Monday, 22 July 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Andoni Luis Aduriz

I have always stated that food is the ultimate creative medium. More than merely fuel, it is a way we can bring a little imagination, passion and wonder into everyday life. The process of transforming the seemingly ordinary into something extraordinary is remarkable enough, but the fact we can all do this easily and affordably is not only astonishing, but actually life affirming. It is for this reason that I have such an admiration for chefs that not only push the boundaries, but disregard them entirely. The innovators, nonconformists and provocateurs. Chefs such as Andoni Luis Aduriz.

Andoni Luis Aduriz, is head chef and owner of the two Michelin starred Mugaritz in the Basque Country. Having worked with some of the most celebrated names in Spanish food (Arzak, Adria and Subijana to name but a few) he has rightfully emerged as one of the leading voices in international gastronomy, as well as one of the most innovative and influential chefs in the world. He is unafraid to astound, challenge, amuse, even confuse and majestically navigates the fine line between refined, cultured cuisine and the mischievous rascality that widens our eyes and puts a surprised smile on our faces. A gastronomic genius, with just touch of mad scientist to me he represents dining as it should be, an experience, so I was very happy to recently have the chance to ask him a few questions…

How would you describe your philosophy on food?

We are passionate about exploring and discovering new things, and we offer all of our experiences in our menus. In them you can discover who and what we are and what has influenced us. We seek to shape these experiences in an elegant, austere and unpredictable manner.

Your book is titled 'A natural science of cooking'. What do you mean by 'A natural science'?

In the kitchen, chemistry and physics go hand in hand with anthropology, sociology and art. It is a rich, complex and very creative territory. It has many sides to it, like a prism, giving it a character of a scientific discipline. Of course, it is an activity that requires knowledge of natural materials. We liked the idea of giving the book that title, and integrating two words representing science and nature.

You've won many awards and accolades, but what has been your proudest achievement?

My greatest achievement is certainly to have motivated my colleagues at Mugaritz and to have found the attributes that have given us our personality. It is not easy working with very diverse characters, looking for things in common and setting ambitious goals that will motivate individually and collectively.

What motivates and inspires you?

Learning and improving is what motivates me. I’m inspired by almost everything, from my colleagues to the most simple of situations. And obviously, it is very inspiring to see how your efforts translate into happiness in someone else.

What makes the dining experience at Mugaritz so special?

I would never say that Mugaritz is better than another restaurant. However, I dare to say it is unique, singular, full of character and personality. Our way of being, living and understanding gastronomy and the thousands of hours a year that we spend on creativity, makes us different. I emphasise: not better, but different. This characteristic, in such a homogeneous industry, is becoming more and more valued.

How do you come up with new recipes and combinations?

My team and I spend twelve thousand hours a year on thinking, finding and trying new things. Aside from this, it is important to stimulate curiosity and a critical eye. In other words, working hard and filtering this work through our own style and philosophy.

What are your plans for the future, both personally and for the restaurant?

My personal goal is to continue improving and not to become too lax. Professionally, it encourages me a lot to know that we have some great and challenging projects on the table. I am excited to know that we are working on dishes that will open up new possibilities and ways of study.

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

I have a three year old son and, during the summer, a girl of eight and I try to cook dishes that will extend their palate of flavours, aromas and textures. I believe it is my duty to leave them a wealth of knowledge associated with their culture and the world.

What one dish should everyone learn to cook?

It would be good if everyone had a minimum of knowledge so they could fend for themselves. More than a dish, I would suggest learning some basic techniques and gaining an understanding of the raw materials and products.

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs and food professionals?

I would tell them to focus on expanding their knowledge base through reflection and investigation, in order to help their future career. Think of your values and know that we have to be honest and consistent.

What do you hope your legacy will be (aside from potato stones!)?

More than a recipe book, I would like for us to be remembered as a group of people who managed to develop a different project, so innovative and multidisciplinary, that even meals were served there.

Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking is published by Phaidon. For more information please visit

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