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You may think of a kitchen like Mugaritz to be all work, work, work. Steaming pans, frantic flower arrangement and precision, tweezer-driven plating. However, after meeting chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and starting to understand that Mugaritz is more than a restaurant - you quickly realize that spending time in the actual kitchen is just a small part of what they do.
For half the year, as the team prepares for the next season's gastronomic offerings, the restaurant transforms into a collective for creativity. A team of close knit individuals, with big egos and even bigger ideas.
It's not easy to manage a team like this and if you read anything about the Mugaritz kitchen you'll know that, even during the busiest of services, they're reported to float in perfect harmony, each taking their place, position and role with military precision.
It's important to keep crews like this well oiled and the type of bonding and team building required comes from years of working together on a shared vision. It also helps to spend five days with a creative theatre company rolling in mud, guiding each other through the Basque countryside on leashes and, let's not forget, wrapping each other in blankets as you all dance around a fire.
This may all sound a little exaggerated but it's exactly what the Mugaritz team did recently when they spent a working week with the Spanish theatre company La Fura dels Baus. Asked to help the restaurant staff decrease their inhibitions, understand better the control of space and their surroundings, work better as a team and merge the kitchen with front-of-house staff, the first thing the theater's director Pep Gatell did was transform the restaurant's dining room into a temporary playground. A project they called Work in Progress.
From here, the whole team - including Aduriz - set about completing an array of tasks designed to encourage their creativity, fun, bonding and engagement. Speaking about the project on the restaurant's blog, Mugaritz said: "The whole experience of “Work in Progress”, gave us a deeper perspective of what we do. Regardless of the activity we perform (entertaining a guest or cooking a dish), we have learnt to connect with every member of the team at levels which were previously unknown to us."
So next time you marvel at a Mugaritz edible rock, the technical ability of their, perfectly light, blood macaroons or the deep thought process behind their new chocolate sins dessert - remember that there's also a whole lot of fun sprinkled on every dish.
Here's a video of the team's experience - including the depersonalization exercise in which they were asked to loose their clothes, cover themselves in mud and then crawl on top of each. Sounds crazy but Mugaritz said it was "without a doubt, the highlight of this experience....it brought out the most intimate side in us, because no matter who was lying by our side, he was to be trusted".