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Restaurante Arzak.

Restaurant of a Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux in town. Spain,Donostia San Sebastián

Juan Mari & Elena Arzak

Chef
Restaurante Arzak Donostia San Sebastián E-20015

Juan Mari: I was born in the family restaurant founded by my grandfather José María in 1897. My father Juan Ramón, who succeeded him, died in 1951. He was replaced by my mother Francisca and, in turn, I replaced her in 1967. After hotel management school in Madrid, I trained with a number of famous French chefs such as Bocuse, Troisgros, Senderens, Boyer, Arrambide. Hotel school taught me that I had the vocation to be a chef: my training in France taught me that cooking was more than a profession, it was a passion.
What I aim to do: produce an author’s cuisine, with a Basque dimension, green sauce, cod Pil-pil and hake “kokotchas”. In short, combine traditional cuisine with research and make it avant-garde.

Elena: From my earliest years, my family gave me a love for cooking. When I finished secondary school in San Sebastián at the age of 18 I went to the hotel management school in Lucerne in Switzerland and then I went to train at the top restaurants in France and Europe, to Gagnaire, Bras, El Bulli, Dutournier. I have very good memories of all these places where I had some very important experiences.
When I returned to the family business, my parents and the staff taught me how to manage alongside them.

My father and I work as a duo and have done for many years now. Life in the kitchen is very intense. I am very sentimental and not a day passes where I’m not moved by something.
We create an author’s cuisine: a Basque cuisine with research, innovation and a desire to be avant-garde, without turning our backs on local traditions.


What was your most moving culinary experience?
Juan Mari: I have had several in the course of my life. The most important was a meal at ‘El Bulli’ which transported me to a different planet.

Elena: Cooking always has moments, circumstances and opportunities to taste new things which are thrilling. For example, I still remember the time when I was 8 years old and tasted a truffle for the first time. I have also eaten in lots of wonderful places. For example, at El Bulli which always amazes me.

The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
Juan Mari: One of my friends was eating the head of a hake and I pointed at it with my fork and told him ‘that’s the best bit’. And without thinking I popped it into my mouth!

Elena: I’m ashamed to admit it but luckily no one noticed. A few years ago I served duck with the monkfish sauce. When I went over to the table to explain this to the guest, he had already eaten half of it. After I told him what had happened, I was very surprised to find out that he had loved it!

Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Juan Mari: Humility and passion. Look at the world with the eyes of a cook and think with the mind of a child so that you can continue to use your imagination.

Elena: Don’t be scared of cooking, learn from those who know how and enjoy yourself.