To arrive in Madrid shortly after nine in the morning, Martín Berasategui (San Sebastián, 1960) left his home in San Sebastián at 4.30 in the morning. He has done it by car, as always when he comes to the capital. He never takes the plane, because, according to him, he wastes time. It has calculated that it arrives much earlier by road and, in addition, you can take advantage to make calls.
On this occasion, he comes to fulfill one of his "best dreams": the official opening of his penultimate gastronomic adventure at the emblematic Allard Club. The historic restaurant of the stately Casa Gallardo building (Ferraz, 2) reopens its kitchen with the multi-award-winning chef (12 Michelin stars spread over his 13 projects) at the helm. To take charge of this "honor", he has brought from Lasarte, where he has the "mother house", the Martín Berasategui restaurant (3 stars), a very young team of about ten people who will be commanded by José María Goñi, his disciple of only 32 years, who will be the head chef and in charge of introducing the culinary universe of the Basque chef in Madrid.
"It is a privilege that, among so many good chefs there are, the Allard Club has chosen me," says Berasategui. "I'm so thankful they counted on me."
The expectation is maximum and, before its opening last Wednesday, March 29, there had already been more than 150 reservations for lunch or dinner at Club Allard. At first, diners will be able to choose exclusively between two tasting menus, one of 10 passes (130 euros) and another of 13 (175 euros without pairing), with recipes coming mainly from its restaurants in Lasarte and Barcelona, in which there will be no shortage of well-known preparations such as its lobster salad or the sirloin with chard and foie. Approximately one month after its opening, the establishment will also start operating à la carte.
The main dining room of the Allard Club.
He has been standing for more than 10 hours and, after making sure that everything in the kitchen is controlled and ready for the opening lunch for a few guests, taking the photo shoot for the press and greeting those present, Martín attends METRÓPOLI with the "stick" that characterizes him.
You've gotten up at 4 a.m. Aren't you tired? What I am delighted is delighted. It's a privilege to be here. Tired or stressed does not go with me, I am from the culture of effort. I've been working since I was 15. I started as a cooking apprentice in a popular food house and 48 years later I am still grateful. Is it a special pressure for you to be in Madrid with a project like Club Allard? I've always been committed to being here. It is a city to which I have a total admiration and here there is an enviable gastronomy. Something must have been done very well in Madrid so that there is this culinary boom and as many good projects as there are. Pressure is a privilege for me. It all starts because Antonio Chávarri [owner of the space], a nut of my food and who has known me for a long time, brought me two projects to which I could not say no. So I'm privileged to have that pressure. The Allard Club is the greatest luxury that Martín Berasategui can do as a chef in Madrid.
The second business to which the chef refers, also by the hand of the Allard Club, is the opening in the coming weeks of Madrí Madre, "a tribute to my origins". It will be a txoko tavern, more informal and where you can taste pinchos and rations. A challenge in a city where the premises of this type are counted in the hundreds. "The challenge is what I have had since I was a child, which is to try to be the best chef I can be, is to give everything so that the people who have bet on us are proud. It is impossible that when you are so lucky you do not do well. The word failure doesn't enter my world."
The famous sirloin with chard and foie gras from Berasategui.You have brought José María Goñi, one of your disciples, to be in charge of Club Allard. What will be your real bonding? Well, a thousand percent, as in everything I do. I am a disciplined, rigorous and hardworking person. But if you want to do one thing, you can't do another. Now I direct my creativity games and try to transmit with freshness the knowledge of a lot of years of trade, although I am clear that, sometimes, you have to fix punctures, and when I do I try to be the best fixing those punctures. When is the last time you cooked something? What dish do you like to make? Yesterday... for my granddaughter. Now I'm paying homage to a dish I want to have on the menu, which is my version of hake loins with cocochas, and I usually do tests at home. I cook what my family wants, a potato omelette that I enjoy as a dwarf or a pasta dish for my granddaughter, which I try to make the best I know how to make... For me, cooking for my friends, family or my team is what charges my batteries, what strikes my chord, and I enjoy both eating rice with friends and making creative dishes that leave you speechless. Martín Berasategui and José María Goñi.What do you like to be a teacher of? Everything that makes me happy, bakery, pastry, confectionery, cooking... I love to transmit all that knowledge that has given me the veteran of having dedicated more than 40 years to cooking to the young people who work with me. They are much better than I was at their age. You can't ask them for more sacrifice. For this project in Madrid you have brought a very young team. What do you look for in the people who work with you? I try to take young people from the Berasategui universe and give them all the confidence. From the oldest that I am to the last one who has entered this family business they are all super important and I make them feel that way. You've said many times that Michelin changed your life... Yes, and it's true. My parents raised me to be grateful. Michelin has changed not Spanish cuisine, but world cuisine. If the unrepeatable Guide did not exist, many of the chefs of this country would not be here. It is the largest and, of course, there are also other important ones that we appreciate for keeping us up there, such as Repsol and many more. Nothing. I am a super happy person, I have had a life I never dreamed of and an incredible profession and recognition. I would not be who I am without Michelin's bet on me when he discovered my tavern in a basement that to get there you had to go down 23 steps in the old part of San Sebastian. My families, blood and kitchen, would not be what we are without this guidance. That's why I wouldn't trade my 12 stars for anything in the world. The only thing I ask is to have health to enjoy many years of the luck I have and this privilege. I am sure that one day it will come, but what I do tell you is that I will try to recover it. I've spent so many years feeling like the happiest chef in the world without losing a star who would do everything I could to get her back. They will never take one from me for not having sacrificed myself, I would lose it because of a change in the requirement of the Guide. But not only do you have to know how to win, you also have to know how to lose, and many do not even know how to win. I, even so, will remain grateful.Do you eat a lot out? Of course. I feel very loved in all parts of the world, so when they open the doors to me and offer me everything they have inside, I accept. When I go where there are people who are in the same nut as me, how can I not enjoy myself? How can I not learn? If I have to tell you three things in which, without a doubt, I am number one are in enjoyment, hard work and friend.What do you think of colleagues like Dabiz Muñoz and his contribution to Spanish gastronomy? Phew... Dabiz is one of the people in the world that I admire the most, because he has won the affection of everyone, because he has an innate gift for cooking, because he is cheerful, because he spreads that joy, because he excites and transmits knowledge in an incredible way. He is an unusual professional, he is superGod level, he is young and he is a friend. In any country in the world they would like to have it. Karlos Arguiñano recently commented that many colleagues with stars are having a hard time and have to work on other things to maintain their restaurants. What do you think? When Karlos speaks, I listen and learn. Such is the admiration I have for him... He is much more than a great chef, he is the only one who has been making everyone happy for more than 30 years with his profession on TV. For me he is the Rafa Nadal of the kitchen, the Miguel Indurain of cycling. I am lucky to know him and that we are friends. He is the greatest for me, always with the smile and helping not only those of his trade. You already have 13 restaurants, and those that come, how can you cope? Because I have a lot of stick, and because I am surrounded by an excellent team, a better family and people who bring me projects to which I cannot say no. Also because I have suppliers who make me happy with the shopping basket, because I was born in a country where being a chef is important and because I am lucky to have the freshness of young people who are the best generation that has ever given the kitchen. All of that keeps me going every day. I have a great team that I learn from every day. How do you stay in shape? I walk every day of the year. And when I have a trip, like today that I have come to Madrid, because on Sunday, instead of walking only in the morning, I will also go in the afternoon, and instead of returning home from the restaurant in Lasarte to San Sebastián by car, I will do it on foot [about 9 km]. I'm that disciplined, because we have a job where we eat, drink, try many things, and we have to take care of our health. I get up at 6.30 in the morning and go to bed around one o'clock... I don't sleep much, but they tell me that I will when they take me to Villa Quita, so I prefer to wait (laughs).
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