Philosopher, alchemist and technician in equal measure, Andoni Aduriz is one of the most exciting characters on the fine dining scene.
A protégé of elBulli’s Ferran Adrià, he has been described as a “cult figure” among Europe’s young chefs for his avant-garde approach, creating dishes filled with unexpected flavors, textures and emotional twists.
Here, he takes time out to tell Elite about his dreams, philosophies and how he managed to turn northern Spain’s Mugaritz into one of the best restaurants in the world.
What is your earliest food memory?
My neuroscientist friends tell me that every time you remember something, you modify the memory a bit, which makes it possible that my recollections of childhood may not reflect what actually happened. Nevertheless, I hold onto the image of looking at my mother’s back as she cooked with her apron on as I played by the kitchen table. The sounds and smells of that space I keep close to me.
Can you tell us about the most surprising flavor you’ve ever experienced?
I would say that the most surprising thing I’ve tried, more than for its flavor, was for its texture. I had the gonads of fugu fish in Japan for the first time and they struck me as something extraordinary and delicious. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the gonads of other fish: cod, mackerel – but charcoal-grilled fugu gonads with a pinch of salt are just delicious.
What does the concept of ‘fine dining’ mean to you?
For me, fine dining is synonymous with culture and refinement. It is innovation and character. It is the architecture of the attributes the human being bestows on his food.
When you founded Mugaritz in 1998, what did you hope to achieve?
I dreamt about making Mugaritz one of the best restaurants in the world. I believed we could, with time and effort, construct a space in which the best intentions of a team that aspired to achieve excellence could surface. I knew it would be very difficult – almost impossible – but I had to try.
What does recognition by the Michelin Guide mean to you?
The Michelin Guide is the veteran of the existing guides and is a very important reference for the public. Whether they recognize you or not is always intriguing, but the fact that it’s such an old guide with such a measured vision of cooking is, without a doubt, significant.
Would you describe yourself as an inventor, a scientist, an artist or all three? Why?
I’m curious, a perfectionist and a dreamer. I like to know, understand and experience new things. I reflect a lot on why and for what purpose I do the things I do and I find it hard to give answers. I’ve accepted that I won’t ever be where I go but rather where I don’t want to be.
Favorite restaurant apart from your own?
My favorite restaurant or food depends on the time and place. There are so many brilliant chefs and cuisine and I’ve enjoyed some memorable experiences in an infinite number of restaurants around the world. elBulli, for example, touched me so much that the emotion ended up lasting several days.
Favorite international city?
It’s the same as with food – depending on the time of year and my state of mind, it (favorite international city) tends to be more one place than another.
I adore London, Paris, Rome, Lima, New York, Chicago, Singapore, Tokyo, Berlin and hundreds of other cities.
Favorite holiday destination?
I usually seek out destinations that I don’t know for family travel. In recent years, we’ve gone around Asia and Latin America and I hope to include Africa in that in the next few years.
Many wines. So many wines. I couldn’t possibly choose.
Proudest achievement to date?
It’s important to strive towards ambitious goals and leave your mark in life but it’s more important still to do it in a clean and ethical way, without trampling on anybody, without cheating, without lying. I’m happy to lead one of the best restaurants in the world, but I’m proud of the way in which we’ve done it.
What’s next for Andoni Aduriz?
To continue studying, researching and learning from my mistakes. To enjoy the journey, drink a toast to life and try to fill as many people as possible with optimism and hope.