Andrea Villarino.- You have received major distinctions, such as a Michelin star and three Repsol suns. How do you view those awards?
Pepe Solla- We are very proud of all of the awards and distinctions, and we are also grateful; however, what truly sets us apart is not the recognition but, rather, our work. To that end, we believe our commitment must be to the latter: hard work and dedication.
A.V.-You trained under Ferrán Adriá in Cala Montjoi. What did you learn?
I participated in one of Ferrán's courses, "3 days in Cala Montjoi", which is really when I learned the most. Ferrán taught you to think; in fact, I don’t have a single recipe from that course, but I did learn to think about what I was doing, which is much more valuable than any recipe.
A.V.-You’re also a member of the Galician Association of Sommeliers. How important is wine at Casa Solla?
Very important, extremely important, just like at any restaurant. A great chef makes only great dishes, but not a great restaurant. That is achieved through multiple elements: the dining room, the wine, the service—everything is vital.
A.V.- What is your relationship with Galicia, where Casa Solla is located?
P.S.- It is essential, is it the raison d'être behind my cooking. In terms of products, philosophy and lifestyle, Casa Solla only makes sense in Galicia, in my homeland. Could I open the restaurant somewhere else in the world? Yes, of course, but it wouldn’t be Casa Solla.
A.V.- What about your relationship with suppliers?
P.S.- We have an outstanding relationship; they play an integral role in my cooking.
A.V.- How has Casa Solla changed from a family restaurant to one of the best in Spain?
P.S.- It happened over the course of many years. You have to believe in it, it’s away of life, a family business founded on a philosophy which it maintains 53 years later, with integrity.
A.V.- What does the future hold for Casa Solla? What else would you like it to achieve?
P.S.- I don’t know what will happen in the future; that’s something we will figure out over time. I don’t believe in destiny. We are responsible for everything we do, including the mistakes we make.
A.V.- How do you view the future of Galician and Spanish cuisine?
P.S.- I think they have a very bright future. Galicia is in the best position it's ever been in and it's crunch time, time to start building on a very solid foundation. There are a lot of young chefs doing really great things, with very interesting ideas. They’re also young producers who are extremely involved, in the sea, in the garden, with wines, meats, etc. That’s the best possible foundation and, for that reason, I believe we will reach new heights.
A.V.- Society is increasingly interested in cooking. Do you believe this interest is here to stay or is it a fad?
P.S.- It’s here to stay. Cooking is a part of society, something people experience and enjoy. This is extremely important. Children are interested in cooking and gastronomy; they even ask to go to top-notch restaurants as a reward at the end of the school year for getting good grades. People will continue to buy soccer balls and famous players' jerseys, but they will also buy chefs' coats, siphons, graters and knives. This is not a fad; cooking is a part of society and society is now involved in cooking.
A.V.- You are a member and founder of the Galician group of chefs, Nove. Why was that group created? What are its objectives?
P.S.- We decided to create it at time when it was more challenging to serve very modern cuisine in Galicia, but we believed in it, and our main goal was to promote it and help new up-and-coming chefs at that time. Twelve years later, Nove is a brand, it’s important, it's still around, maybe because the ties within the association are based on friendship above everything else, which truly creates a connection.
A.V.- You, along with other chefs, our part of Platea. Could you tell us more about that project?
P.S.- Platea is a venue dedicated to leisure and gastronomy in the heart of Madrid. Chefs such as Paco Roncero, Marcos Morán and I, as well as Mercedes Barros and Nerea Ruano, have joined forces to manage several spaces within this project, under the brand Singerias and the label United Chefs. It’s really wonderful to work with colleagues as partners. It's unheard of to date, but I believe it will bear fruit.
A.V.- What other projects are in your future, as a chef?
P.S.- I try to grow and create new culinary formulae, not only because it’s part of the business, but because I like the feeling of being able to address new situations and projects. It’s exciting, and it’s an incentive for not getting stuck in a rut, which can be bad for you.