HOTELS Interview: Renowned Spanish chef discusses Paris debut

When W Paris – Opéra debuts in mid-February, its signature restaurant will be Arola, named for Executive Chef Sergi Arola, one of the most creative minds in Spanish haute cuisine who will make his French debut at the hotel.

Arola is from Barcelona and operates restaurants in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Chile, in addition to plans to open restaurants in India and Switzerland over the next couple years.

For his new restaurant at W Paris – Opéra, Arola will introduce an interactive “Pica Pica” culinary concept of creative dishes served on a platter in the middle of the table for sharing. HOTELS recently spoke with Arola about his upcoming Paris debut and broader culinary trends.

HOTELS: Talk about your choice to partner with the W Paris – Opéra and the significance of this as your first restaurant in France.

Sergi Arola: I’ve been a W guest many, many times. It is super sexy, super cool. I have very good chemistry with all the staff of W, with Starwood.

For me, being in Paris is a dream. Obviously, as a chef, to have the possibility to open a restaurant in Paris is incredible, especially with a hotel like W. It’s absolutely amazing.

HOTELS: Why did you and your team choose the “Pica Pica” concept for Arola?

Arola: I think it’s important to try to find friendship around the table. For me, cuisine is about making friends. It’s very important for me to enjoy the table — obviously the food, but also the communication.

Pica Pica is a collection of tapas served at one time to share. Pica Pica is to put a few things — or a lot of things — in the middle of the table at the same time for sharing, not step by step, not plate by plate.

Pica Pica, I think, is the next step of the classical tapas tradition. It’s a very easy way to eat. It’s very gastronomic at the same time.

HOTELS: What will Arola have in common with your other restaurants?

Arola: The philosophy, definitely. I try to adapt my culinary philosophy in the same way as Giorgio Armani. My restaurant in Madrid, with two Michelin stars, is fine dining. It’s my haute couture. With the same attitude, the honesty, the same philosophy I will do Arola. Arola will have the same attitude in the world of tapas. It’s more casual. It’s more relaxed. To me, it’s my prêt-à-porter. But it’s not haute couture.

My compromise, as a chef, is I must have a long range of prices but always with the same attitude, always looking to do things very well and with honesty.

HOTELS: What are some dining trends you especially appreciate?

Arola: It depends on the city and my mood. I love street food. In New York, I love delis. My favorite place in New York for a long time was the 2nd Ave Deli. When I first arrived, I always went for breakfast to the 2nd Ave Deli. In Paris, I love the classical French bistro.

I try to enjoy anywhere. It depends on a lot of things.

HOTELS: Conversely, what are one or two trends you’re seeing that you don’t like?

Arola: I always keep a very nice attitude when I go to restaurants. I know very well how hard my job is. It is very subjective. If we try the same apple, you and me, it will not taste the same. Your perception and my perception can be very different. For this reason, I am very, very quiet with [my opinions].

HOTELS: What one bold prediction would you make for hotel dining overall in 2012?

Arola: Gastronomy has become a big melting pot. I don’t know. We are living in very bad times. No one can really say what will happen next. It’s very difficult now to say what will be next in gastronomy. I hope it will be more natural, more pure, trying to find the role of simplicity in order to be more close to the guest.

Sergi Arola
Sergi Arola