Martín Berasategui. The greatest of the great on Spain’s culinary scene
© Silvia González Poncelas
Mallorca
892

Energy, optimism and tenacity: with these qualities this celebrated chef has gone on to become the holder of no less than 12 Michelin stars. Even so, he’s still passionate about learning and improving. 

B.S. What’s the secret to winning 12 Michelin stars and running 20 establishments not only in Spain but even in Mexico and the Dominican Republic?
M.B. The secret lies in transmitting joy and knowledge to my team, who are what make me great, and in making them participants in my gastronomic projects. “Martín Berasategui” isn’t me —he’s us. I try not to conceal anything and I’m a nonconformist by nature.

B.S. Can you define your cuisine? What makes it so special and why so many honours?
M.B. It’s the result of 44 years of hard work and learning, because I’m still an apprentice and learning more than ever. I’ve devoted my life to the culinary art. I began when I was 16, working 6 days a week and on my day off I’d go to France to learn about making pastry, filled chocolates and so on. My cuisine is always more of an art tomorrow than today, and the day after tomorrow it’s always more avant-garde than ever. Even so, I have the greatest respect for the legacy I’ve received as a chef: what we call tradition today was once innovation.

B.S. You won your first star in 1986 at El Bodegón Alejandro, where you got your training as a chef. How have you developed since then?
M.B. I grew up at La Brecha market and El Bodegón was my university. The first sounds I can remember were those of the coal-fired cookers. I’m a crazy cook! When I was 21, I had my mother and my aunt retire because they’d worked hard all their lives and I had the energy to run the business alone. Five years later we won our first Michelin star – the only one they’ve ever awarded to a tavern. That changed my life.

B.S. What has happened in Spain in recent years to make it the country with the fifth largest number of Michelin stars worldwide?
M.B. We used to be more timid... we were afraid to go out into the world, and I was one of the first to do it. Now the chefs of different generations here are all very good friends and we’ve joined forces to change the course of cuisine in Spain and to create a booming culinary tourism. 44 years ago a family would get upset if their sons or daughters announced that they wanted to be chefs —it wasn’t even sure they could make a living that way.

B.S. One of your new projects is Etxeko at the Hotel Bless on Ibiza, where there are only one Michelin establishments at present...
M.B. You get Michelin stars by working hard but it’s also important to enjoy life and that’s my intention. I’m going to immerse myself in the island and get to know the farmers, breeders and fishermen, together with my team, who form my family.

B.S. You talk about cuisine with 'garrote', or “punch”. what do you mean by this?
M.B. A 'garrote' is a thick strong walking stick and since I coined this use when I was 21, for me it means strength, energy, enthusiasm, generous effort, nonconformity, decency, sincerity, freshness —and principles, passion, joy and optimism. That’s how I’ve always looked at life.

Martín Berasategui
(San Sebastián, 1960)  is the chef with the most Michelin stars in Spain: a total of 12 at 7 restaurants. This celebrated culinary figure won his first laurels at the tavern El Bodegón Alejandro in 1986 and now he directs two Michelin 3-star establishments: the Restaurante Lasarte at Barcelona’s Monument Hotel and the Lasarte in Guipuzcoa. Very few chefs worldwide can boast such an achievement.

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