Three Basque rising stars, among the top names in global gastronomy
What do a cellar making Basque cider and a project for food preservation have in common? In both cases, they are led by young Basque entrepreneurs under the age of 35 who have been included among the 50 top names in global gastronomy. In both projects, research and innovation feature heavily. For the first time in 2021, the acclaimed list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants has named 50 young people who are destined to change the rules of the game and revolutionise global gastronomy. Among the 50 Next, which is the name of the initiative, there are three young Basque people: Maitane Alonso and siblings Ion and Mikel Zapiain. The prestigious The World's Best 50 Restaurants, famous for publishing the list of the world's best restaurants, has named the 50 young people under 35 destined to revolutionise the future of gastronomy. This year the list is published under the title 50 Next, presenting the top 50 names that are changing the world of gastronomy in unique and interesting ways. This award, which grants equal recognition to all those chosen, is divided into seven categories. Maitane Alonso has been nominated in the category of Scientific Innovators, which includes biologists, engineers and inventors who develop unique solutions for the world of cuisine. On the other hand, the Zapiain brothers, from the cider house bearing their name, have been acknowledged among the producers who are changing the rules of the game. PRESERVATION OF FOOD Alonso is a young researcher and medical student who has developed a revolutionary machine to preserve and extend the shelf life of food. It is estimated that a third of all food produced worldwide goes to waste ‒ approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. Faced with this problem, Maitane Alonso founded her own company, Innovating Alimentary Machines, aged just 18. It develops domestic and industrial prototypes of her invention, which extends the shelf life of food. Maitane built the first prototype of her revolutionary food preserving machine using items including part of a broken window shutter, a computer fan and two plastic containers, and started running tests. She soon found that her method, called “packaging with treated air”, greatly reduced odour-producing microorganisms present inside. The benefits of her invention are threefold, as the machine reduces food waste, is fully sustainable and helps families to save money. The project has already won several international awards. INNOVATIVE CIDER Cider is experiencing a real revolution around the world. It is one of the alcoholic beverages seeing the fastest growth, and is trending in the coolest establishments in the US. Cider is experiencing an international boom. The Zapiain family has been linked to cider-making since at least the 16th century. But innovation and research are in the DNA of this Basque cider house. Since the 1960s, this cider house located in Astigarraga has strived to achieve excellence in the products it makes, and that effort has been rewarded again by the 50 Next list. This list highlights the work carried out by these young brothers within the Basque cider industry, diversifying a product with deeps roots and a long tradition. According to Ion Zapiain, “in our cider house we try to promote innovation without renouncing tradition. That's why in recent years we’ve put a lot of effort into the improvement and diversification of the product”. Specifically, the 50 Next list refers to one of Zapiain's newest products, its “Bizi-Goxo” ice cider made with the autochthonous Errezil apple variety. It’s a sweet cider produced in a similar manner to late harvest wines. But this is not the only innovation that Zapiain has recently launched to the market. In addition to its star product, which is traditional natural cider, this cider house has just launched “Joanes de Zapiain”, a single-orchard cider that is a tribute to the first of the family's ancestors known to be associated with cider, back in the 16th century. Among the challenges facing the Zapiain cider house is its clear commitment to the Euskal Sagardoa Designation of Origin, in addition to its organically-grown products such as its ecological cider. Cider is a product that in recent years is experiencing a significant expansion all over the world. According to 50 Next, the Zapiain brothers “are uncovering the true potential of a drink that has traditionally been associated with old customs and local traditions”.
Gastrovalocal, in search of the lost vegetable
Gastrovalocal is a project that digs down to the deepest roots of our vegetable gardens to reveal those lost vegetables, cereals or tubers, with the aim of recovering their cultivation and using them in the kitchen. There was a time when certain varieties of tomato, maize, peppers and potatoes were grown in the Basque Country, but for a number of reasons they were no longer planted. Low productivity or sensitivity to pests meant they were almost entirely forgotten. Now, the Gastrovalocal project, which Basque Culinary Center is a part of through BCC Innovation, is trying to recover and reappraise these varieties. They are varieties with gastronomic uses that are representative of the Basque Country’s wealth of vegetables that were highly relevant in past times and which ceased to be cultivated due to different reasons. The yellow pear tomato from Antzuola; the Delika, Txakinarto and Maruri maize varieties, the Miren, Gorbea and Leire potatoes or the Gorostiola and Barrika peppers are some of those varieties that the Gastrovalocal project is trying to recover and bring back to the dishes of Basque gastronomy. Imagine an archaeological excavation where, instead of lost cities, archaeologists were trying to find vegetable varieties from the past, which have all but disappeared from our memory. Broadly speaking, that is the exciting work Gastrovalocal is carrying out. A number of entities are participating in the project, such as Azurmendi, Basque Know How Fundazioa, Makro, farmer Guillermo González (from the Gaztañatxu farmhouse), BCC Innovation (Basque Culinary Center’s Technological Centre specialised in Gastronomy) and NEIKER. The goal is to recover disused tomato, potato, maize and pepper crops, to reintroduce them to the market and promote the creation of new dynamics between local farmers, the HoReCa channel and society. This process helps to prevent genetic erosion, contributes towards crop diversification and fosters employment. The selection of the first varieties to be recovered was carried out based on the gastronomic potential of each one of them and the availability of seeds and tubers in Neiker's germplasm bank, the “Jurassic Park” of Basque agriculture where samples of all these varieties are stored. These are relics of crops that ceased to be cultivated due to lower productivity, high sensitivity to pests or as a result of changes in habits and market demands. A process of gastronomic reappraisal will be carried out within the framework of this project by the Azurmendi restaurant and BCC Innovation, using culinary, traditional and cutting-edge techniques that increase the value of the products derived from their use. To this end, the potential of the different stages of growth of each product will be researched, determining their potential and highlighting the most prominent features. In addition, with the aim of keeping Basque Culinary Center’s principles of sustainability active, the full use of all the different parts of the plants will be sought. The Gastrovalocal initiative seeks to create new value chains between farmers and the HoReCa channel by supporting local and traditional horticultural crops. This project will benefit the market by contributing more varieties, the HoReCa channel by diversifying the gastronomic offer, and consumers thanks to the new culinary experiences these products will offer them. BCC Innovation is a Sectoral Technological Centre specialised in Gastronomy whose mission is to research and to generate knowledge applied to gastronomy and the culinary experience. This knowledge is transferred to haute cuisine professionals, to all those involved in the food value chain and to society as a whole. The creation of new businesses is also among its objectives. The Gastrovalocal initiative is supported by the Basque Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, EAFRD.
Mahaia Kolektiboa, the stoves of the new Basque cuisine
Mahaia Kolektiboa is a collective of chefs committed to the evolution of Basque cuisine, supported by Basque Culinary Center. In April 2021 they presented "Sutondoan", a book linked to the local products, region and gastronomic culture. 40 years after the explosion of what became known as new Basque cuisine, this collective takes a step forward to perpetuate the legacy received. A book in the age of digital communication and social networks? That’s right, because at Mantala we like both traditional and innovative things, as is the case with the book “Sutondoan”, which combines both visions of Basque cuisine: the more traditional and the more modern. 40 years after the foundation of the new Basque cuisine, the Mahaia collective, formed by 16 chefs, is here to update the legacy received from the great masters and take a leap forward. One step further. “Local products are our group's defining feature, as well as being open, because we are not closed to anyone”, they state. The book “Sutondoan” is the Mahaia collective’s declaration of intent, so to speak. In it, they show the group’s link to the product, the region and the local gastronomic culture. “It’s a book that brings together the tradition and innovation of Basque cuisine, acknowledging the work of small producers, preserving the knowledge of a generation under an innovative perspective”, they say. This work is one of the first dishes to come out of the kitchen of Mahaia Kolektiboa, a collective formed by 16 restaurateurs, the children of a hybrid generation who are already highly renowned. In the book the producers, farmers or fishers are the main characters. Because without people there's no gastronomy, but of course without a product there isn’t any either. These 16 restaurant industry professionals have received an important legacy from their predecessors, but they have also contributed their own innovative vision in their dishes and creations. Put differently, it's like someone who learned to make their grandmother's croquettes, but who sometimes also likes to prepare a sushi dish in the purest Japanese style. Members of the collective include Aitor Arregi, Igor Arregi, Pili Manterola, Gorka Txapartegi, Jon Ayala, Iñigo Lavado, Xabier Gorrotxategi, Enrique Fleischmann, Roberto Ruiz, Pablo Loureiro, Rubén Trincado, Ander González, Dani López, Ismael Iglesias, Aizpea Oihaneder and Xabier Díez. The Mahaia collective emerges from the legacy of great chefs such as Irizar, Arzak and Subijana to guarantee the evolution of Basque cuisine. To do so, they support activities that promote sustainability, quality, innovation and the sector's development. Sutondoan is available via Basque Culinary Center’s online shop and is “a letter written with both hands”, focusing on Basque culture and traditions as an “important asset to innovate in products and preparations”.
Mantala, what's cooking in Basque gastronomy
If you want to find out what’s cooking in the world of Basque gastronomy, you’re in the right place. Mantala Basque Gastronomy has been created to promote Basque gastronomy by exchanging knowledge and cooperation. It is an initiative backed by Basque Culinary Center and Hazi Fundazioa, and seeks to become the digital hub of Basque gastronomy.You may be wondering. What's this about Basque gastronomy? Because the truth is that there are different views and ways of understanding it. At Mantala we want to collect all those ways of seeing our gastronomic culture, from the most traditional to the most modern perspectives. But we also have our own way of understanding it. At Mantala Basque gastronomy is considered to be everything covered by the value chain of this discipline: The product, the processing, the added value catering, gastronomy tourism and the people involved in each phase, with a particular focus on young people. All this without forgetting the identity and cultural essence of Basque gastronomy. Mantala’s aim is to continue reinforcing the positioning of Basque gastronomy in the world, through cooperation. For this reason, this new project brings together different promoters and collaborators with the aim of promoting the development and renown of our gastronomic culture. If defining Basque gastronomy is no easy task, what about words such as “development” or “innovation”? Well, to clear any doubts, we’ll explain what we understand by development. For Mantala, development is everything that encourages knowledge, excellence and innovation in Basque gastronomy. From this new digital space we will support projects linked to Basque gastronomic heritage and others of a more modern nature. The aim is to promote the main defining values of Basque gastronomy in a dynamic and forward-looking way.On the other hand, renown will be sought through the communication and promotion content and activities that will be carried out via different media and channels, with a particular focus on digital media and social networks. At Mantala we will activate a communication strategy through the creation of quality content with a contemporary approach. This includes launching a website and channels on the main social networks. Likewise, we are planning the creation of a network of collaborators in the different Basque provinces to create quality content linked to the foundational objectives of the initiative. We will seek young profiles with an up-to-date vision of gastronomy, in order to connect with that new audience we sometimes forget about and which speaks a far more everyday and colloquial language. Mantala is created with several central projects that will reinforce the main communicative theme. People: What would gastronomy be without people? Without looks, gestures, smiles, voices… By means of this project we will focus on people and on their know-how, their knowledge and their personal experiences. The aim is to acknowledge, create a community and interpret the future with a global vision.Basque Gastronomy Map: This project seeks to draw a map with local preparations and products from all over the Basque region, to create novelty content and guarantee the transmission of knowledge. We will generate an interactive map where it will be possible to locate everything related to the Basque gastronomic legacy.Basque Gastronomy Meeting: Not everything is digital at Mantala. We like to meet for a drink, some food or just to chat. Particularly in these current times. And we want to get back to physical contact. Which is why we will organise an in-person event that seeks to consolidate the sector, reflect, detect key aspects for the future and work on the renown of Basque gastronomy.