Lluc Quintana

Chef at Can Xapes restaurant and winner of the Gastronomic Forum of Barcelona’s award for Best Sustainable Chef 2022

“Cooking is an excuse to deal with bigger issues”

The young people here are learning to cook, but at the same time they are learning basic skills, teamwork...

Last November, the restaurant Can Xapes in Cornellà del Terri (Girona) received the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand rating.

What is Can Xapes?
It’s a restaurant-school that was founded in 2018 and works with young people at risk of social exclusion. The idea is to offer different training to what already exists.
How did the idea of combining a restaurant with a social inclusion project come about?
It began with the need to provide second chances to these young people through training that they sometimes don’t find when looking for outlets in the world of studies. Conxi Martínez, general director of AD Iniciatives Socials, suggested I open Can Xapes and combine this social work with a restaurant. The most important thing about the project was that we managed to make the restaurant a mirror for young people and see how a professional business works from within.
Was the idea for the restaurant to offer quality cuisine from the start?
Yes. We wanted to offer gastronomic quality and, at the same time, link it with the social project. It’s nice, because it breaks with the dynamics of the restaurant. What we want is for the driving force to be not only economic, but also to offer young people a future.
What role do the students play within the project?
They come to the restaurant from eight in the morning until noon, when it’s not yet open to the public. During these times, we share knowledge with them, exchange experiences and, afterwards, they prepare lunch for us. When they finish the course, which lasts a year, we try to keep some students in the restaurant and help the rest of them look for work. The young people who are here are learning to cook, but at the same time they are also learning Catalan, basic skills, teamwork... These young people find themselves in very different situations and sometimes they haven’t yet assimilated things that we consider “basic”. That’s why we believe that cooking should be an excuse to deal with bigger issues. The aim is for them to get hooked on life and be able to move forward with the resources that we offer them here.
In November, you received the Bib Gourmand distinction from the Michelin Guide. What does this recognition mean to you?
It’s a source of great pleasure for us. The Bib Gourmand rewards the best value for money and that’s a value we’ve always tried to preserve. It’s very important that people who come here see that there’s quality cooking work behind Can Xapes, but we’ve always tried to offer very reasonable prices, given the economic situation right now. For us, it’s an important factor to emphasise and the fact that we’ve been given this distinction confirms the values we want to continue transmitting.
Do you think it’s difficult to combine quality cuisine with the social project?
The truth is that we get away with it every year and we look at each other and say, “How did we manage that?” [laughs] The restaurant’s a living space, many things happen there and the day-to-day is intense. Combining this with training is complex, yes, but at the same time it’s very rewarding, because after a year you see how young people have grown and everything they have learned and you understand that the process has great meaning and real outcomes.
What’s the secret to making a project as unique as Can Xapes work?
Involvement. I think the secret is that everyone who works here is very involved in the project and that’s the key to success.


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