Txorierri corridor, exit 25
Eneko Atxa was born in 1977 in Amorebieta, a village in Biscay, in the Basque Country. Tracing the pre-Azurmendi steps is important yet not decisive to define the Atxa-world. As many colleagues in the same area, he spent a productive time with general Martín Berasategui in Lasarte, of course. And of course the experience with the dishevelled asador Etxebarri in Atxondo was also useful, as the one with Basque popular cuisine at Andra Mari. But the lesson he sees as the most essential comes from Yoshihiro Murata of Kikunoi, 3 Michelin stars in Kyoto, the den of kaiseki in Japan, a small parenthesis that taught him the value of seasonality and a guideline that straightened up his behaviour for good: «The work of a chef doesn’t start in the kitchen but outside, when speaking with producers».
It’s 2005, the same year when he sets out on the adventure with Azurmendi in what was once a huge banqueting structure, in the countryside of Larrabetzu, a few kilometres from Bilbao. In his own way, Eneko is as ambitious as his uncle Gorka Izagirre, the biggest producer of txakoli wine in the region. Things appear to have a proportional size right away: the first Michelin star arrives almost straight away, the second in 2010 and the third in 2012. Statistics in hand, this is a world speed record for a non-French chef-patron.
To understand the style behind the highest stripes of this chef with a pierced ear – a sunnily shy guy, kind and for this reason loved by his colleagues as few others – one needs to understand the concept of placeridentitario. For Eneko gastronomy is a universal language that must explain every rivulet in his unique universe. Which is reproduced in every element in a very costly structure (which also includes a greenhouse from which the edible journey begins), engineered with incredible geothermal and solar technologies. «A coherent balance between product, environment, identity, culture and respect for nature», he synthesises. The place for an open symbiosis between client and nature, dining room and kitchen. A zero impact suspended building, inserted in the depths of the surroundings.
A sancta sanctorum with a luminous panoramic view from which dishes come out which alternate avantgarde with Basque roots, calculated risks and reckless leaps, delicate and strong flavours, in some case an aware challenge to the lightness in the dish the world requires today. As of December 2013 he’s also the director at Aziamendi near Phuket, in Thailand.
Eneko Atxa’s elusive charm
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
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From the top left corner, clockwise: Juan Camilo Quintero Merchan, Michele Lazzarini, Gianmarco Ferrandi, Giacomo Devoto and Dario Pandolfo
José Gomez, Eneko Atxa and José Gomez junior, co-authors of the eighth edition of Joselito Lab, on Thursday 17 November at restaurant Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, in the Basque Country, 3 Michelin stars