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The Maestro of Char-Grilling

Bittor Arginzoniz

The skill of Bittor Arginzoniz as a master of the flame has taken him from complete anonymity into the international press.When in 1989 he decided to buy an old farmhouse in Axpe-Marzana (in the countryside of Vizcaya, in the Basque Country), just 500 yards from the house where he spent his childhood, he certainly never imagined that his idea of updating traditional char-grilling would bring him such a high level of prestige amongst the general public, the press and his colleagues.

His lack of formal training as a chef and of experience in professional kitchens did not put him off. He wanted to set up a good restaurant in which to cook the best produce, above all over a direct flame . That was the start of Etxebarri where the chef's boldness and conviction combine to surprise customers. And what was behind it all? Childhood memories in a rural home in which, every morning, the fire was stocked up in preparation for the needs of the kitchen.

This Basque chef has revolutionized char-grilling. He started out grilling steaks, necks of hake and bream, but soon felt the need to experiment - anchovies, rice, baby eels, cheek of hake, truffles, shrimps, etc. This led him to devise special utensils: movable grills that can be moved over or away from the fire as needed, and frying-pans with small, laser-made holes allowing the aromas of the smoke to impregnate the food being cooked.

Fire is the basic natural element in the cuisine of Etxebarri. Cooked over it are only the very best of meats, fish, shellfish, mushrooms, vegetables. And the third element in the universe of Bittor Arginzoniz, after fire and products, is the wood used to prepare the coals. He has always refused to use coal because of its aroma, and has drawn up his own system: olive tree for vegetables, vinewood for meat and holm-oak for everything, but especially for fish and shellfish.


2016 Best Chef National Gastronomy Award

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