Elena Arzak has cooking in her family DNA. Her father, Juan-Mari the colossus of Basque cooking led the Basque avant-garde and their family Restaurant Arzak, was the first Basque restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars in 1989. Elena was determined to follow her parents into the business, even though they initially tried to dissuade her. At the age of 11, she used to go straight into the restaurant kitchen on her return from school to peel oranges or clean squid, although she was only allowed to stay two hours. After studying at Elena travelled all over Europe learning the restaurant trade (and languages) from the very best including Le Gavroche in London Troisgros in Roanne, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. In 1996, she returned home and joined the staff at Arzak, working in all sections, insisting on being treated as any other member of the team, completely independent from her father. Two years later, she started to manage the Arzak kitchen on an equal footing with her father. They are now inseparable, working together, creating together and attending all sorts of congresses and gastronomic events together.
A creative tour de force, unstoppable in her curiosity, Elena has a stellar palate. She is constantly experimenting using her ever growing library of flavours housed in the lab/workshop above the restaurant. There, in collaboration with her father, and the team, Elena devises new recipes, experiments with surprising combinations and textures. Even so, respecting and using Basque ingredients remain at the core of Elena’s cooking philosophy. Hake is for her, the king of fish, subtle with finesse and softly flavoured and the texture and flavor of fresh squid is probably her favourite ingredient to experiment with. Elena Arzak likes to describe the cuisine offered at her restaurant as "singular, Basque, evolving, research-based and avant-garde".
She explains it is evolving because they enrich the local ingredients with those from other countries but it is always remains at the heart of their identity. What’s more it is research-based because they are in contact with the latest culinary technology, and avant-garde because her style is constantly developing.
Restaurant Arzak may have led the Spanish culinary avant-garde, and continues to do, yet it remains, at heart, a "family restaurant" both run by family and treating its’ staff like family. Elena insists they all sit around the same table for lunch.
In 2012 Elena was awarded the World’s Best Restaurants Female Chef of the Year. A recognition she accepted on behalf of her mother Maite, her aunt Serafina and her grandmother Paquita, who have all helped to make Arzak one of the world’s top destinations. It is also recognition of stepping out from under the shadow of her father.
Elena and her father opened a second restaurant in London at the family-owned Halkin Hotel in Belgravia, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction in Spring 2013 which quickly gained a Michelin star. They emphasize that it is a completely separate entity to Restaurant Arzak using mostly British sourced ingredients though still with a Basque soul.
- Sea bass at its peak Sea bass with its own collagen enhancing its texture and beauty.
- Yellow crab Spider crab camoflages with sea bottom. We highlight it with colour, cooked with its own interiors and mezquita tree powder.
- Lobster with leek and banana Lobster with leek, irreplaceable in our cuisine, at low cooking time and loom shaped a tribute to the maple and the apple Sauteed apples with maple leaf and “crispy bark”