It’s always hard for children to objectively analyze their mother’s virtues. They can always be accused of being biased. It’s even worse if, trying to be excessively impartial, they only note the defects of those who they love most. All this is relevant when assessing the Basque way of cooking, to which we both feel so indebted. That’s why we can’t be asked to be brutally impartial, as this cuisine boils over from the bottom of our hearts, full of love and strong feelings – just how we believe that good cooking should be. Having said that, we also do not believe that our professional path is seeded in self-complacency; instead, it has been sowed with rigor, exigency, and universal meaning, always beginning, clearly, with our inalienable roots.
Even so, if there is anything that we’d like to note as being decisive for achieving the high level that Basque cuisine has, that thing is, on the one hand, the vital importance that is placed on our raw materials. We Basque are capable of traveling many kilometers to find the freshest mushrooms or the ripest fruits and vegetables of the garden, willing to climb a mountain if we know that, once at the top, we’ll be able to enjoy a genuine Cuajada (milk curd) or an exceptional cheese, as well as being able to walk relentlessly thorough our markets in search of the perfect fish, not the catch of the day but the catch of the hour, and knowing how to choose the best meats of utmost quality. Likewise, another important element that is sometimes disparaged unjustly, is the love and care that we put into cooking. When the Basque invite you to share a meal, they are not just offering you a dish, but also their friendship and trust. Additionally, it must be remembered that the social act of eating, for us, is much more than a mere question of subsistence. Doing good on the indelible words of the legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel, “luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” It has also been said that our Basque cuisine is, above all, the cuisine of a people who all cook. Or at least they try…
Juan Mari Arzak & Elena Arzak
Chef of Arzak Restaurant