Ultimate Spanish Chef Guide
More on the chefs behind Spain’s dynamic food revolution—from international celebrity chefs like El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià, to new talents like Quique Dacosta.
Quique Dacosta at El Poblet in Dénia
Self-taught chef Quique Dacosta, 34, has earned a reputation as Spain’s leading young talent—and recently, a second Michelin star—by subjecting obscure local flora and marine fauna to truly alchemical treatments. Lately he’s been experimenting with aloe vera, which he discovered has miraculous gelling and emulsifying properties; playing with “mineralization,” using metals and minerals to create tour-de-force dishes like oysters Guggenheim Bilbao, designed to look like the museum; and doing fascinating things with rice. (Spain’s Next Food Mecca, February 2007; Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005)
DETAILS Carretera Las Marinas Kilometer 3, Dénia; 011-34-96-578-4179.
Javier Andrés at La Sucursal in Valencia
At La Sucursal, a minimalist restaurant inside the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, chef Javier Andrés has put together a menu that’s modern but not wildly avant-garde. One signature dish: rice—creamy like a risotto, studded with clams and lightly infused with ginger, then concealed under paper-thin petals of octopus carpaccio. Andrés also helped invent a miracle pressure cooker that vacuum-cooks ingredients at a low temperature with very low levels of oxygen, then infuses them with a poaching liquid. (Spain’s Next Food Mecca, Feb 2007)
DETAILS Avenida Guillem de Castro 118, Valencia; 011-34-96-374-6665.
Raúl Aleixandre at Ca’Sento in Valencia
At Ca’Sento, this 36-year-old El Bulli alumnus is working wonders with Valencia’s luminous fish. Although Raúl Aleixandre’s mother, Mari, is one of Valencia’s great traditional cooks, he takes a perverse pleasure in defying her rules—he once served an inverted paella, with the socarrat (the crunchy layer of rice that sticks to the pan) presented on top as a tissue-thin hat. (Spain’s Next Food Mecca, February 2007)
DETAILS Calle Méndez Núñez 17, Valencia; 011-34-96-330-1775.
Dani Garcia at Calima in Marbella
Garcia is addicted to the freezing agent liquid nitrogen, working with a university science professor to employ it in dishes like olive oil carpaccio (flash-frozen oil that melts in the mouth) and a frozen-meringue-like foam of poached quail eggs with a smoky infusion of Jabugo ham. Despite science-fiction techniques, Garcia, who owns Calima restaurant in his hometown of Marbella, relies on Andalusian ingredients and traditional flavors to keep his food grounded. (Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005)
DETAILS Hotel Gran Meliá Don Pepe, Calle Jose Meliá s/n, Marbella; 011-34-95-277-0300.
Andoni Luis Aduriz at Mugaritz in Errenteria
Aduriz, 36, is a member of the new school of romantic, cerebral and super-ascetic Spanish chefs who cook for the sake of science and art. He uses flowers, shoots, roots and herbs—picked from the kitchen garden where he grows his products or gathered from nearby woods—to infuse his dishes with a local identity and to put diners in more direct contact with the world around them. (Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005)
DETAILS Aldura Aldea 20, Caserio Otzazuleta, Errenteria; 011-34-94-352-2455.
Ferran Adrià at El Bulli in Roses
A 30-odd-course tasting menu at Ferran Adrià’s restaurant, El Bulli, near Barcelona, is closer to interactive performance art than to anything most of us know as dinner. Adrià, 45, likes to play with liquid nitrogen and calcium chloride. He fashions paella out of Rice Krispies, entraps quail eggs in a cage of gold-tinted caramel and turns foie gras into frozen dust. A guru to a new generation of chefs from Chicago to Copenhagen, Adrià is an ingredient-obsessed, gadget-loving alchemist whose deconstructionist techniques have revolutionized cooking the world over. (Fast Times with Ferran Adrià, February 2005, with recipes; Brava New World, Sept. 1999)
DETAILS Cala Montjoi, Roses; 011-34-97-215-0457.
Juan Mari Arzak at Restaurante Arzak in San Sebastián
Whimsical and wildly innovative, Arzak, 65, led Spain’s nueva cocina vasca revolution more than two decades ago and gave the country one of its first Michelin three-star restaurants. Today, he continues to preside over Restaurante Arzak in San Sebastián, alongside his daughter and co-chef Elena, one of the few females in Spain to run a Michelin-starred kitchen. (Basque Country Cooking, July 1996, with recipes; Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005; The Reign in Spain, Feb, 2002; Secrets of the Basque Vanguard, August 2007, with recipes)
DETAILS Avenida Alcalde Elósegui 273, San Sebastián; 011-34-94-327-8465.
Luis Irizar at the Luis Irizar Cooking School in San Sebastián
Now in his 70s, Luis Irizar, a cooking teacher and former restaurateur, is acknowledged as the father of modern Basque cuisine. Thirty years ago, Irizar initiated a move away from heavy sauces, cream and butter and toward freshness and lightness, much as Paul Bocuse and other French chefs were doing at the same time on the other side of the Pyrenees. After founding the first catering school in the Basque region at the Euromar Hotel in Zarautz in 1967, which produced star disciples like Pedro Subijana, he returned to San Sebastián and created the Luis Irizar Cooking School in 1993, where he holds classes with his daughter, Visi Irizar. (Basque Country Cooking, July 1996, with recipes)
DETAILS Calle Mari, 5 Bajo, San Sebastián; 011-34-94-343-1540.
Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui in Lasarte-Oria
The 47-year-old Martin Berasategui prepares daring, postmodern and complex Basque cuisine at his eponymous, three-starred restaurant on the outskirts of San Sebastián and also runs a wildly successful restaurant group that includes Restaurante Guggenheim Bilbao. (Basque Country Cooking, July 1996, with recipes; Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005; Bilbao Black Book, June 2000)
DETAILS Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria; 011-34-94-336-6471.
Pedro Subijana at Restaurante Akelarre in San Sebastián
Pedro Subijana, one of Luis Irizar’s star disciples, helped lead a food revolution in San Sebastián more than 20 years ago that fundamentally changed Spanish cuisine. Today, Subijana is renowned for his TV spots, cookbooks and impressive handlebar moustache. In his late 50s, he not only works the kitchen every afternoon and night at the three-starred Restaurante Akelarre, which he opened in 1974, but also takes orders and visits the dining room to check on the meals. (Basque Country Cooking, July 1996, with recipes; Spain’s Top Food Critic Tells All, February 2005)
DETAILS Paseo Padre Orcolaga 56, San Sebastián; 011-34-94-331-1209.