I have taken the challenge of Starting at Zero to design and cook a menu that will commemorate the life and work of Anni Albers that shares so many parallels with the world of Arzak and myself.
Studying, working and delving deeper into Anni Albers work has been tremendously enriching and fascinating. I have become one of her greatest admirers. Her talent, incredible career, her heightened creativity, her teaching methods and her experimentation are a source of great inspiration for the cooks and components of the Arzak sphere.
I have found many similarities which can be comparable between her work and our creative process. In particular one of the aspects that most grabs my attention is the interest that Anni felt for her materials. From the traditional and precious to the most innovative.
In the kitchen, the materials, that is to say fresh products, are essential and we are always looking for new ingredients from our own or other cultures that allow us to discover new flavors and experiences. Anni liked to experiment, to seek out new solutions and emotions through a systematic way of working, and at the same time always being open to improvisation.
The food of Arzak and Basque food in general has always been very deeply rooted in the sea and its recipe books have been made up mostly of fish and seafood based dishes. We’ve developed a special sensitivity towards that which nature has offered us from the beginning till today adapting ourselves to the customs and trends of diners and the changes in society. The raw materials continue to be the principal protagonists of our tireless search for new flavors and gastronomic and emotional experimentation.
Following Anni Albers’ example in Starting at Zero, we have developed a menu based in the raw materials and ideas that nature close to the sea has offered us. Inspired in her way of thinking and doing we have used our imagination from a gastronomic framework to create our dishes even to the point of extrapolating ideas and elements that we have observed and found in her work.
In the same way, her work and the special relationship with the materials that she used in her creations - as much the fine ones like cotton or wool as the new and experimental ones like cellophane - have been a great source of inspiration for us, combining ideas that have emerged from Starting at Zero with components of her creative talent as well as her taste and personal relationships.
For this project we have also leaned on the visual similarities that help us to understand our connections with Anni’s work.
We have reflected all of that in the following menu:
Razor clams with pumpkin
Razor clams take us right to the seashore. They’re very common in Peru. We used the idea of Starting at Zero serving the clams in their long shells, which are reminiscent of a weaver’s shuttle, as a gesture of sustainability toward nature. The pumpkin puree provides a silky texture and orange color lends visual contrast.
This aperitif has a base of flax or hemp seeds. They are very related to Anni’s studies with hemp and flax. From hemp they made rope, fibers and even fabrics. This dish is very textural like a favorite suede jacket draped over a silk blouse.
Fish of the day with patxaran and purple corn
Anni applied acid baths and emulsions to her printmaking to create a cloudy surface. Here the fish is treated in a similar way and set off by the corn in two distinct treatments. Her corn kernel studies and love of the Mexican corn goddesses are reflected in the whole fried kernels and the playful flakes of blue potato which add a level of chromatic complexity.
Cellophane is a new and experimental material that Anni incorporated into her weaving. We wanted to reinterpret it by cooking a cellophane lobster in a nod to her early Christmas eves. This dish plays with light and translucency in contrast with opacity.
Monkfish at low tide
In our dish you’ll find an almond puree which reminds people of sand, fried seaweed, mussel puree in the shape of a shell and starfish made of Curaçao. The dish is like a walk on the beach with elements you’d find like shells, seaweed, sand … it’s as if Anni were strolling through the plate
It’s a bird in flight. At the same time the feathers remind us of the strings and weavings of Anni, twisting and swinging, of her connection to Peruvian featherworks. It also evokes the magic of flight which so captivated Anni because it allowed her to see the patterns made by man and nature on the earth below.
Cherry granita and açai
Anni loved chocolate. Her husband Josef often gave her chocolate covered cherries. Here the texture of the cherry granita is juxtaposed against the creamy sweetness of the ice cream.
This dessert has a base of flat cotton candy and a texture that resembles one of Anni’s weavings with its use of cotton. When the chocolate sauce is served the cotton candy melts changing its texture and acquiring movement. Anni continually pursued that sense of dynamism in her weaving.
Truffles: Arzak’s Hardware Store
Anni created an anti luxury jewelry collection with Alexander Reed using items from hardware stores and proposing a new definition of the concept of value by eliminating any hegemony between objects and materials.