With 12 Michelin stars, the most recognized chef in Spain by the renowned guide, is not afraid to continue growing.
We interviewed him on the occasion of the latest opening of his signature restaurant in Palma de Mallorca, about which we recently wrote, El Txoko de Martín.
▷ IN A SNAPSHOT
A lifetime dedicated to the art of gastronomy has allowed him to build his own brand, which is distinguished by constant innovation and customer enjoyment.
A chef who has grown in success, considered one of the founders of the New Basque Cuisine, has always been able to maintain an easy manner, passion and proximity, as his team always emphasizes.
With the Txoko de Martín, he makes a tribute to his origins, recalling with this project, his family’s restaurant, making a very special menu, a gastronomic space with a new concept.
We spoke with him to learn about the characteristics of this new project.
1- MARTIN. El Txoko is a direct trip back to tradition, to your origins, with photographs and illustrations of your family, traditional recipes and your favorite dishes, “the ones you choose to eat”. How did you come up with the idea of telling the journey and path of your career, until you became the renowned chef you are today?
The idea of Txoko de Martín came about when one of my closest friends, Miguel Ángel Fernandez, introduced me to Chus Iglesias and Pepe de Luna, who turned out to be in love with my cooking. Soon after, they proposed this wonderful project to me and it was impossible to say no. We worked a lot on the idea and the concept we wanted to achieve, and finally, last May we were able to kick off this wonderful gastronomic space.
2- DNA. Writers use words, you use cooking. How do you like to tell your story and your connection to the land through your dishes?
I always say that the best cookbook is written by nature. I wouldn’t understand my cooking without seasonality and seasonal local product. I have always had a very close relationship with all the suppliers who bring me the products I need. So much so that I consider them part of my team and of my work as a chef. My job is to be creative, to share my universe with my customers and try to bring them happiness and a part of me through my work. A reflection of what I am.
3- TALENT. Back in the day you decided to have “garrote”, to continue and raise the family business. How much of it is in “El Txoko de Martín”? What dish reminds you of your childhood and/or what dish do you keep with special memories?
“Garrote” is a must in my life in general and in each of the restaurants I run, that’s for sure. The first dish that my mother and my aunt taught me to make was a garlic soup, I will never forget that day, not because it turned out well, but because it was such a special moment for me. And a dish that I keep with special memories are the cod kokotxas with cockles in txakoli that I made as a tribute to the Golden Drum of the City of San Sebastian that I received in 2005.
4- VALUE. In your space, one breathes the “Roman convivium”, that harmony of being able to be well, relax while eating, drinking and sharing a good conversation… What are the essential things that “El Txoko de Martín” had to have for you?
It would be very difficult for me to choose only a few essential dishes, the menu of the Txoko de Martín is very well thought out and worked for this concept of restaurant. To enjoy and have a good time eating and drinking, in a traditional way but wisely renewed.
5- CREATION: How did the menu of “El Txoko de Martín” come about? How do you decide which dishes to include or not to include in your menu? And what is it about you?
The menu of Txoko de Martín is a journey of 46 years of the professional life of a cooking freak like me. A journey of flavors, with a reference to my origins, recalling the eating house called El Bodegón de Alejandro that my family had and where I grew up.
6- WINE CELLAR. Wine also plays an important role in “El Txoko de Martín” and you have dedicated an important space to it. How did you make the selection and what do the chosen wines tell about you?
In my restaurants all the fields have their protagonism, it is the set of many details that makes the difference. The drinks menu is as well worked as the food menu, by the dining room team and sommelier, supervised by me. A varied selection according to the food offer.
7-STAR. We would ask you for your 12 star products to have achieved the 12 Michelin stars, but we will simplify, knowing the 3 star products that can not be missing in a kitchen, in your kitchen.
The products are so many that they would almost be innumerable, but what really can not be missing is the passion for cooking, the desire to excel, nobility, and of course, the “garrote”.
8- PLAYLIST. Share with us the songs, movies, or books that help inspire you…
What I read and have read most throughout my life, without a doubt, are cookbooks. Apart from cooking, a book I would re-read is Sapiens. From Animals to Gods, by Yuval Noah. A movie to escape, The Godfather saga. What inspires me the most, my own corners of the land where I was born. My favorite soundtrack: The Hymn of the Real Sociedad.
9- HIDDEN TIPS. Please tell us your favorite “hidden places” and “hidden gems” of your homeland for a unique experience: what to do, what to see and where to go.
What to do: stroll along the Bay of La Concha, walk around the Old Part of San Sebastian, climb Mount Igueldo and enjoy its views.
What to see: the Port, the Miramar Palace, the Peine de Los Vientos.
Where to go: my friend Hilario Arbelaitz’s Zuberoa Restaurant.
10-HIDDEN MALLORCA. You have said that Mallorca is an island of light, what are your favorite places to enjoy this island?
The island itself is wonderful, the Tramuntana mountains, the cap of Formentor, the natural park of Mondragó, the beaches of es Trenc, Sa Calobra… are magical places to visit. I am in love with Mallorca, its people and its gastronomy, I feel very much loved here.