Text: Rosa María González Lamas /©ICEX
Image: Spanish chef Bruno Oteiza. ©Erika del Paso.
Chef Bruno Oteiza was born in San Sebastián, a year before Mikel Alonso was born in Biarritz, France. They both share a common Basque identity, which although vibrant while they were in Europe, didn’t really detonate until they reached Mexico. A transatlantic trip each made individually brought them to this country, where they ended up in a professional concoction that also blended their Basque culinary heritage with the Mexican influence of their land of adoption
I suspect he and his friend and partner Mikel Alonso were really clever when they decided to baptize his restaurant as Biko (the name derive from bikote, which means couple in Basque language) what would become Mexico’s most prestigious restaurant worldwide. Because what the restaurant is really about is composing a series of duets which, like their own, make very good sense out of very odd couples. Highly different, yet highly complementary.
“We are so different, but our culinary philosophy is so coherent and similar that after working together for nine years, after living both disputes and reconciliations, we had no other option than to continue ensemble and become business partners,” affirms Alonso to Foods from Spain.
Prior to arriving in México, Oteiza had toured a number of European kitchens, such as Akelare (three-star Michelin) in Spain, and several other important culinary establishments in France and the United Kingdom. In Mexico he worked at several hotels and restaurants before landing in Tezka Zona Rosa, a restaurant whose culinary consultant was master chef Juan Mari Arzak. It was in Tezka where Oteiza’s talent was set apart.
Antxón Araneta taught him how to cook, Pedro Subijana granted him imagination, Jean-Paul Clavé a sense of discipline, but what Oteiza learned from Arzak was to always examine cuisine through the eyes of a child. This kind of vision enabled him to approach cuisine with absolute curiosity, freshness, amusement, and freedom. A spirit which Arzak also instilled in Alonso, who also happened to disembark in Tezka, where his experience as Executive Chef indubitably served as a platform for Biko. Thanks to television, on a daily basis Bruno Oteiza adds spice to the mornings of many Spanish viewers who watch Cocina con Bruno Oteiza, a TV cooking show on Spanish La Sexta TV channel. On this side of the Atlantic, this year Mikel Alonso also conducts a program called Lo mejor de la cocina española (“The Best of Spanish Cuisine”), on Canal Gourmet, which tours Spain’s autonomies through their most emblematic recipes.
“Working with Mikel Alonso is fun, because he is a great professional, a great person, but most important, a great friend. We are so different, yet we complement each other so well,” concludes Oteiza. Just like the flavors of Biko.