The Arzak name is synonymous with creative and boundary-pushing cuisine with the San Sebastian restaurant bearing its name now in its third generation. A regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List since the ranking’s early days and a holder of three Michelin stars since 1989, the restaurant has become a Basque culinary landmark thanks to its progressive approach to cooking but which still leans heavily on tradition – the restaurant celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017.
The duality of the title of this book, which was first published in Spanish under a different cover in 2018, is a reference to the two Arzaks currently cooking at the eponymous restaurant: Juan Mari and his daughter Elena. For nearly 20 years the father and daughter duo have helmed the kitchen-cum-laboratory at the restaurant, ensuing that Arzak has remained at the forefront of Spain’s famously cutting edge and competitive fine dining scene.
This book tells the story of the Arzak family, from Juan Mari first working at the restaurant in 1966 and eventually taking over from his parents and grandparents as the third generation of the family to run it, charting his rise to cutting-edge chef and restaurateur and becoming an inspiration for generations of young cooks along the way.
It also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the birth of the so-called New Basque cuisine, a movement which formed the germ of the current Spanish gastronomic revolution, of which Juan Mari was the champion.
Then there’s Elena’s rise in the kitchen, which is also covered in detail in the book. Named the World’s Best Female Chef title in 2012, Elena has gradually taken over the kitchen from her father, who is approaching 80 years old, and has put her own creative stamp on the cooking process. Arzak + Arzak details the day-to-day running of the operation and also gives a glimpse into the future of the restaurant as it approaches its impressive 125th year milestone.
As an insight into one of the leading lights of haute Basque cuisine, Arzak + Arzak has a lot of merit, identifying some of the most iconic recipes of the past 10 years of Juan Mari and Elena’s playbook. As a cook-book, however, it is less useful, with most dishes too daunting to attempt at home, even in this time of lockdown when people have more time on their hands. But then avant-garde cooking is always better when someone else does it.
Author: Juan Mari and Elena Arzak
Number of pages: 260
Self-indulgence rating: ✪✪✪
Must try dish: Licence to krill (for the name alone)
Publisher and price: Grub Street, £30