This is the first installment in a two-part series with chef Andoni Aduriz. You can find the second installment here.
Set amongst the picturesque Basque countryside of Northern Spain, on the outskirts of the gastronomic hub of San Sebastián, sits the world-renowned Mugaritz restaurant. In the past two decades after an initial rocky start, acclaimed chef Andoni Aduriz has created a true international culinary hot spot. Not just proud Spaniards but international guests are drawn to the unique experience that Mugaritz offers in the redefined former farmhouse. The two Michelin-starred restaurant, which over the past few years is consistently in the top ten of the World's 50 Best Restaurant list, is located up a winding country road in Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, in close proximity to the French border.
The cuisine at Mugaritz is representative of the region’s local produce, traditions, seasons, and the enormous respect chef Aduriz has for the gifts of nature. His style of cooking is sometimes referred to as neo-naturalism due to his proclivity for changing the properties of foods while preserving the original form or sometimes transforming them completely using advanced scientific processes. The constantly changing seasonal menus (a result of the work of the research team at the restaurant) ensure that every dining experience at Mugaritz is different and unique. A meal at Mugaritz is much more than a dining experience; it is in fact an intellectual dialogue between the chef and the diner. Aduriz plays with the diner’s intellect and emotions by introducing new concepts which stimulate not just the palate but also the mind. The connection between the terroir and the cuisine is easy to understand in the contemporary and elegant dining room where the real art appears on the table as beautifully plated food.
Food is the essence of a culture of a certain time or place encapsulated and presented on a plate or a menu. Aduriz exemplifies this concept brilliantly, as he presents the Basque culinary traditions in a modern format, re-imagined and representative of here and now. He is a dignified, intellectual chef, part food researcher; part philosopher looked up to with reverence by his peers. Aduriz has also dabbled in the world of art, theatre, and music in the form of a collaborative music project and a play titled The Degustation de Titus Andronicus. The research aspect and the scientific approach, both elements he absorbed at his time at El Bulli, are nevertheless entirely his own interpretations at Mugaritz. His appearances at food congresses such as Madrid Fusion and San Sebastián Gastronomika draw record crowds of his peers and culinarians.
Restaurants like Mugaritz are what bring food fanatics and other chefs to the Basque country and eventually influence restaurant kitchens all over the world. San Sebastián is a must for anyone desiring a unique food experience, and a meal Mugaritz a must at least once in a lifetime. In a recent conversation we spoke about his new upcoming project in Cuba (with chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy and chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico City) and other aspects of the industry and his work.
The Daily Meal: So far you have not ventured out of Spain with any projects. What made you choose Cuba for your recently announced joint project with chefs Bottura and Olvera?
Chef Andoni Aduriz: It is the fruit of a desire: doing something together with two chefs of great talent who I not only admire but with whom I also maintain an extraordinary relation. It is also a challenge: finding a place with the energy that this singular project requires. Cuba has its obstacles but also holds unique possibilities. In addition, limitation is an exercise that is very creative.