StarChefs: How would you describe the cuisine at Mugaritz?
Andoni Luis Aduriz: It is a result of how we see, how we feel, and more than anything, how we think. It’s a cuisine based on the organoleptic (sensory) properties of dishes; [it is a cuisine] that doesn’t lose the view of the sensory and sensual possibilities of the gastronomic experience, and that doesn’t forget the cultural, traditional, and symbolic values of the ingredients and techniques that it uses. It’s a very natural cuisine, very organic (in an aesthetic sense), and overall, obsessed with the fundamentals [of the ingredients].
SC: Are your diners mainly from Spain, or from other countries?
ALA: 75% of the diners at Mugaritz come from all over the world. The vast majority aren’t just passing through, but rather they’ve planned their vacations around coming to see us.
SC: How has your focus or concept changed since you opened Mugaritz in 1998?
ALA: When we opened Mugaritz 10 years ago, we could not do what we’re doing today. The project has become more focused, and we have been fortunate to be equipped with tools and very complex and multi-disciplinary pursuits. Not in our wildest dreams could we have imagined doing what we are capable of doing these days.
SC: Do you feel that you need to continue to innovate and evolve your cuisine to stay in league with the top restaurants?
ALA: This [drive to evolve] is the most human thing. We enjoy reinventing and bettering ourselves. This is the end goal, and the consequence [of pursuing it] is that in the process we reach a good level. If the point of view is from the opposite end, and you seek to innovate without enjoyment or believing in it, then failure is certain.
SC: How do you find inspiration for your cuisine? What motivates you?
ALA: I am very happy with my work. I am motivated and inspired by everything from the simplest projects, like improving a cooking technique, to the large projects of investigation that cost thousands of Euros, that we’re currently involved in. I am motivated to learn, to know, to feel, to discover…The world is full of interesting people and great sources of knowledge.
SC: What dishes do you feel best define your cuisine or are most recognizable?
ALA: The “potato rocks” are a good metaphor. They are technically interesting because they provide creaminess and texture. They surprise you and put you at ease at the same time, because you realize you’ve been fooled by simple potatoes. At the same time, they are simple, poetic, and practical. I think they represent the major metaphor that we are constantly pursuing at Mugaritz. On the other hand, all the dishes we make with vegetables are exciting to me. The most notable technique we have made recently are the bubbles [large, stable bubbles made with xantham gum and a modified fish tank bubbler].
SC: Is there a most-requested, or most-discussed, dish at Mugaritz?
ALA: Diners are very excited by the “vegetable Carpaccio.” It’s a plate that people are very passionate about. Claude Troisgros was so fascinated that he actually got up from his table and entered the kitchen, applauding.
SC: Where do you source your products (vegetables, fruits, and meat)?
ALA: We try to source products from our local environment because although other places may have better ingredients, consumption is an essential part of the natural, emotional, and cultural ecosystems [of a place]. Out of respect for the people that visit us, I try to procure “territorial” foods and pass on a sense of the location [through the food].
SC: What other cuisines interest you?
ALA: Fortunately, these days there are many chefs with boundless talent. In France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, the US…in practically every part of the world I am finding incredible chefs.
SC: Is there something that you’ve eaten recently that you particularly loved?
ALA: I have eaten some great meals in the recent past, but the most recent was at Senzone in Madrid. It’s a restaurant that captures the diversity and energy of the capital right now. The courage, maturity and talent of the chef, Paco Morales, points towards a very promising future.
SC: How would you describe your ideal gastronomic experience?
ALA: That’s a question with many possible answers, all correct. At times I love eating in a restaurant with creative, chef-driven cuisine. But I also have felt immensely happy enjoying an informal picnic in the middle of a field. It’s very tied to atmosphere, company, wine, and food.
SC: What is the future of Spanish Alta Cocina?
ALA: Cuisine will be good for the palate and for reflection [for the mind]. The future is already here and we are seeing more chef-driven cuisine, with great talent and personality, and restaurants with themes based on products or on a certain style.
SC: What is future of Mugaritz? Do you have any new projects that you’re working on?
ALA: I have many projects in the works. One cultural project, “Tabula,” is to translate Michael Pollan’s books to Spanish. We are going to make a marvelous book to commemorate the 10 years of Mugaritz—it will be like a comic, where we laugh at everything a bit. We are consulting on a restaurant in Zaragoza, and we have put a lot of hopes and expectations into that. We are also working with the technological center Azti Tecnalia to present a variety of fascinating projects that fall within the field of science. So we have a lot of big projects underway.
SC: Do you have any advice for young chefs?
ALA: Stay focused and pursue your dreams. If there weren’t great dreamers, there would be no geniuses. It pays to be happy.