I am a little over halfway through my 6 month stay in Basque Country. I have so much to share with you. I’ve eaten some of the best meals of my life at Arzak, Etxebarri, Elkano, and more. I’ve visited markets, farms, and artisans. I’ve traveled to Cataluña for a Calçotada. I’ve worked my ass off at Restaurant Martin Berasategui.
As of last week I officially finished my stage at Martin and have moved on to the second part of the Basque Stage, Sammic program. But let me rewind a bit. Last I left off, I was working fish station. After two intense, exhausting, and exhilarating months I moved on to pastry station. I heard a lot of good things about the station. I had seen and tasted a few of their dishes and they were beautiful and delicious. They also use many different techniques and frankly I don’t know all that much on the pastry end.
The atmosphere of pastry is much less military in comparison to fish. It is more relaxed, but equally as intense in terms of work. There is always work to be done, especially towards my last few weeks, as many stages were coming to an end. The head chef Juan and sous chef Pablo are extremely eager to pass on knowledge and foster a (mostly) positive learning environment. But don’t get me wrong. It’s not all fun and games.
Some of the highlights of my time in pastry were working side by side with Juan on a chocolate mousse tart, Pablo teaching me the technique for the perfect quenelle on my last day (still don’t have that down!), sneaking a piece of chocolate, cake scraps, or a spoonful of decadent souffle (as we always plate an emergency one in case the first isn’t quiet ready). Being in the shits several times was also fun, after the fact of course.
But hard work always pays off and by week three I was considered one of three “pillars” on the station. My last two weeks I spent training three different stages to take over once I left. I was proud to pass on what I’d learned and feel that even though I’m gone, I’ve left something behind. I’ve made my mark.
I’m also proud to say that I’ve passed along my chocolate chip cookie recipe to Martin. In keeping with the learning environment, Juan, the head chef of pastry asked me to make an American dessert, so I decided on cookies. It only took me until my second to last day to finally find some time to make them! I nervously offered some to Martin and he loved them!
Luckily I was able to spend a day on the meat station before I left, just to observe. But you know me, I can’t just stand back and watch. I got my hands in there a bit and even helped plate a dish. There was a moment were things got a little hectic and cooks were scrambling. I had seen the dish plated a few times by then, saw that one element wasn’t finished and plated, so I jumped right in a did it myself.
All of their plates look and taste amazing! The stocks and sauces are very classic french. All of the proteins, from the squab, to the sirloin, to the foie are of the highest quality. I really enjoyed the little time I spent there and I wish I could stay another couple of months to learn it all.
Its been an exhausting three and a half months, but I had an amazing time at Martin. I feel privileged to have worked alongside some great chefs and to have experienced cooking at a higher level, in a 3 Michelin starred kitchen. I can’t thank everyone enough for first of all giving me the opportunity to be there, and for making it an invaluable experience in terms of learning and personal growth.
With that said, I’m super excited for what’s next! I’ve just started working at Ezkurtxerri, a small pig farm and meat purveyor in the gorgeous hills of Getaria. I’ll tell you more about the dynamic father and daughter duo soon! Then Aroa, another awesome local farm, a trip or two to France, and much more! Not to mention the weather is (finally!) warming up. It’s going to be amazing…and a much-needed change of pace.