They say that swimming against the current can be a strenuous activity. Salmonids and sharks, however, live happily in these circumstances. The former manage to oxygenate much better in the waters that, by force of hitting and winding between the stones, come down loaded with O2. The latter breathe thanks to a forced ventilation process and they don’t have many options: either they swim non-stop or they find a strong current that does the job of passing the water through their gills. There are very few humans who manage to live happily against the tide, at least for long periods of time. One of these unusual specimens is Andoni Luis Aduriz who has just completed 25 seasons outside the norm at his non-restaurant, Mugaritz.
Anyone could imagine that throughout this year they have been celebrating great splendors, retrospectives of historical menus and dinners ‘with many hands’ by the elite of world cuisine or the hundreds of chefs who have passed through Errenteria over the years . Believe me, there are not so many houses capable of staying in the front line of fire, a la Nadal, without stopping to create and innovate –in terms of dishes, some 2,500 different ones since its inauguration–. However, none of this has happened. That celebration is what could be expected from any other chef, but Aduriz’s decision has been just the opposite. On the twentieth anniversary he organized a big party and at these silver weddings they laughed. And so it goes on.
Andoni Luis does not represent the anti-system rebellion born of resentment or anger, in lame culinary Manteca plan, but in a constant questioning of the reason for things that has resulted in an unusual fertility not only for Mugaritz but for the international kitchen scene . Of the chefs who ask themselves questions, Ferran Adrià and Andoni Luis Aduriz are probably the greatest exponents. Of those who are still active in the kitchen, the Gipuzkoan is the one who has been influencing colleagues around the world for the longest time, twice as long as Redzepi. Although if we are precise, it would have to be said that the influential is not only him but his own work, his organization, the spirit that he has managed to inoculate in every corner of the Mugaritz farmhouse as if it were one of those enzymes with which he works, capable of changing the textures, in this case, of the brains.
His is the strange case of a night chef, of a great cook that no one expects to cook with his own hands. The musicians change over the years, you may or may not be attentive to the show… what happens there remains true to itself, like it or not so much.
Over the years, the character and his work have created furious enemies and Numantine defenders. Few people in the temperate zone. Michelin keeps charging him with the third star and if he were ever awarded it it would be one of those hilarious and historic moments that could destroy an entire reputation. The media have spent years highlighting the anecdotal, the edible fork or the irreverent trompe l’oeil with some moral aspect, without realizing that we are facing a space that seems to play at subversion when it is a nest of culture and thought.
Challenge for the diner
When innovation and creativity were not words of common use in the business world, even before the contemporary internet, the conceptual fuel of that house was already pure inspiration, something that goes far beyond being the herb restaurant -which was in its beginnings- the one that does not serve desserts, the one of advanced science with its enzymes and fermentations, the one of the theatrical grotesque, the one of establishment artists and the one of the starving who eat and drink for free in exchange for their occurrences and ideas alien to culinary thought, that of texture and temperature over taste, that of “I don’t care if people don’t like what they eat” and a thousand other crooks, true or invented, that have been of everything.
Along the way, in these 25 years we have all changed and grown older, like Mugaritz. The unanswered question, which I am getting rid of because there is no space left for this article, is whether at this point in life Mugaritz makes sense or not. And what.
Without much analysis, so, by boat soon, sitting in the audience of one of those television programs that saves or condemns, I would press the green button. And I’ll give you another reason that hasn’t been talked about much and that seems substantial to me: Aduriz’s greatest contribution is not having broken the tables of the restaurant law by questioning what is established or having changed the aspirations of the chefs, but having taken the diner out of the comfortable position that he had since the 18th century, proposing a new role, questioning and answering who he is, why he has come and what can be done with him.
Postscript. I was going to tell you about this year’s menu that I tried last week, but what I have released is more Mugaritz than analyzing the enzymatic molasses of rye and shrimps. Another day.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.