This is the second installment in a two-part series with chef Andoni Aduriz. You can find the first installment here.
The Daily Meal: Looking back over the years, which part of life and your work has brought you the most satisfaction?
Chef Andoni Aduriz: As my colleague Dani says in Mugaritz, the most risky projects have given us the greatest satisfactions. The reward itself is to see how a restaurant so unique and personal as Mugaritz has endured over time, almost two decades, and that today it is filled with customers that come from more than fifty countries. To see a person that is moved is a large reward for us that compensates all the doubts and fears along the way.
What did your interlude at El Bulli with Ferran Adria bring to your life other than cuisine and technique?
A lot of creativity, boldness, and consistency. When El Bulli was a fragile project and some had questioned and criticized it harshly, Ferran was not discouraged and argued for better quality and ideas.
The gospel of your kitchen has influenced kitchens as far away as Chile, California, Paris, Mexico, and Peru. Do you feel a sense of pride when you see your ideologies being adopted far from your own kitchens?
Obviously! I always tell the people that pass by Mugaritz, that the recipes, the products, the techniques, and the elaboration change in the future. But that attributes such as critical consciousness, innovation, sensibility, respect, perseverance, and solidarity never change. I get emotional when I see the people, who have passed through Mugaritz, be able to do what they want in life without any pressure.
You have said that for a chef, “to align yourself entirely with the idea of sustainability makes chefs complacent and limited.” In this recent bandying about of the term “sustainability” what is your advice to young chefs jumping on this bandwagon?
The best wines in the world have evolved to excellence because its market is global and they are not exclusively consumed in the territory where it is produced. The same happens in great restaurants who find themselves sustainable, thanks to an audience from around the world. If we did not consume coffee, because it is not a product that is produced in our environment, and in addition, stopping a habit that is already part of our culture (Italy and its coffee are insoluble words, for example), we would leave millions of people without a job who use this type of cultivation as a way of life. It is unsustainable what comes from outside to add value. It is unsustainable what comes from outside and destroys what is good in origin. For example when for purely economic reasons, vegetable mass production make local production unviable.
Meals at Mugaritz are much more than that since there is a lot of engagement between the guests and the content and context of what is on the plate. Why is it so important to you to build this dialogue along with a playful relationship?
For me cooking is something very serious but this does not mean that the dining tables are a party. Humans learn more when they are having fun. On the other hand, in Mugaritz, we tend to say that we do not do “rich” things but we do things that make sense, and that is why it is so important to contextualize things.