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.
Soon enough, his extraordinary culinary skills earned him the National Gastronomy Award when he was 32, and the Arzak Restaurant got its first Michelin star.
From the mid-70s on, Juan Mari won one award after the other, which placed the Arzak Restaurant among the best establishments across Spain and around the globe. In 1976, Juan Mari Arzak and a group of chefs revolutionised the art of cooking when they created a new culinary concept, a movement known as New Basque Cuisine. In 1978, he was awarded his second Michelin star and in 1989 the third one. He was the second to get three Michelin stars in Spain, and he still holds them.
In the 90s, Elena Arzak, one of Juan Mari’s daughters, joined the family-run restaurant. 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.
In May 2001, Elena was given the Chef de l’Avenir Award by the International Academy of Gastronomy. In 2010, the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy granted her the National Gastronomy Award. To top it all off, in 2012 she was the recipient of the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award.
Currently, Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena share the kitchen, as well as the culinary knowledge, passion and enthusiasm they bring to cooking and to managing their restaurant. Arzak’s cuisine is all about research, experimenting and a pinch of magic, all of which can be found in the lab. The lab, a place where creativity, ingenuity and inspiration wander freely about.
The Arzak lab, adjoining the restaurant, has cutting-edge technology and a team of alchemists who try what no-one else has tried before. The team at the Arzak lab test flavours and textures. They reject some recipes and redesign others. They define new, seductive concepts and integrate them into the menu. The lab has a ‘flavour workbench’ with more than a thousand products and ingredients that are used to do research and create new recipes.