It’s confirmed: Chef Elena Arzak, in collaboration with Chef Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez, is designing a menu at the Arzak laboratory using Philippine ingredients to be presented at Gallery Vask on the first evening of Madrid Fusion Manila, April 24.
Restaurant Arzak is one of the most respected and highly acclaimed restaurants in the world. It has maintained, to this day, the three Michelin stars it earned in 1989. Other restaurants lose a star or two along the way but Arzak has maintained its 3-Michelin Star status for 25 years. It has also consistently kept its place in the Top 10 of the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2006.
Chef Elena runs Arzak with her father, Chef Juan Mari Arzak, who is considered the father of modern Basque cuisine. He is credited for spearheading the Nueva Cocina Vaska (New Basque Cuisine) movement that laid the foundation for a larger Spanish culinary revolution. Many chefs have been inspired by this movement started by Arzak, the greatest example being El Bulli’s Ferran Adria. Chef Juan Mari was honored with the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
The restaurant is known for its avante garde, sometimes whimsical, dishes. It serves beer pudding literally on top of a crushed can of beer. Sardines are delicately placed inside a potato sphere. And for a trip to the sea with San Sebastian’s red mullet, the fish is served on top of a tablet that has a video clip of waves.
In an interview with Inquirer Sunday Biz at the Restaurant Arzak chef’s table last January, Chef Elena explained that every dish served at the restaurant begins not in the kitchen but in the laboratory, where the item goes through a process of tasting and testing until it merits Juan Mari’s and her approval. This process could take as short as six days but could also take as long as six months.
Which makes the April 24 dinner priceless.
Chef Chele, who worked in Arzak for a year and a half, has been applying the Arzak culinary philosophy of promoting local ingredients in an avante garde fashion to his creations at Gallery Vask. He started a degustation series he calls Kulinarya using ingredients he personally sourced from all over the country, going as far as visiting indigenous tribes in Kalinga and Bukidnon. For his Kulinarya menu, he has an appetizer of eggplants he found in Bukidnon; kinilaw of “uni” that he found in Sorsogon; and cochinillo slices with kalibangbang leaves from Pampanga.
But for this dinner, it is the Arzak team in San Sebastian led by Chef Juan Mari and Chef Elena themselves who will be playing with Philippine ingredients. These ingredients will be brought this March to the Arzak lab in San Sebastian. The creations—or shall we say inventions—produced from the lab will be presented by Chef Elena and Chef Chele at the April 24 dinner at Gallery Vask.
The dinner will be priced at P9,500 a head with wine pairing. This is a bargain considering the tasting menu at Restaurant Arzak is already priced at 179 Euro without wine. Consider it a trip to Arzak without the plane ticket! Plus, your meal may be tax deductible as proceeds for the dinner will go to Fundacion Santiago, a private Filipino charity established in 1993 aimed at using the benefits of tourism for poverty alleviation.
Gallery Vask can only accommodate 40, so book a table now!
Arzak, Mugaritz Back to Back at Gallery Vask
If you’ll miss this dinner, not to worry. Vask is set to hold three special dinners on the three evenings of Madrid Fusion Manila (April 24, 25, 26). The 25th is Chef Chele’s night while on the 26th, Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, currently No. 6 on the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is also set to cook at Vask.
Gonzalez keenly points out, “I believe this is the first time in Asia that two chefs in the Top 10 of the World’s 50 best will cooking in an event. Madrid Fusion Manila, I believe, is a great opportunity to (make Manila) become a culinary destination.”
Mugaritz is a two-star Michelin restaurant in Spain but currently the No. 6 Best Restaurant in the World as ranked by the World’s 50 Best.
Aduriz is regarded as a genius, renowned for his culinary innovations. He was influenced by Chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli, which held the No. 1 rank for many years. Aduriz says that El Bulli, where he used to work, changed his life. (When El Bulli closed, Adria was quoted by The Guardian as saying that now the best chef in the world, aside from his brother Albert, is Andoni Luis Aduriz.)
Aduriz is passing on the inspiration to chefs who had in turn worked with him at Mugaritz. There was a Mugaritz tribute at Madrid Fusion where chefs who had worked at Mugaritz but now spreading their wings abroad were called on to the stage. Among these chefs was Vask’s Chele Gonzalez, of whom Aduriz is very proud. In an interview in Madrid, Aduriz described Gonzalez as an ambassador of Mugaritz and said that he was looking forward to exploring the Philippines with Chele.
The Mugaritz dinner will also be priced at P9,500 a head. Proceeds will go to the same charity that the Arzak dinner will help.
Chef Ivan Brehm of Singapore’s Bacchanalia, also a Mugaritz ‘grad’, will be doing a collaboration with Chef Jordy Navarra at The Black Sheep.
It’s going to be a hot culinary scene this April indeed on the week of Madrid Fusion Manila.
5/F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. +63 917 546 1673. Reservations required.