Vermicular | Chef Partners | Jérôme Quilbeuf

Jérôme Quilbeuf

Nonna Maria

Chef's Journey

Sant Pau is a Spanish restaurant known for pioneering modern Spanish cuisine. The founder, Carme Ruscalleda, is the world's first woman to be awarded a total of seven Michelin stars (one 3- star and two 2-stars). Chef Jerome Quilbeuf, who quickly emerged as her right-hand man, travels the world, connecting people through cooking.

Born in France, Jerome started cooking as a teenager and moved from Paris to Barcelona in his 20's. While serving as the head chef at the Hilton Barcelona, he had an opportunity to dine at Sant Pau for the first time. That unforgettable dining experience led him to become an apprentice to Carme. Jerome was quickly promoted to sous-chef, which was unprecedented just one year after joining the restaurant. He later spent four years in Japan as the Executive Chef at Sant Pau Tokyo, which drew public attention as Carme, who had continually declined to expand her Barcelona restaurant, decided to open an overseas branch for the first time. He initially hesitated to take on such an important role, especially as a Frenchman. However, Carme offered reassurance, telling him that he was the only chef who would be most capable of receiving a Tokyo Michelin star. As predicted, Sant Pau Tokyo—led by Jerome—went on to win two Michelin stars.

During his stay in Japan, Jerome was inspired by Japanese cuisine, which facilitated change and growth in his cooking. Eventually, he became the Executive Chef at the original Sant Pau in Barcelona, contributing to the restaurant's longstanding three-star prestige. Following his time at Sant Pau, Jerome opened his own pizza restaurant, Nonna Maria, in Barcelona. Currently, he also consults for local, casual dining restaurants. Since 2019, he has successfully spearheaded the COOK JAPAN PROJECT, a large-scale dining event in Japan that invites top-class chefs from around the world. Such a project could not have been realized without Jerome, whose skill and charming personality draw people towards his ideas.

The original Sant Pau, the cornerstone of Jerome's culinary career, has been open for over 30 years while Sant Pau Tokyo celebrated its 15-year-anniversary in the spring of 2019. His ability to seamlessly combine Spanish and Japanese food culture as a French chef while consistently driving to reach unprecedented grounds is recognized and highly commended not only by Carme but by international multitudes.

Sant Pau Standard

“The moment I took a bite of Carme's dish at Sant Pau, my life changed dramatically. It felt as if the ingredients on that one plate all came to life. Each ingredient was cooked to perfection while the umami, flavors, textures, and colors all stood out. Although Sant Pau was not as famous as it is today and I did not know of the founder, Chef Carme, at that time, I was convinced that her dishes were the ideal form of what I wanted to create. I was already a hotel restaurant chef, but this experience at Sant Pau made me feel like everything I had already made or tasted thus far was boring. Sant Pau's cuisine rests on a foundation of local Spanish food, where everything from production to consumption is done locally. Naturally, I followed the same concept and only used ingredients grown locally in Japan and created original menus exclusive to Sant Pau Tokyo. Even after moving back to Spain, I continued to fly back to Japan every three months, for three weeks at a time, to renew the seasonal menu. I was essentially spending a quarter of each year in Japan and continued to do so for a number of years.

I encountered the wonders of Japanese cuisine over time. For example, dashi made only from kelp, katsuobushi, and water is incredibly flavorful. Carme also visited Japan frequently, so we searched for fascinating ingredients while traveling across the country together. We came across many exquisite dry foods and seasonings that intrigued us to use both in Tokyo and the original Sant Pau in Spain. Some of them remain as foundational ingredients that define the taste of Sant Pau to this day.

As you can see, the relationship between Sant Pau and Sant Pau Tokyo goes beyond just the framework of the original restaurant and a branch restaurant. The original Sant Pau continued to evolve because of Sant Pau Tokyo, and as a result, we've successfully stayed in business for over 30 years. Spain and Japan are far apart in distance, but their cuisines share a common philosophy, such as crafting simple dishes that bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients. By incorporating Japanese ingredients at the original Sant Pau, I was able to provide a taste of Japan to customers who have never visited Japan. Conversely, I would use Spanish seasonings on the menu at Sant Pau Tokyo, which felt quite natural to me. Uniting two cultures was inevitable, and I feel what I've learned as a chef in Japan was monumental.”

Signature Recipes

Akita Hinai Jidori Chicken

Akita Hinai Jidori Chicken

Ingredients: Hinai chicken breast, steamed hijiki, parsnip, cherries, amaranth leaves, spicebush branches

When Jerome was in Akita, he visited the mountains alongside a master forager and was fascinated by the unique fragrance of spicebush, something he had never experienced in Europe. By smoking the spicebush branches, the fragrance is then transferred to the Hinai chicken and hijiki from the Sea of Japan. This dish is reminiscent of his trip to the Akita mountains and fully showcases his creativity and originality while the gentle flavors brought out by each ingredient channels his respect for Japanese ingredients and nature.

Pineapple Coconut 
Sponge Cake

Pineapple Coconut
Sponge Cake

Ingredients: Pineapple puree, grated coconut, almond powder, baking powder, eggs, granulated sugar, dark rum

This one is a gluten- and lactose-free recipe containing no dairy or flour. The recipe can be enjoyed by everyone, including health-conscious individuals, those with allergies, or people that don't have an oven at home. Combine the ingredients, transfer the batter into a pan, and steam-bake in the Musui–Kamado. A simple yet subtly sweet cake utilizing the signature precision seal and precision temperature control of the Musui–Kamado.

Next Stage

“At first, I expressed Japanese influences through fusion cuisine, but as it became more complex, I realized that it probably was not the best method. The charm of Japanese cuisine is found in its simplicity—built on a foundation of dashi and water—and that is why it's considered healthy and wholesome. It has made me realize that the same applies to Spanish cuisine. From that point forward, seasonal ingredients have always played a lead role while each dish gradually became simpler and healthier. Pivoting my approach to cooking has resulted in a major transition as a chef.

Many were surprised that I started a pizza restaurant in Barcelona, but I didn't want to start a business that would compete with Sant Pau. I wanted to open a restaurant that serves meals to all kinds of people and therefore named it Nonna Maria. Pizza is something that everyone can casually come to eat, whether you are wealthy or not. In fact, our customers range from professional Barcelona football players and famous actors to young professional cleaners and the elderly living in the neighborhood, all of whom come to dine alongside one another despite the differences in social status.

We would have faced local constraints and limitations if we were to have opened a restaurant in Italy, the birthplace of pizza. Here in Barcelona, the sauce doesn't necessarily have to be tomato sauce, and you have more freedom to expand your interpretation of pizza, which made it interesting for us. Because the restaurant was not located in the city center, we had to make sure that the news got across when it opened. By utilizing my connections, I collaborated with a different Michelin star chef every week to create their own original pizzas in our kitchen. The first chef was the one and only Carme from Sant Pau. Of course, it was a big success. Albert Adrià from elBarri also joined. These collaborations gave our customers who had never dined at a Michelin star restaurant a chance to try a dish made by a top-class chef. Seeing our customers genuinely enjoy the experience is what brings me the most joy."

"The restaurant I've provided consulting services for serves local Spanish comfort food, but is very particular about their ingredients' quality. Therefore, their meals give you a sense of satisfaction that you can't get at home. Vermicular cookware plays a big role in their kitchen, and they even have the Vermicular name on some of their menu items.

I'm based in Barcelona but have relationships with chefs from all over the world thanks to all the international culinary events Carme took me to as her assistant. I was able to befriend many chefs at these events, possibly because of my outgoing personality. The COOK JAPAN PROJECT was a collaboration with those chefs I had befriended over the years. We invited top-class chefs worldwide and asked them to craft unique dishes made with Japanese ingredients. The project kicked off in April 2019 and continued until January 2020, and thanks to the enormous success, I received an offer to extend the project. The combination of enjoying high-quality meals made with ingredients only available in Japan and the fact that world-class chefs crafted them made it a one-of-a-kind dining experience for guests.

The reason why I organized this event was because of my strong feelings for Japan. I have traveled to many different countries, but Japan is a special place. I admire the quality and variety of ingredients and how its clear waters and valuable lands are beautifully integrated into the way food is cooked. Not to add, the Japanese are number one in the world when it comes to gastronomy. It's not just me. Every time I invite chefs from overseas to show them around Japan, they all say the same. Above all, the most outstanding thing about Japanese cuisine is how healthy it is. Of course, Spanish cuisine is also considered healthy as it primarily uses olive oil, but it does not compare with Japanese cuisine, where dashi is used as its base ingredient. When it comes to French cuisine, you can imagine how limited it gets when you try to make a dish without using butter or cream."

How I Met Vermicular

“I come from a family of chefs and have many relatives who cook for a living. Growing up, I would help my grandfather at his butcher shop, so my ambitions to enter the culinary world came naturally. At the age of 15, I entered culinary school while also working relentlessly at a restaurant to master my cooking skills. After I moved to Barcelona in my 20s, I won the Young Chef Contest, which the head chef of the hotel restaurant I was working at at the time had encouraged me to enter. Carme was one of the judges at the contest, and I was awarded a dining certificate to Sant Pau as part of the prize. The rest is history.

I had been using enameled cast iron pots from other brands in the kitchen until my friend introduced me to Vermicular a few years ago. From the day I first used it, it was clear that Vermicular's handcrafted cookware was unlike any other cookware that is mass-produced. When I visited the factory in Aichi for the first time, I witnessed not a typical factory but more like a manufacturing laboratory full of craftspeople. When I saw that the contact area of the pot and its lid was precision machined to fit with a gap of less than 0.01 mm variance, I was convinced that the human touch and thoughtful craftsmanship were what had drawn me to Vermicular's cookware.

As a chef, having that kind of intuition is vital. Cooking tools are essential because they support the work we do. We want to make sure we choose those that give us good energy, and Vermicular cookware does that. This may be because we share similar life stories—we both started small but worked tirelessly to craft better and more beautiful things with unwavering determination and passion. Our efforts have led us to the place where we are now, working on a global scale. Additionally, we are both involved in the act of eating, which is an essential part of one's life. To eat is to live, and food becomes the best form of energy when it's taken in its simplest and most natural way, especially when the ingredients are in season and aligns with your body condition and lifestyle. Cooking with Vermicular cookware allows me to convey this relevant message to our guests and fellow chefs. That's how I view my collaboration with Vermicular.”

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