Andoni Luis Aduriz, head chef at Mugaritz – in the hills outside San Sebastián, Spain – trained under Ferran Adrià at El Bulli and is known for his inventive, playful food. He has just published the restaurant’s first cookbook.
Do you have a Proust’s Madeleine, something you eat that instantly brings back memories?
A lot of things take me back to childhood, things that I have learnt to appreciate more as an adult: my mum used to make a typical Spanish dish, squid in ink, and she said it’s important to use fresh ink, when most professionals use squid ink envelopes. As a cook, I now realise I should take my mother more seriously.
What led you into such a distinctive culinary style?
First, curiosity. At 16 I had a great hunger to learn and train. I was a very bad student at school, I had the worst grades. I feel very comfortable in gastronomy, and I can really savour that world – I have no problem spending 13 or 14 hours cooking.
Where do good ideas come from in food?
As with writing, inspiration can be found anywhere – even in something as simple as a cup of coffee. I’m working now on a dish inspired by melancholy: I live in a valley that is very atmospheric, where you see the change of seasons starkly. In autumn, when the leaves fall to the ground, decomposition is very fast. In the dish I use a camellia leaf, made to appear skeletal – it reminds you of the passing of time.
Is less more?
The Basque character is quite austere and contained, and the people try to show that in their cuisine. A very light touch can be as effective as something much more forceful. If I could, it would be interesting to serve a grain of salt to a diner.
What do you cook at home?
I could say I work so hard I come home, eat a pear and go to bed. The truth is I have a wife and two-year-old son, and I will have a foster child during the summer, so I try to make something for them, such as hake in green sauce, baby peas with new potatoes, or a typical local dish.
Who would work in your dream kitchen?
It would be really hard to set up, because some of the inspirational people I’ve worked with in the past would probably mess up my restaurant, and I would end up doing the washing up afterwards.
What would you choose for your last meal?
Can I eat twice? First, a meal with my family, with sentimental dishes. The second meal would be with all the people I admire professionally, and I would like Hiroshi Ishida from Mibu in Japan to cook, as he is one of the most sensitive souls in food.
Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking is published by Phaidon (£35); www.mugaritz.com