Martín Berasategui's formula to turn 25 at the top: "Respect, attitude, humility and work"


Martín Berasategui is one of the most recognized chefs, undoubtedly one of the great figures of gastronomy worldwide. He knows it and does not hide his stripes at any time - rather the opposite -, but he is always ready to talk. And not only with journalists: anyone who has passed by his restaurant (or has found it on the street) has been able to verify it. He is, quite simply, a generous guy with his time.

His restaurant in Lasarte, the flagship of the group that bears his name, will celebrate its 25th anniversary on May 1st, an anniversary that is already celebrated at its tables, with a tasting menu that reviews the best creations that have come out of its stoves.

People who know him say that Berasategui is obsessed with taking advantage of every minute. His energy is transmitted even through the telephone. He doesn't stop talking and he continues to get excited despite having told some of his stories countless times (if you ask him about Real Sociedad you can also do an interview for a sports newspaper).

Attend to Direct to the Palate a Good Friday, good morning. A cook does not understand holidays. That day you also eat.

Did you imagine 25 years ago where you are now?

For nothing in the world, man, for nothing in the world. Everything comes from my origins, which is a popular eating house, the Alejandro Bodegón and I don't live at home like you can do, my daughter does or my nephews do. The house was 100 meters from the La Bretxa market and there only I and my brothers went to sleep. We made life on the other side, where the popular food house was. At some tables you had taxi drivers, at other Basque poets, at other rural sportsmen ... When you got bored with one table you went to the other. And so were my first years in life. Since I was little I wanted to be a cook. I started with 15 years. I was lucky to start with my parents and my aunt and at 21 I retired my mother and my aunt because we were unlucky because the health issue came into my house through my father, who was pachucho for 11 years and died young. In the kitchen there was a girl with me who had left everything to be by my side, who is my wife, who is 50% of my success. We were surprised that at 24 years old and my wife at 22 gave us the first and only Michelin star that they ever give to a still life. That makes me dream of being a cook. What had been my university was limited to doing what I wanted to do, which is what you have all seen and that is where the Martín Berasategui project in Lasarte was born.

Today has been the first day of the 2018 season, a very special year begins because on May 1 the Martin Berasategui Restaurant will celebrate its silver anniversary, no more and no less than 25 wonderful years. We started more motivated than ever # RestauranteMartinBerasategui2018 #garrote # 3estrellasmichelin #restaurant #gastronomy # 25th anniversary

Why in Lasarte?

I was seeing things around San Sebastián because I did not have money to do it in San Sebastián, as years before I had to leave San Sebastián to live abroad because I did not have the economy to live in San Sebastián. One day the mayor of Lasarte comes to me and says: "I have a place. Bring us the project." The town of Lasarte and the mayor help everything that is necessary for this restaurant to exist here and on May 1, 1993 we kicked off this project, which is the mother house of Martín Berasategui from which all the projects that we have around the world, because we put our soul into technology to reach all these places that I carry. My life has been full of projects, which is a good way not to lose the illusion, and from where I go out to do everything. I lost my fear at the first step and that has been super fundamental and important, but I have not had fear or laziness or shame in going out to do one of the many things that are done in the Basque Country well and I do my thing that is not another thing than directing all the gastronomic concerts that I have around the world, inventing dishes here in Lasarte and creating Martín Bersategui test benches all over the world.

When speaking of a cook, his facet as an entrepreneur is often forgotten. How important is it for a chef to know how to manage a business well? Because you, in addition to being a cook, are an entrepreneur ...

What goes what goes. No. The only thing I do is what I love, which is cooking. The entrepreneur issue is like the communication issue, the commercial part, the legal part ... But I don't do those things. I meet with a team that gets up with the same desire that you get up to be a journalist or I to be a cook and they are just as crazy as you and I and each one to their own and they are people who have been with me on this trip so pretty. I have never forgotten the team. I am a leader, yes, but I work as a team, and I am one of those who has a positive mental attitude and solutions and never problems. I have surrounded myself with people like the ones I have in my kitchen, but in other disciplines, and I feel lighter, more capable and active. I am in a state of fullness. But let no one think that I am a businessman, that I handle the legal or commercial issue, that is my daughter. Let no one think that I am me, I am the one who leads the team, the most veteran, who has 43 years of work, a lot of generosity in the effort, perseverance, tenacity, fight and who has never bargained hours at work and has spent burning lashes for life. But let no one think that I am more than others, I am a non-conformist chef by nature, I try to hide a lot of know-how, I offer spectacular formulas, we have an incredible desire to improve, we eagerly seek to differentiate ourselves from other paths made by other great chefs and I have been fortunate that 43 years after starting as a cooking apprentice, I am still the same apprentice.

“My great teams have made me great. I am not me, I am us ”.
Martín @Berasategui

- Lasarte Restaurant (@LasarteBCN) April 7, 2018

With eight Michelin stars on your jacket and such a consolidated position, do you still want to innovate in the kitchen?

More than ever. I do not renounce the highest quality at all. It was clear to me that clients are Martín's main concern. I like that my houses have unique things and, well, you have to be polite, have incredible kindness and be grateful that the people who come to this restaurant come from corners of the world with a very strong effort to see the work of Martín Berasategui.

Do you think that in the kitchen there are lines that it is better not to cross? Are there limits to innovation?

My philosophy as a person first and then as a cook is to enjoy. I am a naturally enjoyable. I enjoy cooking creating. Creativity as a cook in the end is like a tap that you turn on and spill and release water until you turn off the tap. My way of seeing creativity is that. I create, write and draw the recipe so that my collaborators who work with me understand it, the techniques, the textures, the sensations that I have in my head, just like a musician does with the notes. Then comes the time of testing, which is when some details are readjusted to my liking and then I work in different ways. Sometimes I go for a unique flavor, sometimes for an association of flavors that combine with each other and then I put in a sketch what is going to be a dish or a dessert, I write the recipes with the exact grammages and there is a preliminary preparation work for collaborators to visualize the assembly. It is super important that the dishes are workable by offering my collaborators technical and human help for everything that is needed. There must be coherence between the idea and the action, inspiration is always with you, you just have to make it act every day. There are people who are more comfortable. And you have to be generous in your effort, you have to help other companies and chefs to do more and better things.

Charcoal pigeon with chicory and bites of olives # RestauranteMartinBerasategui2017 #gastronomy #food #restaurant # 3michelinstars # 3estrellasmichelin #martinberasategui

What is more important the creativity or the product?

The best cookbook has been made by nature. And nature in every place where I am gives me a privileged environment with raw materials that are the bomb. We must go to that book that nature writes to us every morning, if one day I forget to go to that book I am dead. Then begins the creativity, inspiration, innovation and a lot of small and big details that need to be done. I usually say that I build my dishes and my desserts the same way a painter expresses himself with his paintings, in the end it is hard work and conscientious work and you should not be content only with what you learn, you have to look for more, you have to do more tests, you have to keep creating, you have to be a seeker of new things that make you acquire knowledge and techniques, and that is achieved by reading, searching and discussions with your chef friends, with your friends gourmets. It is a path that I have chosen since I was a child and that I have a great time, and I always put technology at the service of progress. For me there is no conflict between tradition and innovation. Innovation is tomorrow thinking about art in the kitchen, but tradition was one day innovation. If we want to know what is new in the kitchen, we must first study the tradition that was once innovation, because in the end it is the inheritance that we cooks receive. I say that you have to be grateful to previous generations. I have learned over the years to know and work with the products that nature gives me where I am, today I am still fascinated with everything that can be done with these products.

Are there still products that surprise you?

Of course. If he lived 3,000 years he would keep discovering things. In the last three months I have been in Japan, in Switzerland, in Austria, in Germany ... I am surrounded by cook friends all over the world who make me try amazing things, incredible products.

But your kitchen has never been characterized by the now reviled fusion.

If I go to Mexico I work on the nature book of Mexico, if I am in Barcelona with the nature book that exists in Catalonia, if I am in Bilbao with the one that Bilbao gives me ... For me you have to have enough personality and be stepping with your feet on the ground in which you are cooking. The fusion for me is that every place I'm cooking has to show where I am. This is not like music, you hear a song in New York, Lasarte, Barcelona or Shanghai, you close your eyes and you listen to it the same everywhere. The kitchen is not that. If someone comes to my dining room from New Zealand, Japan or Vitoria, what they want is for them to see a creative chef whose common thread of course is Basque, and of course he is a studious, technical and meticulous cook consecrated in body and soul to make in Lasarte Martín Berasategui's signature cuisine with the privilege of the environment that I have and the brutal products that fishermen, ranchers, shepherds, mushroom pickers bring me ... And from there I try to make it a restaurant with unique things. I am obsessed with quality and in the end when I am in Mexico I am cooking with the products that the land that loves me so much gives me. Same when I'm in Lisbon. And we have in each place a magic added by the privileged environment that each thing gives me. What does not make any sense to me is that Mexico goes to make hake cocochas or the most modern dish it can give you. What I would not understand is to make a grilled crayfish in Punta Cana on the seabed with anise and mayonnaise from the crayfish corals that I do in Lasarte, because I don't have those crayfish there, but I have products that I don't have here. In each site you have to be aware and you have to demonstrate professionalism, know-how and nobility.

3 at the Martin Berasategui Restaurant (Lasarte - Oria), 3 at the Lasarte Restaurant (Barcelona) and 2 at the MB Restaurant (Tenerife). I never imagined that we could celebrate 8 Michelin Stars # michelin2017 #restaurant #restaurante #barcelona #lasarte #tenerife #gastronomial

And apart from Basque or French cuisine, what is your favorite cuisine?

But I have not learned about Basque or French cuisine either. I have learned signature cuisine from great masters who have taught me some cooking, others bakery, others pastry ... The cuisine of the great masters is above street legends. You have great professionals in the Basque Country, but 43 years ago when I said that I want to be a chef, nobody knew who the cooks were in the kitchen. There has been a generation that we have changed the course of the kitchen. There have never been so many novelties on restaurant menus or so spectacular. The innovative character that the greats of Basque cuisine have had in recent times has been incredible. We have been a stratospheric rocket. We have managed to ensure that Basque cuisine offers several ways of offering gastronomy at different prices and all of them good. I believe that there has been a lot of work so that every day the cuisine in the Basque Country is braver and better and we have emerged gracefully from the gastronomic somersaults that we have faced, we have touched the most sensitive fiber of the people who have come from all over the world . Gourmets used to stop by to go to France to see the work of the French and we were able to make them stop here.

Is Basque cuisine the best in the world?

Yes. I'll tell you what I think. The gastronomic capital of the world is San Sebastián. It is the only city in the world that has three children from the same city with three Michelin stars each, in my case eight because I have five abroad. And we compete with monstrous cities with New York or Tokyo. It is good that we are humble or normal people but we should not be lazy or ashamed to be honest, which is that something has never been done that no one could ever dream of for anything in the world and we have achieved it. I have been able to go out and that has led me to be generous and take the best people who passed through my kitchen from those responsible for gastronomic projects Martín Berasategui around the world. We have been able to solve with style and meticulousness how difficult it is to leave the house and show what you do outside and, well, we have been creative and we have done things better and differently. This started with fans of my kitchen who later become friends and bring me projects that you can't say no to. That makes you expose your name and surname in Martín Berasategui's shop window. Years ago he said that he was training people who were going to be important not only in Spain, but in the whole world. And they laughed. But it has been an impressive school for the next generations. There are enthusiastic young people who have the determination of the chosen ones and an innate jpgt for cooking and why not go out of your country to make your brand, your land and your profession more important?

Subijana, Arzak and Berasategui, together in the 2016 Masterchef final.

Are you comfortable in the role of famous chef or would you rather not be stopped by people on the street?

Let's see. I was lucky to have a family that is the one that gave me some ways that I support. I like to behave with others as I like to be behaved with me. Life is much simpler than it seems, in the end you have to put yourself in the place they are talking about, in this case in the place you are interviewing me. It's an education my parents gave me. They stop me all over the world and I try to be the Martin who got lost in the streets of the old town when I was little and nobody knew me. The behavior you have to have as a person has to be far above what you have as a cook. These are values ​​that my parents marked me, they transmitted an education to me and it is the one that I transmit to my daughter and my teams. In life there are four important words that I have marked in my head and my heart, which are respect, attitude, humility and work. There is plenty of attitude, but don't you think that sometimes humility is lacking in certain spheres of haute cuisine? Well, as in everything. It also happens with gardeners, dentists or soccer players. It depends on how you were raised. I am a person who loves all of God a lot and I feel very loved. When you get that in life that you are going to ask for the most, is that if you ask for more, you are a pringadillo.

We always talk about the good moments, but I also suppose that there have been bad ones ... What is the hardest thing you have had to face in your career as a cook?

I am super sincere. The health problem came to us with my father and that was the hardest moment. I assume that I have the same profession as my parents and my aunt and I am attached. When I opened the Lasarte restaurant 25 years ago, the creatives brought me the lyrics "Martín Berasategui", like my father.The signature that I make on the paper is the signature that my father made. My father signed with a lying eight, and it seemed to me that he was hiding his signature, which is the only one who has not seen anything of what has happened to me, and I make him the two "tees" as you know them and it is in tribute to my father. All restaurants have one or all of my father's letters. Life is a fight and cooking is a marathon. I have assumed from a young age that I want to be a transporter of happiness from the kitchen and that I am part of the party of people who come to my restaurant for lunch or dinner from the kitchen. I have assumed it since I was a kid and I know for sure that I have to stop doing a lot of things in life to be a good cook, it is what I have done all my life, it is what I love and it is what keeps me as I am and I have had a great time and I have been a great enjoyment.

Royal Visit at the Martin Berasategui Restaurant. # restaurantemartinberasategui2018 #visitareal # familiarealespañola # 3estrellasmichelin #lasarteoria #guipuzcoa #basquecountry

The king emeritus stopped by your restaurant last week. How important are these celebrity visits to you?

I treat them with the same naturalness that I would give to anyone. I empty myself with everyone. I am like that with everyone. Sometimes they ask me who I am most excited to feed. And the answer is to everyone. The best dish I have made is the desire to make the people I have happy. And I really want to feed those who cannot come to eat, because those who come here to eat have joy in their pockets. Do you know how happy it makes me to lead a dinner of 2000 people to the homeless? You can not imagine it. Without a roof, any of us could be. It is enough that we think that we are more than the others. None of those who ate Martín Bersategui's menu on Christmas Eve with Father Ángel is better than me. In this world we are all traveling and any one of us could be quietly there. We are normal people, nothing more.

The Diario Vasco recently published a report about your reconciliation with Andoni Luis Aduriz. Seen from the perspective of a decade, do you think the separation was necessary? What is the current relationship like?

It's a totally old-fashioned subject that I don't give any importance to. All the cooks are super good people and they fight in an incredible way. And I'm going to tell you the truth. The laughs that I have had with Andoni and the sunny moments that he has had during the time I was with him are above the storms that there could have been. I took the kids when they were 21, 22 and 23 years old, I made them of the Marín Berasategui group as I did them. I am extremely grateful to whom the first Pastrano, Eusebio the pastor of Igeldo, endorses me, and I was with my wife the one who believed in that group and the one who created it and I was neither afraid nor ashamed to help that generation. And after 15 years of creating the group there is a separation, but nothing more, like many marriages. Life is like that and I am very happy and every time I hear something from Mugaritz or Andoni's group I feel like a super important part of that success and I am very happy.

Today has been a day not to forget, you have touched my most sensitive nerve, Paul Bocuse. Eternally grateful, I admire you and will always admire you. #paulbocuse # 3michelinstars #lyon #lafrance #gastronomia #gastronomy #restaurante

A few months ago Paul Bocuse died, who was perhaps the first famous cook, the first rock star of the kitchen.

He was the first in the world to value our profession. He was a brilliant man who generated the gastronomy revolution in the world in those years, now he would have more than 90. I work for gastronomy with great effort and credibility. World cuisine would not be what it is if it were not for its figure. He was a discoverer of talents, an architect of the modernization of world cuisine. I think he was a chef with a lot of criteria, he was also much more than a great cook, he was a beautiful person who motivated us all to achieve things that had never been achieved before in the kitchen. It revolutionized the kitchen around the world, made it known in super difficult years worldwide and marked a before and after in kitchens, in people who dress as chefs.

Speaking of Bocuse, this summer I understand that you will accompany Juan Manuel Salgado, winner of the Spanish Bocuse d'Or competition to the final in Turin. Do you think that Spanish cuisine will finally be recognized at the contest?

We have to thank a lot to those who have participated, because they have not had the help that was needed either. There are countries that are much more organized than ours when it comes to preparing the contestant. So far we have not given it the importance it has here and if we want to compete at the level that Spanish cuisine deserves, we will have to do it differently, we will have to have a much larger budget, like that of other countries, and if we do not continue doing what we do. I know how the Nordic countries, France, the United States or Japan work and it has nothing to do with it. We have to have more budget and more help so that they honor the country they represent. But that is not in my power. I help as much as I can, but then let's not complain if we are not up to the standard of the country's cuisine. It is as if the soccer team goes to the World Cup training on rocks.

Is there not the grievance of the French regarding Spanish cuisine that is always talked about?

Not at all. They talk about things that are not known. Michelin has a hundred and many years of prestige gained day by day and with professionals who leave their lives to make the best guide, with everything documented, with people who live the profession in body and soul and I repeat a thousand times that it is people who do it incredibly well. They are anonymous people who pass through restaurants and who have an impressive discipline and work and the extraordinary quality with which they make the guide make them have the fame and recognition that the world has So that we are recognized as everyone wants what they We have to do is work more and let Michelin do the guide and let the cooks prepare better and have more budget so that the contestant is better sponsored than until now.

Those who know you say that you are a restless animal, that you do not stop. Your friend David de Jorge says that the bed burns you. How much do you sleep

Well, I sleep little. I'm not sleeping much. They have told me that when they take me to Villaquieta I will sleep a lot. Meanwhile I am enjoying myself and I take advantage of life.

Sometimes, the sun and fresh air take precedence over the alluring aromas of the kitchen. #chefslife #dayli #enjoylife #instashoes #menshoes #sneakers #foodlover #comfortfood #instagood #liberateyourself #nextstep #ccilu

And where do you get so much energy from?

It is a philosophy of life that I have. I like sports. Today I got up at seven in the morning, at seven and 20 I went out to walk to the mountains, I have walked an hour and a half, I have come, I have showered and at 9:15 I was in the kitchen. And yesterday I went to bed at 1 in the morning. It is a way to go with wings in life.

And you will still have time to have a few drinks ...

When I can I am prone. I am enjoyable, you understand me and I am a crazy cook and I do not shrink for the world. The only thing I ask in life is to be healthy.

And you have it, right?

Yes, I have it, but just because I have it does not mean that I ask to continue having it. It is not in our power, it is part of luck, even if we have to help it. I am a person with a lot of energy and I spend it like God with what I do and I am a dreamer of enjoyment.

With which dish would you like to go down in history?

The greatest dish that I have made is the desire to work that I have and the work that I have done is so much that I would like to go down in history as a carrier of happiness from the kitchen. And someone super generous in the effort for everyone to enjoy more from one of the many professions that do well in this country.

Images | Martín Berasategui / RTVE
Directly to the Palate | Our favorite recipes 'con garrote' by Martín Berasategui
Directly to the Palate | Kokotxas and Torrijas Recipe by Martín Berasategui

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