By Lauren Jade Hill
It was chef Eneko Atxa’s upbringing in the gastronomically rich Basque Country that informed his future pursuit of creating truly outstanding cuisine. He is the chef behind three Michelin starred fine dining restaurant Azurmendi in the Basque town of Larrabetzu, where each refined dish that comes out of the kitchen reflects the destination it’s in.
Here, the extensive degustation menu takes each of the restaurant’s guests on a journey through the Basque culture and land, with dishes such as Iberian pork glazed Castañeta with creamy parsley and truffle providing an introduction to the flavors of the region.
In 2015 Atxa was named our Young Chef of the Year, and now Azurmendi lays claim to the top spot in the eyes of Elite Traveler’s readers. We speak to the chef about his culinary philosophy and gastronomic dreams for the future.
Elite Traveler readers voted Azurmendi the number one restaurant in the world. What does this recognition mean to you?
This recognition means a lot, as many of the voters would be people who have visited our restaurant. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the joy and wellbeing of our clients. They are ultimately our reason for doing what we do.
What do you think it is about your food that people respond so well to?
I think people respond well because, first of all, we create a unique experience around our territory, our customs and our products, and we use ancient recipes in order to offer an experience with clear local and contemporary connotations. But I also believe it’s the intangible aspects, like our way of working sustainably and our respect for producers that is positively valued by our guests.
Tell us about your all-time favorite dishes and what makes them stand out.
I can never choose just one dish because the most important aspect is the experience we create for each season. However, I like to hear other people talking about different dishes as their own favorites, because in this way, I can obtain feedback on my food.
What experience can people expect to have when they dine at your restaurant?
I like to think that we are offering something special. In each bite you have a piece of my land and my culture, since it is born from my DNA. I place importance on the authenticity of traditional flavors in order to honor what I define as the highest potency of taste. The same applies to our wine, Txakoli. Each bottle carries a message explaining our way of working in the local vineyards. It is these shared stories that make the experience special.
What do you want to achieve next in your career as a chef?
I dream of working towards a more sustainable world, using gastronomy as a tool. And of course, I want to continue creating special food and experiences for my guests. They are my real supporters and without them, all of these dreams would be impossible. This is the reason that I want to say to all my guests, thank you for coming to Azurmendi.