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Spain – Europe’s New Culinary Hotbed

There are exciting times ahead for Spanish cuisine. An extremely excellent crop of young, ground breaking chefs are placing Spain firmly on the culinary map, even eclipsing their ancient neighbours to the north in France. According to many Spain is taking over where France started from in the seventies where they pioneered the Noveau Cusine movement. That same effervescence that sparkled in France twenty years ago is starting to bubble over in Spain causing critics to look to the Iberian Peninsula to lead the next fantastic shift.

Spain’s traditional culinary centre in the Basque country is looking over its shoulder to see Barcelona hot on its heels and quick emerging as Spain’s other fantastic gourmet capital. The Basque region is still the place to go for food in Spain but its place at the head of Spain’s gastronomic table is under threat. The man spear-heading this revolution? Ferran Adria. Adria is at the head of the new wave; his much vaunted “El Bulli” restaurant in Rosas on the Costa Brava is one of the hot places in the world to try and get a table and is quick becoming a must on the checklist of gourmand worldwide. It’s not an simple business to secure a table, “El Bulli” is only open for six months a year (the other six Adria spends in his Barcelona based kitchen/laboratory dreaming up fantastical new recipes) and sits proudly in second spot in the worldwide restaurant list, 8,000 people dined there last year and over 300,000 tried to get a table. Adria’s now legendary thirty course meal is an assault on the senses that challenges our perception of food and taste. New pioneering techniques of cooking are pushing back the boundaries. Adria’s Basque contemporary, Juan Mari Arzak refers to the Catalan as “the most imaginative chef in all of history”.

That’s high praise indeed from the man who was partly responsible for starting this movement back in the seventies. Arzak and fellow Basque chef Pedro Lubijana, inspired by a 1976 conference in Madrid hosted by legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, chose to stir up the kitchens of the Basque country. They brought together a group of twelve local chefs and took turns to invite local gourmets and food critics to sample their menus free of charge. Before they realised it, other chefs were asking to get involved and a movement was born. Arzak still plies his trade today at his eponymous restaurant just outside San Sebastian, also ranked in the top fifty restaurant list and owner of three Michelin stars.

The future of Spanish cuisine looks in excellent hands as there are a fine crop of young chefs emerging hot on the heels of Adria and Arzak. Chefs such as Jordi Villa at the highly rated “Alkimia” in Barcelona lead the vanguard; the 29 year ancient is famed for his steak tartare with olive oil ice cream. Jordi Butron is making waves in Barcelona, he runs the “Espai Sucre”, a dessert school and restaurant that is committed to creative cuisine. The Basque country has a few protégés up its wily sleeve as well, Josean Martínez Alija, is the precocious 26 year ancient manning the stoves at the Guggenheim’s restaurant in Bilbao with aplomb, and Andoni Luis Aduriz, an introverted chef cum mad professor who famously studied the molecular structure of liver so as to reinvent the texture of foie gras. His restaurant in the hills outside San Sebastian is making people take note in a region where culinary excellence is a way of life.

Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currently working to provide additional content for babylon-idiomas.com/eng/htm/learn-spanish-spain.htm Babylon-idiomas, a Spanish language school with an brilliant presence in Spain and Latin America.

This work is covered by a creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/uk/ creative commons license.

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