Located in Cala Nova, the new Bless Hotel’s restaurant Etxeko Ibiza, run by chef Martín Berasategui, serves up tastes of Donosti; its menu is a sincere reflection of the master’s cuisine and includes traditional recipes that fuse with the avant-garde cuisine and flavours of the North. With over four decades of cuisine experience and ten Michelin stars, Berasategui humbly acknowledges that he is still the same apprentice as he was when he started in the culinary world, at the tender age of 15.
What is Martin Berasategui like?
Contrary to what everyone may think, I am very shy. I am very friendly, sincere, approachable… I think I am the least complicated person in the world. I like to talk and I like to make people feel comfortable. But above all, I am still an apprentice. The cook who thinks they know it all, is dead.
Bless is the name of the hotel. Do you feel blessed?
I have loved my job ever since I started, at 15. I am a bon vivant every day of the year. I don’t dwell much on what is going to happen. I was brought up to be happy and to transmit happiness, and the best way to do that is through food. I really enjoy myself while I am cooking. And then, when people who know you and your cuisine, propose projects to work on with them, you can’t say no.
Did you ever expect to get as far as you are today?
I never in a million years imagined I would have such a fantastic career. Spanish cuisine is going through the most amazing moment, and I have had the good fortune to be part of this change of course. It is something that is built on the shoulders of each generation and together we have made great strides. When I started as a kitchen apprentice (although as I said, I still am one), in the year 1975, new Basque cuisine movement was beginning to take shape. Chefs came together to add value to their craft. They cooked like angels, but they were stuck between four walls and nobody had heard of them. They motivated me in an incredible way. I believe that you have done your job well when the people who you admire, admire you. And when that happens, never forget what they have done to help you get where you are.
You are a chef who is trying to make the work carried out by front-of-house personnel more appreciated. Do you think chefs should appreciate that area more?
We must first ask them to forgive us, because 50% of my success and where I am today is thanks to front-of-house staff. It’s such a shame that we focus only on the chef, and almost entirely ignore the people who guide us on this gastronomic adventure. That important team, who are always smiling and so generous, who act as a bridge between the diner and the chef. Front-of-house staff are essential. Which is why we should ask them forgive us and then thank them.
Spanish cuisine is going through the most amazing moment, and I have had the good fortune to be part of this change of course
How well does the team work together?
Martín Berasategui’s success is thanks to teamwork. Martín is me and us. I have people who give their all to the Martín Berasategui brand.
They do not work for me, they work with me. They are the reason Martín Berasategui is successful and the happiest person in the world. Most of my employees have worked with me since the beginning, and even when they move on to other places, life always brings us back together again.
Martín Berasategui’s success is thanks to teamwork
You run several restaurants, you’re on TV, you attend conferences, you give talks… Where do you get the time
My hobby is work. For others, working is a bitch, for them, Sunday nights suck because they have to go to work the next day. That has never happened to me.
Has combining your family life and work been difficult?
I have a daughter who is the best thing I have ever done in my life. We work together. She is in charge of communication and the commercial side of the business, and is amazing, just like her mum. My wife is my everything. She is one of those people who don’t talk much and work hard. Like my daughter. I never think in terms of “me”, only of “us”, and my wife and daughter are my priorities.
What is Etxeko Ibiza like? What are we going to see in this new restaurant?
Etxeko Ibiza is a gastronomic journey to traditional Basque cuisine, a tribute to our origins. You will find what you see in all my restaurants. You will see a chef who works hard, one who has dedicated his life to the culinary arts. A chef who believes in teamwork, and a chef who never thinks in terms of “me”, only of “us”. And you’re going to see a chef who wants to bring the experience of those who have worked with me for so many years, together with that of those new, fresh and motivated, arrivals.
Etxeko Ibiza is a gastronomic journey to traditional Basque cuisine, a tribute to our origins
So much innovation, so much creativity… do you never run out of ideas?
I believe that creativity is like a tap. You open it and, if you’re thirsty and motivated, it pours out. It also has a lot to do with the hours you spend in the kitchen.
What does ‘Garrote’ mean to you?
In life, when you have to put your back into it, you do. ‘Garrote’ is courage: spirit, positive energy, character, attitude (which is key), authenticity, enthusiasm, desire…