On its 20th anniversary, this Monday San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country has presented its tribute award to Juan Mari Arzak, “the chef who started it all”.


On Sunday night, the congress organised an unprecedented dinner at the Basque Culinary Center to celebrate the anniversary which was attended by 300 guests with the participation of 25 national chefs


The “patriarch” of chefs, as he doesn’t like to be called, received the congress tribute Award this Monday at San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country. At the congress opening ceremony, alongside a cake specifically created by Christian Escribà, the Gastronomika technical committee made a toast to 20 years of adventure, “two decades of a congress that have changed all of us” –its director, Roser Torras, said-, and paid tribute with various surprises to the big star of the day, Juan Mari Arzak.


All the best, Juan Mari


His colleague and friend Ramón Roteta presented him with the award and all his friends –chefs, collaborators, restaurant staff…- come up onto the stage to accompany him. In particular, Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca***, Girona) praised his figure by recalling how important he had been and still is for him: “When I first met you and ate at your house, many years ago, I said to myself: I want to be like Arzak. And I have tried to…”. Similar words of thanks and gratitude were also heard on the video that the congress prepared for the occasion. Among others, Michael Bras, Mauro Colagreco, Ferran Adrià, Daniel Humm, Ana Ros, Alex Atala, Mitsuharo Tsumura, Pierre Gagnaire, Hiroyoshi Ishida or Tomas Keller spoke about the award winner and ended their speeches with an “All the best, Juan Mari”. The biggest applause in the world. “I’ve been really touched”, the chef acknowledged. Eternal gratitude.


The celebrations and anniversaries have also been shared by two members of the Technical Committee. In June Andoni celebrated 20 years at Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui, 25 years at his Lasarte. All of them have grown together with Gastronomika, “the congress that has made us bigger, the best gastronomic congress in the world, the one that has brought together generations, and publicized us and given us a boost”, Josean Alija said (Nerua*, Bilbao). The tribute and celebrations had begun on Sunday night with the dinner for the 20th anniversary where 25 Spanish chefs –more than 25 Michelin stars- designed five menus for 300 guests divided into five rooms of the Basque Culinary Center. Juan Mari wasn’t there. He was saving himself for his big day. Congratulations, Juan Mari.


Monday at Gastronomika has also consecrated Lluis Garcia y Lluis Biosca, the two historic figures in charge of service at el Bulli with the Golden Gueridón, “for managing together with Juli Soler to shape new ways of understanding the dining room that was the start of the service revolution that is ongoing today”, the organisers explained.


Ruscalleda, Guerrero, García, Berasategui and Pairet


However Gastronomika does not live from celebrations alone, as it also had a total of 14 master presentations on its first day. Carme Ruscalleda (Sant Pau***, Sant Pol de Mar) started them off with a plea in favour of women: “We women do not want rivalry, we just want the same attention”. After this proclamation, the chef who will shortly be closing her main restaurant introduced two women to take the floor. First of all, her pupil Sue Chávez, the chef’s right hand now at Cuina Estudi, and the journalist Rosa Rivas, who has co-written the chef’s new book: “Felicidad”. “Carme has been making people happy for 30 years, and will carry on doing so”, Rivas said. The Catalan Diego Guerrero (DSTaGE**, Madrid), then took the helm with a master class about technique and respect for produce, and stressed his intention to work with less and less ingredients, “but with a lot of work behind all this”.


Dani García (Dani García**, Marbella) with his traditional broth with mint and a phrase to remember (“beyond the show, the flavour aspect of the menu is vital”) preceded Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui***, Lasarte), who thrilled people by recalling his origins and sacrifices  (“to be a good chef you need to work six days a week and study on the seventh), and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the restaurant. In acknowledgement, he presented one of his students “with the most promising future”: Víctor Suárez, who is now at the restaurant Haydée restaurant in La Orotava. The chef from Lasarte ended his presentation by recalling the importance of women in the kitchen and announcing three restaurants “that I will be opening shortly”. These will be in Lisbon, Bilbao and Madrid. Paul Pairet (Ultraviolet, Shanghai, eighth best restaurant in Asia), rounded off the morning and congratulated Gastronomika with an eatable candle.


González, Freixa, Sandoval, Xatruch, Castro, Aduriz, Narisawa, Peña & Atxa


Sañted fish dishes and new Murcian cuisine provided the focus for the first presentation in the afternoon, provided by Pablo González (Cabaña Buenavista**, Murcia). Ramón Freixa (Ramon Freixa**, Madrid) followed him to entertain the public with aesthetic and creations that were also inspired by Mexico, as Ruscalleda did in her presentation. “You can see that Mexico has inspired us”, the Catalan said. And Mario, Juan Diego and Rafael Sandoval (Coque**, Madrid) defended the importance of good cooking and the dining room, and pointed out a “healthy gastronomic future and the use of fermented products”.


Magic on the dinner plate emerged in the next two presentations. First with Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch, (Disfrutar**, Barcelona), who displayed knowledge, technique and intelligence, and stressed the importance of “eating and smelling at the same time”. They displayed dexterity and aesthetics by making gluten-free dishes of nuts and dried fruit and dehydrated pastries starting from obulato sheets, including a piercing in one dish, as well as two nods to the Basque Country “in homage to Juan Mari Arzak”: an interpretation of the T-bone steak with pepper and a gilda snack, hake in green sauce and T-bone steak. For his part, Andoni Luis Aduriz, (Mugaritz**, Renteria) dedicated his performance to Roser Torras, the director of SSG, a presentation that stressed the simplicity of things, ingredients, and purity, when “a hair on your head is very little; in a dish it’s a lot”.


Yoshihiro Narisawa (Narisawa, Tokyo, sixth best restaurant in Asia), with a discourse linked to the Woods and nature as an “indispensable part in my cuisine”, and Oliver Peña (Enigma*, Barcelona), who recreated the buffet from the Barcelona restaurant bar on stage, preceded the presentation by Eneko Atxa who, on the 20th anniversary of the congress, wanted to look back to the 1st century to “demystify some supposed traditional items”. “Do you know that cod in pil pil sauce is not as traditional as you think?” Having won over the audience, the chef at Azurmendi*** (Larrabetzu) reviewed with Ana Vega up to 20 historical dishes to be analysed. “We want to know the future, to move forward, and run, but we don’t know our past”. This is Gastronomika’s 20th anniversary:  past, present and future.


Activities, competitions and produce


On the first day at Gastronomika, the Market was once again a meeting point, and a space where numerous activities and networking have taken place. Furthermore, rooms 35 and 10 in the Kursaal housed the final of the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge competition, which was won by Jose Carlos Román, or the final of the D´Tapas Covap Pasión Ibérica 2018 contest, which awarded its first prize to Rubén Antón (Arxiduna, Archidona), with a false fillet of pork ceviche chargrilled on coal ashes ; David Rodríguez (Danako Jatetxea, Irún), with fillet of pork squares, and Rodolfo Fernández (La Cava de Royán, Alcantarilla), with a wild boar confit, baked apple royale and cured cheese cloud.


On the other hand, Marimar Torres ran a wine tasting session for the Marimar Estate winery, in California, ostras Amélie surprised us tastefully, CR Cava displayed expressiveness, Castile and León, in general, and Valladolid, also flexed their muscles through Víctor Martín (Trigo*, Valladolid) and Bidfood Iberia presented in public the latest range of foams developed with Albert Adrià.


The 20th anniversary dinner


On Sunday night the congress opening dinner was held at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián. Given the occasion, the organisers turned it into a unique event in which 25 chefs and 300 guests took part to “show the extraordinary richness and diversity of modern Spanish cuisine”. Diners were divided into five rooms, three chefs to each room, one per dish, and always working as a team. “It’s always nice to cook among friends. We are a closely-united group…”, Dani García, one of the chefs, said. “I remember when I presented liquid nitrogen at Gastronomika in 2007, or was it 2008? It was an incredible moment. The congress has evolved”, he added.


Marcos Morán (Casa Gerardo*, Prendes) was another of the chefs who prepared the food. “This dinner shows what cooking is in our country: a kind of harmony that has made us great. In 2008, in San Sebastián they named me Chef of the Year; I remember it as if it were yesterday. Spanish cuisine has created a Spanish Brand, with an exemplary process of generational renewal. We take it for granted but what Spanish cuisine has achieved is really important. Different generations work alongside each other and there is a lot of respect between them. We have gone through the revolution from an early age, so we feel part of it. It is a pleasure to be able to feed Hilario (Arbelaitz) or Pedro (Subijana). This is an anniversary of the congress, not a tribute, so it is the start of a new period”, he explained.


Tomorrow at Gastronomika


An extraordinary event that will help to understand the revolution the revolution that transformed the reality of the global gastronomic situation will be focusing attention on the second day of the Gastronomika congress. The journalists José Carlos Capel, Rafael García Santos and Benjamín Lana, and the chefs Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta, Dènia) and Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca, Girona) will be sharing the stage in a unique round table-discussion entitled “The evolution of state-of-the –art cuisine. The late New York chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain will also receive in memoriam the “Pau Albornà i Torras” International Gastronomic Journalism Award 2018.


On stage, it will be time to listen to Fernando Agrasar (As Garzas*, Malpica de Bergantiños), Paco Pérez (Miramar**, Llançà), Josean Alija (Nerua*, Bilbao), Pedro Subijana (Akelarre***, San Sebastián), José Andrés (Minibar**, Washington, USA), Virgilio Martínez (Central, second best restaurant in Latin America, Lima, Peru), Ángel León (Aponiente***, El Puerto de Santa María), Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca***, Girona) or Juan Carlos y Jonathan Padrón (Rincón de Juan Carlos, Los Gigantes, Tenerife).


The exchange of arguments or different viewpoints on a topic will also be focusing attention on three exclusive presentations. The only two Michelin stars in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, Kiko Moya (L’Escaleta**, Cocentaina) and Alberto Ferruz (BonAmb**, Jávea), and Ricard Camarena (Ricard Camarena*, Valencia) will be taking part in one of them: “Approaches to contemporary Spanish East Coast Cuisine”,; the other, “New entertaining notes for contemporary Galician cuisine”, will be with Pepe Solla (Solla*, San Salvador de Poio) and Javier Olleros (Culler de Pau*, O Grove), and, finally, “Historical cuisines”, with the participation of Albert Raurich (Dos Pebrots, Barcelona), Paco Morales (Noor*, Córdoba) and Miguel Angel Mayor (Sucede*, Valencia).


Tomorrow the Gastronomika Adolescents event will also be taking place, where the “The Children eat up the Future” Project by Xanty Elías (Acanthum*, Huelva) will also be presented with the participation of EuroToques represented by Andoni Luis Aduriz, as well as Choose your Assistant, the Horeca Speakers session, the 1st National San Miguel- Spanish Potato Salad Championship , the Cava Mixology Experience or the S.Pellegrino meal with Nacho Manzano. Carry on Cooking with (Chele González) and Private Kitchen (Matías Perdomo), and companies like Acquanaria, Winterhalter, Sosa, Bodegas roda or Embutidos Alejandro will be running tasting activities in different rooms in the Kursaal building.