On Tuesday night I had the priviledge of attending a cozy little chat between the best chefs of my town. If I were still in Alabama, this would mean I was hanging out with my boss and our friends. However, as a resident of Donostia-San Sebastián, this means I was listening to the best chefs in the world sit around and shoot the breeze.
Juan Mari Arzak, his daughter, Pedro Subijana (Akelarre), Martin Berasategui, Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz), Iñigo Cojo (A Fuego Negro), and Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi) gathered together Tuesday night for something uniquely European, a government sponsored chat on the important values of the region (in this case, culinary). An institutionalized intellectual conversation? These are the reasons I love it here.
The premise? Basque cooking is something special.
The explanation? There is a spirit of sharing, a culinary compendium, that began with this eldest of generations (Arzak + Subijana) and has been passed down, resulting in a richer body of culinary achievement. And if it sounds like hocus pocus, I have to admit I'm on board: you can walk into the dinkiest, dirtiest bar here and eat GOOD. I mean, WELL (that's for all my english students).
Some highlights (translated by yours truly):
- "Things don't fall into your lap from the sky, they fall into your lap from hard work."
- "People are afraid to ask questions."
- "Dont waste your time on things that will make you bitter about life."
juan mari arzak
- "I'm never going to retire."
- "Fight for your job to be your passion."
- "First be a person, then a cook."
- "Being stubborn is very important."
andoni luis aduriz
- "Nothing is more powerful than enthusiasm."
And they really are friends...and people. It was so cool to see their respective personalities: Juan Mari and Pedro, the grandfather figures, equally humorous but Juan Mari a little bit more overt; Martin with his Emeril-like campesino character, rough around the edges; Elena, who for me was Pardis Stitt-like in her diplomacy; Andoni and his scholarly note-taking and serious considerations; and Eneko and Iñigo, the youngest, Iñigo slouching around and throwing out "hombre" just as anyone his age would.
*and might I add, with a bit of childish excitement, this happened two blocks from my house! squeeeee