FOURty Seconds with Juan Marí Arzak

24 Feb 2018
2 min read
Meeting Michelin maestro from acclaimed restaurants Arzak and Ametsa, FOUR basque-ed (see what we did?) in finding out about Chef Arzak’s avant-garde cuisine…

What are your first memories of being interested in food?

I was born in the restaurant (Arzak) and spent almost every weekend and holiday there. I was always cooking and helping my mum who held a lot of banquets and celebrations. I would help with the starters, man the bar or do whatever needed to be done. I remember one task: having to find loose clams in the cooking pot, and putting them back in their shells.


How would you describe your approach to each dish?

We use seasonal raw and local products (meat, fish etc.) with 0km. Ingredients are a totally other subject; they come from all over the world. When your products are local, you have to add details that will complement the culture of where the dish is from with ingredients.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

From everything! Working with Elena (Juan Mari’s daughter), Igor Zalakain, Mikel Sorazu, Xabier Gutierrez and Sergio Sanz, we search for inspiration every day, everywhere in the world. The best thing to do is to think like a child; if you go to a children’s playground, nobody’s doing the same thing the same way. The day that you stop thinking like a child, you leave creativity behind.


What are your most indispensible ingredients?

Garlic, oil and parsley.


Do you consider yourself more of a scientist or craftsman?

I’m a cook! Or maybe an artisanal scientist.



What’s next in the development of your scientific techniques?

We don’t know – we haven’t developed it yet! If you ask me what the cuisine of tomorrow is, evolution and research are key but you can never know.


Why did you choose to open Ametsa in London?

London is a city that we like because it has a very dynamic atmosphere that allows us to apply the things that we see on the street to our food. We had lots of other offers in other cities, but we needed to ensure a few things: the team had to think along the same lines as us, and we didn’t want it to be a large site. It had to be the same type of place as Arzak. We don’t aspire to having a huge restaurant with 1000 seats or holding banquets for 500 people. This is something small, delicate and charming, with a family at its heart.


How do you cater to the needs of your guests in London?

The dishes are the same as at Arzak. We don’t have an issue using the same dishes with the British public, as they are used to embracing different cultures.


Local produce is so important in your cuisine at Arzak; from where do you source your produce for Ametsa?

We find our produce in the markets. There will always be similar products to what we have in San Sebastian, which we have to tinker to improve. The best ingredient here is water, which I can mix with olive oil to balance any product.


Is it easy to leave the kitchen at Ametsa to return to Spain?

We have a great team here, and I have my daughter Elena in San Sebastian. I would love to greet, serve, cook for and say goodbye to everyone, but I can’t do it all and I trust my team.