The Wordrobe meets Erlantz Gorostiza, Head Chef of M.B at The Ritz-Carlton, Abama in Tenerife
Protégé of Martín Berasategui at the two Michelin-starred M.B, Gorostiza conjures a bold, Basque-inspired menu that builds on familiar flavours at the prestigious M.B restaurant.
We sat down with him to discover more about the passions behind his culinary pursuits, as well as his current favourite flavours and advice for chefs looking to make their mark in the ‘beautiful world’ of gastronomy.
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was a little boy I always liked to be in and around the kitchen, I loved to watch my grandmother and my parents cooking.
In the Basque country, food and everything related, represents something very important, every celebration, all the important moments are celebrated around a table with beautiful food.
In the end, this all encouraged me to start working in a restaurant, initially as a dishwasher, then as a waiter and after that, I got the opportunity to work in a kitchen.
From that point, I was learning, progressing each time little by little. I am fortunate that life has given me many opportunities and in the end, I have turned a devotion, a way of thinking, into a dream come true. For me it is more than my profession, gastronomy is my way of life.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
When I was young, I learnt from the very best. While studying, I worked in many Michelin-starred restaurants in the Basque Country, including Cubita Kaia and Andra Mari.
My professional experience began there and taught me the bases of cooking, beyond school and training where I qualified as a pastry chef and baker. I started internships at the restaurant Dénia de Quique Dacosta, which currently holds 3 Michelin stars. It was a great opportunity and within a few months of working Quique hired me.
Following two very inspiring years, I moved to El Celler De Can Roca, a dream for me to work at what was considered the world’s number one restaurant. The Roca brothers gave me a precious opportunity to learn and work together.
A year and a half later my roots in baking started to call and I realised I needed to re-visit this. I had the opportunity to work with Paco Torreblanca, who is the best pastry chef we have seen in Spain to date, and one of the best in Europe.
I spent an eight-month internship learning and training with new pastry techniques, for me it was lovely to work with the bakery again and be learning from the best!
One night, I dined with friends at Restaurante Martin Berasategui. The food surprised me so much, I had to meet the master behind the menu and requested to speak with Chef Martin Berasategui that night. I introduced myself, and three months later I started working with him.
Little by little, Martin gave me further opportunities and I was fortunate enough to work in the culinary nerve centre – the investigation and development department – for some time before moving on to pastry chef.
Three wonderful years at Martin Berasategui, resulted in a great relationship and friendship and whilst moving on to a management position at Manolo de la Osa at Las Rejas Restaurant where I explored cuisine products of the Spanish central plateau, 11 years ago I received a call from Martin to work as the gastronomic director, at M.B at The Ritz-Carlton, Abama in Tenerife.
I was familiar with the restaurant having supported Martin with the venue as the hotel launched.
I have now been at M.B for 11 wonderful years where 10 years ago we received our first Michelin star and four years later our second! M.B has gone from strength to strength and I’m so proud to have been an integral part of its success journey!
What’s been your favourite career highlight to date?
It would have to be receiving the call from Martín Berasategui, inviting me to direct the kitchen at M.B. at The Ritz-Carlton, Abama. It seems just yesterday and we have come so far, pushing the boundaries and progressing day by day.
What’s your favourite spring dish?
Personally, I consider spring one of the most beautiful times of the year on a culinary level. If I could choose a dish, it would be one that includes products from the land, with magnificent vegetables that we use to create new dishes on the menu.
White asparagus from Spanish Navarra is a favourite, and only harvested two months during the year. Every year a new dish is made with this ingredient that makes me proud. It stands for everything we want to achieve at M.B, an exclusive product, a known flavor, executed at the highest level in gastronomy.
What can guests expect from a meal at M.B?
The main objective at M.B is to jointly develop known and familiar flavours. We start with the product, the ingredient, as a central point, trying to create a unique gastronomic memory. I consider the product, the technique and taste memory to be the pillars of the restaurant.
Do you have a current favourite dish on the menu?
Favourite dishes depend on the day, I could mention one but by tomorrow there will be another, and the day after tomorrow will be another!
The truth is, we usually feel proud of the most recently created dishes, but without forgetting the old, I would reference a dish we make with Merluza, el Miso and los Berberechos, and I keep looking back to dishes including Milhojas del Anguila Ahumada Foie Gras y Manzana, which is a classic Martin Berasategui dish created in 1995.
What does hospitality mean to you?
Make the host of the party, which would be each and every diner, feel more comfortable than they would feel in their own home.
To anticipate and work together to ensure that our diners find a place where they can feel at home, where they will be served supremely and make and take lasting memories. I think the most beautiful thing about this job is the mark we leave on people’s lives, and continue to do so through the experiences at our restaurants and hotels.
Name your three favourite restaurants…
Actually, I cannot name a specific restaurant, there are too many! But if I had to choose, Lasarte in Barcelona and Restaurante Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian are among my favourites, both are top in their daily work, and touch the gastronomic sky.
I would also include MASA in New York and Angel Leon’s Aponiente – it has a beautiful concept, and Angel is a great friend, I feel that he makes a truly unique impact.
Do you have any role models?
My main role model is Martin Berasategui, but I would also include the Roca brothers and Manolo de la Osa as true inspirations to me and there have without doubt been many other chefs along my journey who have impacted my work.
I remember every time I witnessed Chef Martin Berasategui at work creating his culinary art, it made a significant mark on me both professionally and personally, he is a great person, a dear friend and on a professional level someone who encourages me every day to take steps to be exceptional.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
My main advice is to work hard, because gastronomy is an exciting world and it is a beautiful profession where you can make a mark on people and their experiences. It needs a lot of commitment but if you demonstrate that commitment, it returns with a lot success.
Like all professions, it requires many years of learning and people must have patience, passion, motivation and know that there will be very good but also demanding times.
You must take the good and the bad times with patience, to grow and to ensure that in the future when you open your own restaurant it will be a true success.
What do you think will be 2020’s biggest food trend?
We are seeing so many trends in this market and business models at the gastronomic level are changing.
People don’t simply want to eat but to feel the experience from the service to the design of the environment, to a spectacle in some instances. It’s about creating memories, to create an experience that will make a long-lasting mark.
Finally, what’s your favourite midnight snack?
As chefs we’re known for finishing work late, and at that time all we want is to enjoy a glass of wine and eat something simple to prepare. For me this might be las chacinas, cheeses and simple foods from my home larder – to enjoy and relax!