Masterchef S03 ep7 : Juan-Mari Arzak-Espina, Arzak Restaurant, [San Sebastien]
Interview with Juan-Marzi Arzak-Espina
If you like your food pretty, this is the place. Father-and-daughter team Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina's plates look fantastic: striking, colourful and imaginative, yet for the most part unfussy. The pair run the kitchen as equals and are a major presence in the dining room. Like the food, it pulls off the neat trick of balancing tradition and innovation, with warm, familiar service.
Chef Lionel Rigolet
I am third generation in our establishment, my daughter Elena is the fourth. My grandfather built
this house, I was born here. I am 68, I studied Hospitality and have been working from the age of
I had a friend in Madrid who was studying architecture and when I went to visit him I met up with
a friend who was studying hospitality, I didn't know anything about it, he explained it to me and I
liked what I heard. After a year I said this is my life this my passion and way forward in my life.
The people learnt through working in the restaurants in the afternoons with out studying, my father
died when I was 9 years old and I was an only child, my mother was a cook and when I told her
that I was going to go to hospitality school she nearly died ! Because she wanted a better life for
me, be an engineer or a doctor!
The first thing about Arzak cuisine its a constant evolution and exploration its like a
laboratory since I never had one, it was always my idea to experiment with food in this way. what
you eat here you can’t eat anywhere else
This whole movement started around 1976, Pedro Subijana and I went to the first Round table of
Gastronomy event, founded by Gourmet Magazine, we interacted with some of the greatest chefs
in the world, such as Paul Bocuse, and Raymond Oliver.
Traditional cooking evolves slowly we evolving faster, then we noticed that cooking is part of
local culture, we then started to getting involved with locals & media presenting our projects and
from here in the Basque country it passed on to Catalonia and then from there to the rest of Spain
We started this movement in Spain, Ferran Adria was the starter in the molecular cuisine
movement, he was just so creative he stunt the gastronomic world, and then they began to notice
what we had here in the Basque country.
Spain is a mosaic of cuisines, the Andalusians is an Arabic cuisine not the same than the Galicia's
is a Celtic cuisine and not the same than the Catalonians are Mediterranean cuisine and Basques
are strange and this is fantastic yet we still have our Basque traditions and roots.
It is in our mentality the there's this adoration of food, also fusion, from the time of Christopher
Columbus all these new ingredients came from Central and South America like potatoes, tomatoes,
capsicums , beans and we make it ours, it was a great cultural exchange
For me all the important ingredients are from here like the meat, seafood, vegetables. Seasonality
is very important, and it’s very important that it is as local as possible, I have to have them within
2 hours of harvest.
When I was a child we lived very close to the … we came in and out a lot and little by little every
year I wanted to make more, 17, 18 when you finish school you have to decide what to do and so I
did that because I wanted, nobody forced me.
My parents they thought I had the restaurant idolised they told me Elena one thing is like you
come here two hours per day and have a lot of fun like you come to the circus or the cinema,
another day is being your whole day is here.
When I was 18 years old and I finish school in St Sebastian I went to a German school in St
Sebastian then I went to … cooking school in the Swiss German part in Lucerne and as well I made
lot of working … in restaurants in France, in England, in Italy, I work in … in Paris I work in … in
… in L… in London as well a little bit with Pierre G… a little bit Alan Ducas or as well I went to
Italy and … and sometimes I went to El Bulli.
In the beginning I saw I will never be able to make these type of plates and little by little you enter
into the system and you learn the techniques by these big chefs and little by little but you have,
you need some years of preparation of studying of the cooking eh, it’s not from one day to the
For me it was easy to go into this very good place restaurants. There was something that was
general. The most important thing was making the things there as good as possible. No, and
everyone has his own system and is what I adored that very much and you know for me it was so
exciting to go into a new restaurant and discover how they work and how works the system and it
Even when I was there, he phoned me all the time and Elena what are your saying, seeing, I’m
very thankful because he always let me make lot of things since I was very young, he’s a person
that encouraged me a lot to make new plates and he correct me after the years, he correct me less,
but today’s the day we work a little bit the same system.
What he learn me as well and I learn is not to copy is to be inspired and perhaps to see some
techniques and how to use other products that we are not so used to cooking. I remember the first
plate I think we make together I think I was 19 years old.
He’s very good of the composing a plate with lot of ingredients, 10 years ago I told my father why
not you put less ingredients with stronger flavour and he told me okay make me something, I make
two example and he like very much.
I have met royalty, film stars, people of different races, I have met all sorts of people, and I have
travelled much too; I've tried kangaroo tail in Australia, I have eaten raw monkey brain in Asia ,
grubs and grasshoppers in Mexico, in the Amazon wood grubs, all in all you need to be humble, to
see the world like a cook but always think like a child and then everything is easy.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Juan-Mari Arzak-Espina, Arzak Restaurant, [ San Sebastien]