Mugaritz: A powerhouse of creativity hidden in the green hinterlands of the Basque country

INTERVIEW / 09 AUG 2016 / BY DIMITRIS PANAGIOTIDIS

MUGARITZ
Hidden in the green hinterlands of the Basque country © MUGARITZ.
MUGARITZ. Aldura Aldea, 20 20100 Errenteria Gipuzkoa, Spain / mugaritz.com

Andoni Luis Aduriz is one of the most influential and innovative chefs of our time. Throughout his career, he has prioritised both culinary evolution and an inter-disciplinary approach to gastronomy, which has allowed him to cross established borders between food and culture. The chef completed his studies at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management in Donostia- San Sebastian. He subsequently worked with some of Spain’s most renowned chefs such as Ramón Roteta, Hilario Arbelaitz, Jean Louis Neichel, Juan Mari Arzak, Fermín Arrambide and Pedro Subijana. From 1993 through 1994, Andoni spent two years at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and a world of gastronomic possibility was revealed.In 1998, Aduriz embarked alone upon his most risky and satisfactory project: MUGARITZ. It is a place not only designed and built to respect the environment, but to create the perfect balance of groundbreaking culinary techniques and traditional Basque cuisine. MUGARITZ breaks the barriers of our perception of everyday things with an interdisciplinary approach to gastronomy, presenting an experience that captivates all five of our senses.

What inspired you to get into this business? Share some of your mentors and how they have helped you.

During my upbringing, when I was studying, I never thought I would have a restaurant. However, after having learned from many important chefs, I ended up become Chef de cuisine at Restaurant Martin Berasategui. After a year, he suggested to become a partner when he saw that we wanted to open our own venture. We opened various small businesses until the possibility came up to lease out MUGARITZ. We then began our project that held great significance for us. This happened 18 years ago. After a decade being part of the project, Martin Berasategui decided to leave the venture.

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Lacquered sole and butter by Andoni Luis Aduriz © MUGARITZ.

Smells and flavours cover the biggest percentage of memory. Would you share with us, a unique, still vivid moment in life?

In the kitchen of my parent’s home, I remember perfectly the smells that were present when my mother was cooking. If I concentrate myself, I can remember the aroma of the winter vegetables that were being cooked, or the emitted perfumes of the stewed squids or the bonito mixed with peppers. When I was a child, I played on the kitchen table.

How has your cuisine evolved since you started and how do you think it will change in the future?

When we first opened our doors, we were around 15 people working in this project. Today, we are more than 70. Obviously, just in the level of resources alone, the possibilities that we have available today exceed what we could have done in the beginning. It is true that the philosophy that lies behind the dishes has not varied much, however the construction of the menu and the elaborations have. I am not able to imagine how we will evolve in the future, but we will progress. For example, this year, with respect to last year, besides from the more than 120 new dishes that we developed, there was an important transformation in the composition of the menus. It has been a fruitful manoeuvre from many years of reflexion.

What are the most important values you demonstrate as a successful chef?

I would say consistency, critical consciousness, curiosity and team work.

“When you come from a humble social class, dreams are small. But once I slowly uncovered chapters in my life, I also changed the orientation of my objectives. Today, I dream of changing the world.” says Andoni Luis Aduriz.

Every life takes its own direction, influenced by a unique pattern of decisions and circumstances. Yet, we are driven by many different kinds of motives, some self-serving and some aimed at purposes beyond the being. What moves you to make the important choices that shape your behavior and, ultimately, the directions of your life?

I believe that a person’s motivations are revealed in layers. First exists the most primary instances: I need to pay the mortgage, eat and take care of my child, therefore I need a job. In the second level, would be the vocation to make sure that your work is the most pleasant possible so that you may grow not only as a professional but as a person and this fills me. In the third layer, the calling to make possible what you have been told to do transcends you and contributes to your environment and profession. In the last step, when all of the above is resolved, all is left is to give something back to society. Understandably thanks to the visibility the kitchen has today, it is a powerful weapon of social transformation. Feeling that you can help others brings you closer to happiness.

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Portrait photo of Andoni Luis Aduriz by Alex Iturralde © MUGARITZ.

How do you maintain your and your team’s daily motivation and inspiration despite obstacles, pushback or setbacks?

Reminding us of where we come from, looking over where we are and remembering especially everything that is left to do, which is a lot. While there are still dreams, there is activity.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Concentrate on creating, which is what you do best. Ferran Adriá told me this many years ago.

Have you fulfilled your dreams?

When you come from a humble social class, dreams are small. But once I slowly uncovered chapters in my life, I also changed the orientation of my objectives. Today, I dream of changing the world.

Suppose you were hosting this coming Saturday night. And you could invite anyone you wanted. Dead or alive.

Which four would you invite to come over and why?

I would cook for my six-year old son and I would talk to him. I am passionate about the conception of his life. It is always tempting to resurrect a great personality who has passed, but if I tell you the truth, the world is filled with talented people that can hold tremendously inspiring conversations, so there is no need to resurrect anyone.