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Local Products in an Avant-Garde Setting

Josean Alija


Josean Alija (1978) began his career at the age of seventeen. Under the tutelage of the great contemporary masters in the restaurant industry he has been able to cultivate his own style. He has developed a purist style in which aromas, textures and flavours are main components, but also an avant-garde style that even the chef Paul Bocusse has identified as "one of the best cuisines in his life." Have you ever imagined to have dinner in a MIchelin-starred restaurant inside one of the most prestigious modern art museums in the world? Young chef Josean Alija and Bilbao Guggenheim Museum give you the chance to enjoy a combination of avant-garde art and cuisine in two venues: Nerua and Guggenheim Bilbao Bistro.

Today Alija is in charge of the restaurant at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. His menu is avant-garde, in line with its surroundings, but there are certain aspects that keep it close to tradition and local customs. Alija likes to maintain a longstanding relationship with his suppliers, however small and local. He considers that technique should not be the main feature of a dish. This role should be played by the products it offers. He is prepared to work with foods that enjoy great social prestige such as lobster or crayfish, but prefers traditional products that can be obtained from close by and have greater gastronomic value.

Two examples clearly demonstrate this preference for local products. For decades, Basque country bakers used to produce a slightly over-cooked loaf for use in wholesome soups, called sopako. The practice had all but died away, but Alija was able to recover it and combines this bread with cod cooked "over a flame". One of his favorite products, along with sardines and red mullet from the Bay of Biscay, is chard from Derio, another product that was fast disappearing. But the chef encouraged growers in Derio in Vizcaya to persevere and this product, now with bigger leaves and less stem, a less sweet flavor and aromas of damp earth, is once again available.

Other features of his culinary savoir-faire are stocks that must always be made from top-quality ingredients, and dairy produce used in surprising ways in the form of foams, whey and soups. His youth, serious approach and a willingness to take certain risks make Josean Alija one of the figures to be watched on the Spanish gastronomic scene.

New times, new ventures

In June 2011 Josean Alija, Ixo Grupo and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao launched new and innovative dinind options with two clearly differentiated spaces. Nerua, the gourmet restaurant run by Josean Alija, and the new Guggenheim Bilbao Bistro: a winning combination that offers high-quality international cuisine.

Nerua is a establishment dedicated to haute cuisine situated on the banks of the Nervión river estuary. The restaurant is located inside the Museum, beside the gallery where Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time is on permanent display, and has a separate street entrance.

Meanwhile, the former Guggenheim restaurant was transformed into Guggenheim Bilbao Bistro, a distinctive restaurant where guests will be able to enjoy a prêt-a-porter version of gourmet cuisine.

  • Muina. Soul Philosophy Creations. (Montagud Editores, 2013).

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