Elena Arzak cooked two traditional dishes with Jon Gutiérrez, who is now working with her father, Xabier Gutiérrez, in Arzak's R&D department.
The children are taking over.
The presentation by Elena Arzak (Arzak***, San Sebastian) was an individual one but it became a multiple one thanks to the opportunities offered by the new congress format. On a link from the kitchen of her restaurant, Elena went live accompanied by 'the patriarch', her father and father of all of us Spanish chefs. “I come to the restaurant during the day, but not at night anymore. But I'll keep doing it as long as they put up with me...”, Juan Mari Arzak warned, before giving the spotlight to his daughter, “my treasure”.
This is a genealogical line that not only affects the owners of the restaurant in San Sebastian, but also those who work alongside them. In a presentation sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Elena was accompanied by Jon Gutiérrez, son of Xabier Gutiérrez, who has been running the restaurant's innovation department since 1990. Jon is now working with his father in the same department, from where the presentation was broadcast. This is Arzak, a family restaurant through and through.
Father, children and friends, because Josean Alija (Nerua*, Bilbao) was also there. “We have been friends for a long time, and it is an honour to be able to share the kitchen with Elena and Juan Mari, a family that has paved the way for us all”, said the Bizkaian chef, who was also involved in one of the dishes that Elena and Jon prepared live: a seared grouper served with mushrooms cooked to create a fabric-textured paste, a “Basque sea and mountain”, explained Alija.
Elena shared, hosted and cooked. “I am aware of the legacy I am taking on, and that I am less open than my father, but he has always told me that if I work and persevere, people will get used to me”. Arzak blood carries weight and is a winner. Juan Mari was moved. Elena continued: “The future in the kitchen will be closely related to our immediate environment, reviving values and techniques and adapting them to today's tastes, with less fat and less alcohol, particularly in the bases”.
In her presentation, Arzak also cooked a Les Landes pigeon casserole with dates and thyme, and a dessert inspired by ruins, which was served up on a plate with a “kind of creamy carob curdles that sets with pectin”, she commented. The ruins appear after pouring the Vietnamese chocolate mousse into a mould.
Elena and Jon said their goodbyes, reminding us of the film that will be released in theatres this Friday. They were talking about “Arzak, since 1897”, a film directed by Asier Altuna that was recently presented at the San Sebastian Film Festival. It is a retrospective of the legendary restaurant and its main characters, particularly Juan Mari, a chef who will continue to be active at the restaurant but keeping a watchful eye on the sugar. “We now cook with less intensity. For Juan Mari everything has to be sweet…”. That’s what geniuses are like.