Martín Berasategui (Donostia-San Sebastián, 1960) is one of the standard-bearers of Spanish avant-garde cuisine and, hardly surprisingly, the one and only chef in Spain who owns two restaurants in Spain with three Michelin stars, one in the Basque Country and the other one in Barcelona.
As a child, Berasategui learnt cooking from his mother Gabriela and his aunt María in their traditional Basque restaurant, Bodegón Alejandro in the old center of Donostia-San Sebastián. At fifteen, he enjoyed helping prepare popular dishes such as meatballs, marmitako (tuna stew) and squid in its own ink. He was one of four children but the only one interested in taking up a career as a cook and, at 20, after the death of his father, he took charge of the restaurant. On his few days off and during the holidays, he studied - pastrymaking, charcuterie and ice cream – in France, mostly in the region of Les Landes. Then back home, he gradually introduced changes and new techniques, eventually receiving his first Michelin star at Bodegón Alejandro.
He continued to develop his own personal style and was eventually able to open his own restaurant in 1993. Located in Lasarte-Oria, very close to the city of Donostia-San Sebastián, the Martín Berasategui restaurant, launched a review of traditional Basque cuisine and showed that signature cuisine is possible in small and large establishments alike. In 2001, his was the fourth Spanish restaurant to receive a third Michelin star, after Arzak. El Racó de Can Fabes and elBulli.
When he felt the need to show that he could do more than cook, he created the Berasategui group. It manages not only the Lasarte-Orio restaurant (three stars) but also advisory services for other restaurants in Spain. The Group’s other business lines include publishing and an advisory department for the food and hospitality sector which has collaborated, amongst others, in the design of china for the Porcelanas Bidasoa company under the Vajilla Quatrum brand, and the launch of the spuMb line of disposable catering equipment.
Top priority, the products
There are three specific features in Berasategui’s professional approach which he has been defending for the last three decades – excellent food products, skilled techniques and, above all, hard work. These factors together with a clear influence from Basque cuisine result in cooking that is sincere, reveals character and achieves harmony between the products and the cooking styles used. Berasategui openly acknowledges that he likes cooking to be straightforward, with a minimum of distractions. It is flavor that should stand out, and that flavor should be as natural as possible.
He prefers local ingredients, especially if they can be grown close at hand, reaching him with all their properties almost intact, and playing a full role in the creative process. He often focuses on Spanish products: olive oil, wine, garlic. This is his personal way of remembering his childhood, when he used to accompany his mother or his aunt to the Bretxa Market in San Sebastián to buy fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, all at peak freshness. And mention must be made of the careful service at the restaurant tables under the supervision of his wife, Oneka Aguirre.
But cooking for Berasategui does not end in the restaurant. He says that he alone is allowed to cook at home because, if he cooks for his customers, obviously he also has to cook for family and friends. His favorite dishes include, for the home scene, potato omelet with salt cod or hake cheeks, At home, he still uses an old, energy-saving, coal-fired range, standing next to a simple, modern cooker.
His zeal for professional perfection and discipline has not kept him from developing a key aspect of gastronomy today, teamwork. Training has been provided in his kitchens for some of the great young chefs who are planning to keep the flag flying for Spanish gastronomy, guaranteeing a future that is more than promising. By way of footnote, mention should be made of a sign affixed at the entrance to his restaurant, announcing in the Basque language to visitors and those working for Berasategui, "Those who work shall eat".
Changes and new projects
At the end of 2008, the Berasategui Group underwent a thorough transformation. Andoni Luis Aduriz and Bixente Arrieta severed their ties with Martín Berasategui and took over total responsibility for Mugaritz, El Bodegón de Alejandro and the Guggenheim restaurant. Martín Berasategui focused on his restaurant in Lasarte and his gastronomic advisory services. A few months after this news, Aduriz and Arrieta announced that as from 1 January 2010 they would also be taking charge of the restaurant at the Kursaal, the Auditorium and Congress Centre in Donostia-San Sebastián, formerly in the hands of Berasategui.
The remodeling of the Berasategui Group gave Martín Berasategui the opportunity to devise new projects. In mid-2009, he announced that he was to open the Martín Shanghai restaurant in Shanghai in China. This represents his first international venture and was opened officially in September 2009 in a particularly attractive venue, a French-style mansion dating from 1921, close to the well-known Xujiahui park. With three floors and an outdoor terrace, the restaurant seats about 150.
Two menus are on offer -one hot, one cold- and the dishes result from the combination of signature creations at the Berasategui restaurant in Lasarte (Basque Country) and the local Chinese ingredients.
Passion by Martín Berasategui
Sol Meliá announced in December 2011 an alliance with Spanish Chef Martín Berasategui to launch a brand-wide partnership through Passion by Martín Berasategui, a new restaurant concept that will transform the hotel chain’s Paradisus brand into the only all-inclusive hotels in the Americas to boast cuisine by a Michelin-starred chef.
The first Passion by Martín Berasategui debuts at Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, one of the two newest Mexican properties Sol Meliá has launched in the prestigious Caribbean enclave of Riviera Maya. As part of the agreement, the hotel chain will be able to train and develop its kitchen and service staff at Lasarte, under the direct supervision of Berasategui, something which has already happened for the launching of this first hotel restaurant.
Berasategui’s inspiration was to incorporate Caribbean flavors into his cuisine. Local seafood will have a starring role in the menu of Passion by Martin Berasategui, where special wine pairings have been developed from three separate wine lists created exclusively for the restaurant. Passion by Martin Berasategui will be an adults-only gastronomic experience, serving dinner nightly and featuring indoor and outdoor seating. The restaurant will also be accessible to local residents and visitors.
Paradisus Resorts, the all-inclusive luxury brand of Spanish hotel chain Sol Meliá, has expanded its collaboration with Spanish Chef Martín Berasategui with the opening in April 2012 of Fuego Gastro Bar at the Paradisus Punta Cana and Passion by Martín Berasategui at the Paradisus Palma Real, both in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Basque chef Martín Berasategui became the Spanish chef that has received the most stars in the history of the Spanish edition of the Michelin Guide. The granting of the third star to his Lasarte restaurant, which is under the leadership of executive chef Paolo Casagrande, is the confirmation of an ongoing love affair between the Michelin Guide, this Basque chef, and his training and business model, which is based on creating a reserve of great chefs capable of spreading the Berastaegui style of haute cuisine around the world.
- Más de 100 recetas adelgazantes pero sabrosas (co-author). (Ed. Penguin Random House, 2014)
- Más de 999 recetas sin bobadas (co-author). (Ed. Debate, 2014)
- El maestro cocina para ti. (Taller de Editores, 2014)
- Las recetas favoritas de Martín Berasategui. (Ed. El País-Aguilar, 2011)
- Cocina en casa con Martín Berasategui. 1100 Recetas (Ed. El País-Aguilar, 2009)
- Martín Berasategui te ayuda a cocinar (Ed. Aguilar-Santillana, 2008)
- Cocina Vasca en El Bodegón de Alejandro (Gourmandia, 2007)
- No te comas el coco (Gourmandia, 2007)
- Kursaal Martín Berasategui: una selección de recetas (Gourmandia, 2006)
- La cocina del restaurante Guggenheim de Bilbao (Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, 2005)
- La dieta de Martin Berasategui (Editorial Planeta, 2005)
- Cocina Fácil (El Semanal-Vocento, 2004)
- Gastronomía de Guipúzcoa (Sociedad Guipuzcoana de Ediciones, 2002)
- Calendario de nuestra cocina tradicional, hecha para las gentes de hoy (Aurrera, 2001)
- Joven cocina vasca (Editorial Hiria, 2000)
- El mercado en el plato (Editorial Lur, 1997)
- 2013 Doctor Honoris Causa European Institute of the History and Culture of Food (Tours, France)
- 2012 Spain's Tourism Merit Medal for Promotion
- 2011 Marqués De Desio award for the Best Professional in the Spanish Restaurant Industry
- 2010 Special Award Zaldiarán Gourmet Congress
- 2008 Reyno de Navarra Award - Vive las Verduras Congress
- 2007 Recognition of his Career, Fòrum Vic-La Gastroteca
- 2006 Basque Tourism Award, shared with Arzak and Subijana
- 2005 Miljonair Culinary Award, shared with Michel Bras
- 2001 Award for his Professional Career, Guía Gourmetour
- 1998 Basque Gastronomy Award for the Best Restaurateur
- 1998 Best Chef of the Year, Guía Gourmetour
- 1997 Grand Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine, Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie Gastronomy
- 1996 Best Spanish Chef, Real Academia Española de Gastronomía
- 1996 Alimentos de España Award, Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Foods
- 1996 Pastrychef of the Year, Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía Congress
- 1995 Pil-Pil Awards for the Best creative dish and the Best dish of the year
- 1994 Fourchette d’Argent award, from French food writers for his career