combine his work at Taurus Group with a stage at Mugaritz Restaurant by Chef Andoni Aduriz (4th best restaurant in the world that year with 2 Michelin Stars) and at the Guggenheim Museum restaurant in Bilbao by Josean Martinez Alija with 1 Michelin Star. After 4 years working for Taurus Group, he decided it was time to return to the kitchens and restaurants and he took the Head Chef position at Cal Xirriclo Restaurant in Balaguer (Spain).

Josep was 26 years old when his first opportunity to work as a head chef came along and he put all his ideas together to create a menu for a restaurant with more than 50 years of history and a renewed fine dining room with around 40 chairs. In 2011, Cal Xirriclo appeared in the Michelin Guide for the first time in its history and Josep was the Head Chef. It was one of the biggest moments in Josep’s career. He was happy working at Cal Xirriclo but he was always thinking further and there was always a new challenge in his mind: working overseas and learning about new food and new techniques.

That same year, 2011, Josep started his international career and left to New York where he was offered a Head Chef position at Degustation Restaurant where an old friend of his, Wesley Genovart, had been working as a Head Chef for several years. Wesley was now leaving to open his own restaurant in Vermont. Degustation is a modern restaurant in the East Village (Manhattan) with just 19 seats around a bar where the chefs cook and serve only degustation menus and only at night. Josep lived in New York for a year absorbing all the different cultures, markets, restaurants, people, food and colours that this amazing city has to offer.

Octopus, Beef tonguepassion fruit

After a year he decided to continue his international adventure and he left for Australia. He helped with the opening of a new restaurant in Melbourne, Bohemian, creating a fresh menu and training a team to develop his recipes. Josep worked for more than 3 years at Bohemian, creating a menu where the guests were able to taste the results from all the travelling Josep had done around the world and from experimenting with old recipes and techniques from Europe and the Medieval age.

Eelsweetbreads, Nori, Muhammara

Josep’s last adventure has just started. You can find him now on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef on the tropical area of Australia. Josep is the Executive Chef at Bommie Restaurant at the Yacht Club. A modern restaurant with an incredible design where Josep can showcase his experience and where he is developing new recipes and ideas every day.