Geeta Bansal Interviews Sebastian Mazzola, Chef at 41° in Barcelona

Categories: On the Line
The Bansals and Mazzola at Tickets
Every Monday, Clay Oven Irvine executive chef/owner Geeta Bansal shares an interview that she's done with some of the heavyweights of European cooking. Today, she regales us with a visit to Barcelona, where Sebastian Mazzola is making his name at 41°. Enjoy!
Buenos Aires to Barcelona: Sebastian Mazzola
By Geeta Bansal, Executive Chef-Owner, Clay Oven Irvine

41° cocktail

Albert Adria and Sebastian Mazzola are the creative forces behind 41° in Barcelona, one of the world's most exciting and talked about restaurant at this time. Located adjacent to Tickets until it moves to its larger location, 41° is an ultra-hip contemporary restaurant with 16 of the most sought-out seats anywhere. Albert Adria's creative stamp is all over the 51 courses and the dozen or so cocktails that are part of the 41° experience. He introduced me to Sebastian, his chef who heads the kitchen and comes up with new creative concepts that (in Albert's words) blow your mind.

With Sebastian at 41°

Sebastian is a young Argentinean chef who brings it all together at 41°. Extremely skilled and innovative and not in the least impacted by his success, Sebastian is a very likeable and passionate chef. From shopping personally every morning to presenting the finished products every evening, it is a high stress-inducing role, but he takes it in stride. He has done stages and worked at most exclusive restaurants in Denmark, Peru, and Spain. He is a very compassionate and likeable young man and who I enjoy keeping in contact with.

Last month he arrived in Lima, Peru to help out his friend who is working on opening a restaurant as an homage to his brother Ivan Kisic, a reputed Peruvian chef who died in a tragic car accident. Knowing Franco Kisic, who helped put together the concept for Pakta and was going to manage it as well, I know how the whole Tickets and 41° family is saddened by these events. The menu takes you on a whimsical journey through continents, ideas and sensory experiences. Having met the whole team, I can say they are having fun doing this and this fun is communicated to the diners as well. Spain leads the world in the kind of cuisine offered at 41°. I think in a few years, Sebastian will be ranked along as one of the most creative chefs in the world who are constantly pushing the boundaries of food.

In the Kitchen with the Team of 41°

I asked Sebastian a few questions:

At what age did you enter the professional kitchen?

I started culinary school as soon as I graduated from high school. The decision was a result of my dream to travel around the world. At that time I really wanted to study art but it was going to take too long and travel abroad would be difficult. I always loved to cook and be around the kitchen, so I decided to give the profession a try and discovered that was my true passion.

Chanterelle_Mushrooms .jpg
Chanterelle Mushrooms With Pine Nut Cream and Black Truffles

Who do you credit for your interest in food?

My two grandmothers (one Italian and the other Spanish) always cooked a lot of traditional recipes, and I learnt a lot from them. When I was very young, we lived in a small town with a big park. Every Sunday, we would cook in the big clay oven there (you know we have some at our restaurant too). I have very good memories of those times.

What kind of professional training did you get?

I went to culinary school in Buenos Aires where I was fortunate in my teachers who were, and are, some of the biggest chefs in Argentina. They were people who loved this profession like I do now, and made me realize how beautiful it is. In the first few years of my professional career, I worked all over the Americas,:in Buenos Aires, Peru, Mexico, Argentinean Patagonia and Florida. The good thing about relating travel and cooking is that you learn about the different philosophies people have about what it means to be a cook or chef.

When did you come to Europe?

In 2007, I got a chance to travel to Europe and do a whole season stage at El Bulli which was at that time the best restaurant in the world. And after working there with Ferran Adria, I understood why. The commitment to work and the effort to make things different, but always with perfection. I also learned that the limits to creativity exist only in your mind. During my time there, I got a chance to work and live with a group of chefs that today are probably the best in the world.

After El Bulli what came next?

I took over the kitchen if a restaurant near the Boqueria market in Barcelona and that gave me a chance to learn more about the different seasons and the products in Spain. It was a bistro-like operation that I already had experience in, so I decided to try something different. I moved to the kitchen of a tapas restaurant. It was a very interesting opportunity to be able to experiment with concepts while creating food.

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