“La Barceloneta was, is and will be pure seafood gastronomy”

Rachid Zahi Saddouki, Entrepreneur in the restaurant sector.

Born in the South of Morocco, 53 years old, although you cannot really tell, thanks to his modern image. He arrived in Barcelona when he was 19 years old and has always been linked to the restaurant business, starting in the kitchen, and ending up as an entrepreneur. In 2006 he opened his first restaurant and adventure as a businessman. It was a risky bet, not in one of the main streets and being the first restaurant with a kitchen in view of the public, with the aim of transmitting to the maximum the desire to be faithful to the quality he wanted to offer. He currently runs 5 establishments in Barceloneta: Can Ganassa, Marisma, Kibera, Beach Garden and El Xulo.

 

How did it all start?

Just when I arrived in 1990, I found the demolition of the Merenderos and I noticed the sadness of the neighbours and workers. It was shocking. I was looking for a job where I could have an opportunity that, despite the colour of my skin, would be valued for the desire and the result of my work. I had always been tempted by the kitchen and that’s where I went. In Barceloneta everything breathed seafood cuisine and restaurants with tradition. In Morocco there is not so much culture of fish consumption, we are more about different types of meat and spices, and I discovered a fascinating world of seafood and even more here, because they arrived within hours of being caught! The people of Barcelona (and beyond) came down to La Barceloneta to have access to a pure product and the proximity to the Port and Fisherman’s Wharf to the public loved it and treasured that very close service to their customers.

 

The gastronomic offer in La Barceloneta is not the same as in the 90s.

It has changed a lot, because the problem of the prices of local rents has caused the departure and closure of restaurateurs who were doing very well but have not been able to survive. In addition, there are more and more difficulties for entrepreneurs to win against the offers of large new operators in the sector or investors (from outside the neighbourhood) who see the restoration as a safe bet for tourism and who do not care so much about the involvement with the territory or the cuisine that many of us defend.

Nowadays, a lot is in the hands of the new generations. Those of us who have always been here will continue to fight to keep on offering quality products and with the “Barceloneta” style… trying to make a living! Continuing to defend the product of proximity and some recipes always adapted to the current moment and new trends. People who have worked hard, with long family traditions and love and respect for the kitchen itself.

 

 

What values do you highlight in the proximity cuisine, the KM 0?
 
I think the public is increasingly looking for quality and gastronomic experiences, looking for a good service and environment with quality products from here. In our restaurants we always try to work with local and seasonal products.
 
And as active members of the ACIB (Ass. Comerciantes de la Barceloneta) we believe that we must support and look for excellence in the work that the fishermen of the neighbourhood offers us every day, and that the work that the Cofradía de Barcelona, led by José Manuel Juárez, do with the same spirit of showing the fish and seafood of the highest quality to the city and demonstrating together its virtues and the luck we have that its treatment, which is done from the moment it is caught to when it is served on the plates of customers. Not everyone can make a dish saying that the product was only a few hours ago in the sea and now they have it in front of them with the rigor to present it with the respect of its value (sometimes not so well known) and those who have participated in its treatment.
 
 
And finally, how do you see the future of the restaurants in La Barceloneta?
 
The future will be that the outside investors who have come to try to make a profit without integrating into the community, sooner or later, will leave. Not because they cannot have the resources to do it well, but because they have not understood the spirit of cuisine made with love of work and product…. and that is the Barceloneta!
 
We will remain those who have really contributed work and effort to be part of the community, of the neighbourhood. And it will be necessary to consider how to recover this profession of the Restoration. Hard, but rewarding when you see satisfied customers and which we should appreciate again. From the imagination and constancy of some tapas to the most elaborated haute cuisine and with avant-garde techniques.
 
We will have to make the young people make it their own. And it is difficult that being from outside the neighbourhood they understand in depth the feeling that we must explain well (or better). We have to get the new generations involved in the kitchen, the suppliers, the service, the production.
 
It will take 10 or 15 years, but we will get ahead, this is something that the neighbours of the neighbourhood with their fighting character have taught me! Because Barceloneta was, is and will be pure seafood gastronomy.
 
 
 
Those of us who have always been here will continue to fight to maintain a quality offer with “Barceloneta style”.

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