Izaskun Chinchilla Architects is collaborating with father-daugther duo of inspirers, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak to give shape to their dream and turn it into a tangible object.

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This journey began one Sunday in March when Izaskun Chinchilla met with Juan Mari and Elena Arzak in their San Sebastian restaurant to find out what the common dream of these two culinary magicians.

After a lengthy conversation and having discovered some of the inner workings of their gastronomic cathedral, Izaskun was in no doubt that the common dream of both of them was to continue enjoying themselves while creating their edible masterpieces. The hard work involved in running a restaurant like Arzak, with its demands of extrem high quality requirements, is only worthwhile if they can continue learning and having fun at the same time.

“Chatting away with a glass of rosé wine in hand, while exploring their food laboratory, we came to the conclusion that their cooking utensils are one of the key tools that allow them to create innovative, fun and experimental dishes. We talked about everything you can do with a strainer, about objects used for both cooking and serving, about syringes and liquid ice; they showed us an item which looked like a piece of Gruyere cheese and which is used to serve razor clams, the rich mollusks, and even a special Russian spoon used to eat soup without dirtying the big moustaches which were popular in this country long ago”, Izaskun recalls.

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This is when the dream began to take shape: “It would be wonderful to have all the utensils used to prepare a great dish close at hand while you´re cooking… them coming to you, waiting to be used again, the sight of which suggests a new step to you”, Elena pointed out.

An initial interpretation of this dream could consist of creating a great cloud of utensils enabling the cook to have the instrument needed close at hand at all times.

“But this is a dream which needs to be turned into an object!”, remarked Elena, bringing everyone back to reality. “The kitchen´s horizontal work surfaces are far too full, which is why this object must only take up vertical space”.  This sprinkle of practicality ensures the dream, once fulfilled, continues to provide enjoyment and does not become a little kitchen nightmare.

Juan Mari y Elena Arzak

Born in 1942, Juan Mari Arzak is the father of Spanish contemporary cuisine. Creator and alma mater of the movement known as the Nouvelle Basque Cuisine in the 1970s, he has played a decisive and influential role, both culinary and socially. Some of his many prizes are: Best Chef National Gastronomy Award, three Michelin starts, Best Chef and Best Restaurant by the Club de Gourmets, the European Academy of Gastronomy’s Gran Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine for the Best Chef of Europe, the National Gastronomy Award to the Best Restaurant, Silver and Gold Plaque for Tourism Merit and Knight of the Order of the Arts and Letters of the French Ministry for Culture.

He holds three Michelin stars and his restaurant is listed as the 8th best in the world. His restaurant, in the former premises of the family business, is the Mecca for all lovers of contemporary cuisines, which is now entrusted to Elena, his daughter and the 4th generation of cooks in their family. They also have a one-star Michelin restaurant in London, the Ametsa.

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She studied at the Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern School of Hotels and Catering in Switzerland (1988-91). Her many awards and honours include: Chef de l’Avenir 2000; National Gastronomy Award for Best Chef 2010; Eckart Witzigman International Award (2010), and the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award 2012.

She currently manages the restaurant with her father, forming a duo, and at the same time she is the advisor of London restaurant Ametsa. She also continues to widen her professional knowledge working for short periods in other restaurants. In 2012 she was declared the best female chef in the world by the 50 Best List.

Izaskun Chinchilla

Izaskun Chinchilla graduated as an architect in 2001 and since then she has lead her own practice in Madrid. She has a long and rich experience in education; she is senior teaching fellow and researcher at the Barlett School of Architecture (UCL London, UK) and currently teaches at Madrid University (Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, (Spain) and at the IE University (Madrid, Spain). She has also taught at Ecole Special (Paris, France), HEAD University (Geneva, Switzerland) and University of Alicante (Alicante, Spain).

Her activity as an architect is accompanied by a research project called “Social and aesthetic repercussions of technical topics and solutions which take ecology into account”, which has taken her as visiting scholar to Columbia University in New York (2002), Ecole de Mines de Paris (2003) and Princeton University in New Jersey (2004) and to the Institut d´Arquitectura Avancada de Catalunya (2003-2007).

She has participated in forums, lectures and debates in more than 80 international destinations and more than 90 different magazines and publications have talked about her practice. Her work has been part of exhibitions like the 8th Biennale di Venezia, 10ª Biennale di Venezia, V Bienal de Arquitectura y Diseño de Sao Paulo, and in travelling exhibitions such as New Trends Europe-Asia, Panorama Emergente Iberoamericano or Europan7 and in different museums and LIGA (México DF), galeries including Gallery “mad is mad” (Madrid), Arquerias de Nuevos Ministerios del Ministerio de la Vivienda (Madrid), la Casa Encendida (Madrid), Museo de Teruel (Teruel) and several Universities and profesional associations for architects in Spain .

She is currently supervising construction of her project for a media library in Garcimuñoz Medieval Castle in Cuenca, Spain; the refurbishment of a vernacular house in Toledo, Spain; and other smaller projects. She is also involved in the design of interactive exhibitions with social purposes, for instance encouraging the reading between young children (Fairytale Park Museography in Málaga) or appreciating the benefits of sports (Centro de Arte Canal).

As an architect, she strives for innovation. In her projects she proposes multidisciplinary exercises in which, through ecology, sociology or science, architecture goes beyond stylistic distinctions and meets again the complexity of real life in our contemporary world.

She has won more than 20 prizes in professional competitions, including First Prize for the UNED Pavilion Competition in Madrid Book Fair 2001; First Prize at the Europan7 Competition in Santiago de Compostela in 2003; Third Prize at the “Contemporary Art Centre Competition, ARCO Collection, Matadero of Madrid” in 2006; Second Prize in the Competition “Pavilion of Spain at the Shanghai Expo 2010”; and runner up in the Competition “Extension of the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín”, Colombia, in 2010.

© Uxío Da Vila / AHEC