Thursday, 18 February 2010

There's A Fire In My Kitchen

A couple of years ago I wrote a critical review of dinner at Mugaritz. It's not something I regret because I've changed my mind about what happened on that particular evening, or because I no longer think I should be honest in expressing my opinions. What I do regret is that I never took the time since that post to balance the books. I'd like to make amends for that omission now.

When Twitter alerted me to news of the fire that broke out in the kitchen at Mugaritz in the small hours of Monday morning, my immediate reaction was one of shock. Only a few hours earlier I'd been relaxing with someone very special, enjoying the delights of a Saint Valentine's Day meal at The Providores. The news shattered the peace of a soft, dreamy morning. My first thought was for my friend Gilbert from Comerç 24, currently working as Pastry Chef at Mugaritz. I checked the web for news of whether anyone had been hurt, my thoughts turning to everyone else who'd been in that kitchen earlier in the day, from the porters and stagières to the boss Andoni Aduriz. Mercifully, there were no casualties. The destruction of years of work in just three hours of inflagration was tragedy enough, but at least the kitchen had been cleaned down and the restaurant closed for the weekend before the events unfolded.

That evening I spent back in July 2008 at Mugaritz was little more than another fine dining experience to me, though I'd been strongly urged to go there by two chefs whose opinions I highly respected - Nuno Mendes of Bacchus and my then boss Arnau Muñío of Comerç 24. Ironically, it was my meal the following night a few miles west along the Basque coastline that began a train of culinary education that was to fundamentally alter the way I was to come to view Aduriz and his achievements. Looking back now at my review of The Guggenheim Bilbao it's clear that I still hadn't quite grasped what Martín Berasategui had taught his protégées Alija and Aduriz, although 18 months later it's clear as day. Almost everything I've done since has been driven by that school of ingredient-led cooking - dishes seeking to bring out the very best of perfect ingredients, sometimes with complex processes of deconstruction and preparation, but with purity and simplicity of presentation. I spent a large part of last year learning some of these skills alongside one of Mugaritz's most talented sons - Paco Morales of Restaurante Ferrero.

Mugaritz will rise again like a phoenix from the ashes of Monday's fire and it will continue to inspire young chefs to travel across the world to learn the art of cooking. I wish everyone associated with the restaurant and its brilliant team all the very best of luck in the days and weeks to come.

Meanwhile, in case you were wondering why I've been so silent about my plans since I returned to England, let me reassure my readers that there's still a powerful fire in my metaphorical kitchen. That fire was stoked high a few nights ago when I spent an amazing evening working alongside a truly great chef and his team. I'd love to be able to tell you what I'll be doing in the coming months, but I have some more thinking, discussing and planning to do before I can say anything more. Rest assured that I'll be bringing some great personal stories to this blog in the near future.


Jeremy said...

How was Providores, I had a wonderful meal there a few years back and Peter Gordon was a wonderful host and very generous!


Trig said...

As good as ever. Time has moved on since I did work experience there when I was still at college. Peter was away - he spends a lot of time abroad with his many other ventures. But Sophie is still managing front of house so well and the food is still excellent.

Lazy baker said...

That is good to hear, after my interview with Peter, I always wanted to try his food and got my chance when I stopped in London. I sat upstairs right next to the window and snapped photo's of virtually every plate until the wine too effect!!!

Allen Hoffman said...

Thank goodness there were no casualties. I just hope that the owner was able to re-open his business. Any news from them? Dealing with fire incidents can be downright depressing. As you said, years of hard work can turn into ashes in a matter of minutes. Incidents like this may serve as a lesson for homeowners and entrepreneurs to safeguard their investments and fireproof their spaces.

Diane said...

I feel sad when I hear unfortunate news like this. All the hard work, time, and effort spent on building one's dream can be gone in a matter of minutes. You can never predict such situations, but the best thing that business owners can do is to fireproof their establishments. *Diane*

Alex Dumpfree said...

It's really a shocking matter.Fire incidents can turn anyone's hard labor into ashes.I mean it's just horrible!! However, thanks to God that there are no casualties anyway and best wishes for their upcoming days as they can regain the business.

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