Juan Mari Arzak – a revolutionary chef

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2014
J.M. ARZAK M1Juan Mari Arzak, father of our featured chef Elena Arzak, is a renowned figure in the world of Basque cuisine and is working as joint chef with Elena in the avant-garde, three star Michelin restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian. Juan Mari Arzak was born on 31 July 1942, to Juan Ramón Arzak and Francisca Arratibel, also called Paquita. She gave birth to Juan Mari in the house the restaurant is attached to, so Juan Mari grew up in the kitchen. His father died when he was only nine years old but his mother, Paquita, was the chef at the restaurant her husbands’ grandparents had set up in 1897. Juan Mari never thought he would become a chef so he went to Madrid to study technical architecture after he had finished school. However, a friend of his studying at the Escuela de Hostelería encouraged him to join him, he therefore studied Hotel and Restaurant Management in Madrid and then worked within restaurants in France. Arzak - Credit to Worlds 50 Best After returning to San Sebastian, he took over the family business in 1966. From the beginning he experimented with food and explored contemporary cuisine, in 1974 he was awarded the national gastronomy price and his first Michelin star. Ten years later in 1976, the New Basque Cuisine movement started. The Club de Gourmets magazine triggered it by calling in the Round Table of Gastronomy I. Several chefs from all over Europe gathered and discussed contemporary gastronomy. Arzak and his friend Pedro Subijana went to France to learn the techniques of the Nouvelle Cuisine of the masters, the Troisgros brothers, Paul Bocuse and Alain Senderens. Ferran Adria He returned to Spain with his newly acquired knowledge and innovative ideas and as a result of his research and experimentation, the movement changed the Basque cuisine forever. There were no more rules about how Spanish cuisine should look and creativity with regional cuisines became the new standard. This new way of cooking, of using new technologies and combining ingredients that were never combined before, became known as the New Basque Cuisine. Juan Mari began serving this innovated Basque cuisine at his restaurant. He cooked creative dishes that stayed faithful to the Basque traditions but went one step further, also making them avant-garde. By cooking exquisite Basque avant-garde dishes and spreading the New Basque Cuisine, through the Round Table of Gastronomy II Basque food became known worldwide. Therefore, Arzak was rewarded his third Michelin star in 1989. His ideas were so influential that he encouraged Ferran Adrià to follow his own ideas and separate himself from the mainstream Spanish food. Adrià said of Arzak: “He’s the most important figure in Spanish cooking. He is a leader.” By 1974, Juan Mari and his wife Maite had two daughters, Elena and Marta, who both grew up in the restaurants’ kitchen. Elena, unlike her father, knew from the start that she wanted to become a chef. After school she went to Lucerne to study Hotel and Restaurant Management, and after that she worked in many renowned restaurants all over Europe. Elena Arzak After returning to her family’s restaurant, Arzak, she started cooking there as joint chef with her father and together they develop the Basque cuisine even further. Together, they have established a laboratory in the restaurant to create new dishes and mix ingredients to take the Arzak cuisine a step further. Juan Mari Arzak has made his grandparents’ restaurant famous and earned it three Michelin stars. His curiosity made him go to France to learn contemporary cooking techniques. When he came back, he experimented with his regional traditional cuisine and made it avant-garde. This courage and willingness to experiment made him famous and respected by fellow chefs all over the world and gave them the same courage to follow their instincts. By Vera Kleinken

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2014

Juan Mari Arzak – a revolutionary chef