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40 years of new Basque cuisine

  • Arzak
40 years of new Basque cuisine
Two young Basque chefs, Juan María Arzak and Pedro Subijana, decided to go and meet Paul Bocuse in 1976. And that's how it all began.

Today quality food and wine is without a doubt one of the top attractions of the Basque Country, and the reason given by many tourists from all over the world for coming to discover it.

But a key moment for Basque cooking took place 40 years ago, when a young Juan María Arzak gave a talk in 1976 at the Phillips building in Madrid, at the first congress of the Club de Gourmets.

At that event the Basque chef had the chance to meet the great Paul Bocuse, one of the fathers of the then recently-invented Nouvelle Cuisine. The Frenchman, who was already a world culinary authority at that time, got on well with Arzak and with Pedro Subijana, who had also come to the event.

After a visit by the two chefs to Bocuse in Lyon, an adventure in exploration and modernity began, and in time this transformed Basque cuisine, earning it a place among the global culinary élite.

Alongside Arzak and Subijana, other chefs embarked on this same adventure, among them Karlos Arguiñano, José Juan Castillo, Tatus Fombellida, Ramón Roteta, Patxi Kintana, Luis Irizar, Ricardo Idiakez, Xabier Zapirain, Pedro Gómez, Manolo Iza, Jesús Mangas and Ramón Zugasti.

The secret of this revolution which is now four decades old was none other than respect for fresh produce, working with local suppliers and a willingness to innovate, combining cuisine with Basque culture.

The competitors met regularly to try out and show off new creations and adaptations of traditional dishes. The result of this exploration by creative, dynamic people is what we all know today: Basque cuisine, revitalised, healthy, innovative and of course appreciated and justly famous all over the world. Thanks to those pioneers, who are still active today, the Basque Country is a culinary destination of the first order.
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