World Chefs: Playful Aduriz masters culinary mind games

Tue May 15, 2012 8:20am EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, the culinary conjurer behind one of the top-ranked restaurant in the world, enjoys a good gag as he lets his imagination run wild at Mugaritz, set in the hills outside San Sebastian in northern Spain.

An early protégé of Ferran Adria at El Bulli, Aduriz, 40, is famous for tricks such as disguising potatoes as stones and watermelon as beef carpaccio, but his "techno-emotional" style of cuisine is also serious business.

Precision is an obsession at Mugaritz, which captured the No. 3 spot in the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2012 by Restaurant Magazine, from the meticulously tweezer-picked herbs and edible flowers that adorn almost every plate at the converted farmhouse to collaborating with university pathologists to create the perfect foie gras.

Aduriz, on tour to launch his new book "Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking," spoke to Reuters with a translator about inspiration and new beginnings two years after a devastating kitchen fire nearly destroyed his restaurant.

Q: How did the fire in early 2010 shape what happened next, with Mugaritz rising to the No. 3 spot on the Restaurant Magazine list?

A: "When a ship sinks, you see who wants to be the first to escape in a lifeboat and who wants to stay and help ... My team demonstrated to me that they were incredibly committed to the project, that they wouldn't abandon me either, so really the project got a lot of reinforcement because of it and it brought us closer to one another. And it changed our way of thinking. We said to ourselves 'We have a second chance here,' so we got rid of all our hang-ups, and we also did away with living a life that other people wanted for us. We wanted to just dedicate ourselves to doing what we desired."

Q: Why did you write this book? An everyday cook, even a passionate food lover, would be intimidated by this book, so who did you write it for?

A: "We don't intend for people to replicate the recipes because this doesn't matter to us. Perhaps the message is that it serves as inspiration in certain details or concepts, maybe certain techniques, but the general idea is that it should stimulate creativity in the people who read it. I feel that it serves professionals, and enthusiasts, and we also can't forget that today there are programs on television where they teach you how to build a skyscraper.   Continued...

Basque chef Andoni Aduriz, the culinary conjurer behind one of the top-ranked restaurant in the world, poses for a photograph in Toronto May 11, 2012. Aduriz is on tour to launch his new book, "Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking. Picture taken May 11, 2012. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese