Chef Josean Martínez Alija of Nerua at Guggenheim Bilbao - Biography

Bilbao, Spain

July 2012

At 34 years old, Chef Josean Alija has worked in kitchens for more than half of his life. He entered culinary school at 14 in his native Leòn, Spain, and soon found himself staging at the epicenter of modern gastronomy at El Bulli under Chef Ferran Adrià. And in 2000, Alija won the coveted Spanish Haute Cuisine Championship for Young Chefs at Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia.

Now, as chef of Nerua, Alija has refined his craft and pushed the boundaries of modern Spanish cuisine, which balances innovation with centuries of tradition. Alija’s cuisine reflects this juxtaposition. He puts ordinary ingredients on a pedestal and conjures from them minimalist masterpieces.

His award-winning creations include Roasted Duck Foie Gras with Candied Carrots ("Most Artistic Dish" 2002), Casein Whipped with Strawberry-Violet Ice Cream ("Most Beautiful Dish" 2003), and Cold Juice of Bitter Cocoa with Milk-Anise Ice Cream ("Best Dessert" 2004).

In recent years, Alija has developed projects that run parallel to his work in the kitchen, such as running the Creativity Course in Arteleku with Juan Luis Moraza and building a garden with artist Artur Bossi. He also has collaborated on nutrition-based cancer prevention research. Alija’s cuisine, restaurant, and diners remain his deepest focus. And ensconced at the forefront of minimalist, naturalistic cuisine, Alija hopes to continue his quest toward making Nerua one of the best restaurants in the world.