Elena Arzak started working at her family’s restaurant, Arzak, at the age of 11, becoming the fourth generation of her family to work there. She would work two hours a day during the summer holidays from school. At the time her grandmother was the head chef.
Cooking in her family DNA.
A creative tour de force, unstoppable in her curiosity, Elena has a stellar palate. She is constantly experimenting using her ever-growing library of flavours housed in the lab/workshop above the restaurant. There, in collaboration with her father, and the team, Elena devises new recipes and experiments with surprising combinations and textures. Even so, respecting and using Basque ingredients remain at the core of Elena’s cooking philosophy. Hake is for her, the king of fish, subtle with finesse and softly flavoured and the texture and flavor of fresh squid is probably her favourite ingredient to experiment with. Elena Arzak likes to describe the cuisine offered at her restaurant as “singular, Basque, evolving, research-based and avant-garde”.
Elena attended hotel and restaurant management schools in Switzerland, broadening her culinary knowledge in great European restaurants such as La Maison Troisgros, Pierre Gagnaire, Carré des Feuillants and Le Vivarois in France, Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Le Gavroche in London, Antica Osteria del Ponte in Italy, and El Bulli in Spain.
Arzak Restaurant, traditional Basque dishes with a gourmet twist
The origin of the Arzak Restaurant dates back to 1897, when Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents built the house that is now home to his restaurant.
In the early days, it used to be a wine shop and tavern. Then, Juan Mari Arzak’s parents turned it into a fine eatery whose cook was Paquita Arratibel. Her stews and traditional recipes from the Basque Country, especially Donostia, were highly pleasing.
In 1966, Juan Mari Arzak took over the family business along with his mother. She showed him how to cook Basque food. Juan Mari was eager to learn all she could teach him. Thanks to his inquisitive and innovative spirit, he concocted his own recipes: traditional Basque dishes with a gourmet twist.
Elena Arzak has been brilliantly running this restaurant so full of history(ies) while retaining her creativity, her spirit of innovation, her energy and humour, all of which shined through during the interview, which was conducted in impeccable French.