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Land of Michelin stars: haute cuisine at VISITGastrOH!

By May 5, 2022Blog

The Michelin guide, also known as the red guide, is a true reference in the world of gastronomy and hospitality. Many chefs spend their lives striving for a Michelin star and very few obtain the highest category, the three stars.

France, with more than 600 stars, is by far the country with the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and Spain proudly occupies fifth place.

Although cities such as Paris and Madrid have a reputation for concentrating many haute cuisine restaurants, some of the areas with the highest number of stars are located outside the major cities. Specifically, only the three territories of La Rioja, the Spanish Basque Country and the French Basque Country boast 50 Michelin-starred restaurants. In fact, La Rioja holds the title of being the region with the highest number of stars per inhabitant in Spain.

What is a Michelin star and how is it achieved?

Michelin stars are a symbol of excellence in gastronomy. They are the recognition given to certain establishments -not to the chefs- for their quality, innovation and creativity. But the stars also serve to encourage the owners (who are usually chefs) to improve themselves and to constantly offer new proposals.

Some chefs dedicate their lives to trying to achieve at least one star and, to do so, rigor and perseverance are essential.

During their visit, Michelin judges must remain anonymous and pretend to be a completely normal customer to avoid altering the authenticity of the service.

The selection criteria are extremely precise and are exactly the same for any facility anywhere in the world. The quality of the products, the mastery of the cuisine and flavors, the creativity and personality of the chefs and their dishes, the quality of the service offered and, finally, the quality-price ratio are valued. In addition, other elements such as ambiance, decoration, menu and much more are also taken into account.

As you can see, it’s not so easy to be in the pages of the red guide, especially because restaurants don’t know when or how they will be rated. They may even lose their stars over time if they no longer meet the criteria. A titanic job!

Why does VISITGastrOH! have so many Michelin stars?

VISITGastrOH! has 52 Michelin-starred restaurants and a total of 200 establishments recognized by prestigious publications such as the Michelin Guide, Restaurant magazine (and its list of The World 50 Best Restaurants), the Repsol Guide or the title of Master Restaurateur.

With such an impressive track record, one wonders if the region holds the recipe for success.

In fact, we can safely say that there are several factors that contribute to this success.

High quality ingredients

There is no doubt that the basis of any great recipe is excellent ingredients. VISITGastrOH! has also been conceived as a gastronomic destination because the five territories share a passion for food and a constant effort to produce high quality products that are indigenous, tasty and chemical-free. Fruit and vegetables are grown organically, fish is fresh every day, there are many farmhouses and facilities where animals are raised outdoors and dairy products are produced, etc. Each manufacturer and small producer contributes their grain of sand and offers our chefs the element or ingredient to create the most authentic and delicious recipes.

Prestigious cooking schools

But, it is not enough to have the best ingredients. We also need highly skilled chefs who have the know-how and skill to transform these ingredients in innovative and creative ways. The region has two world famous cooking schools: the Basque Culinary Center and the Camino de Santiago Hotel and Catering School.

Many Michelin-starred chefs have been trained at these centers and continue to teach there, passing on their knowledge and passion to the next generation.

Culture and tradition

And last but not least: growing up in a land where the passion for food is everywhere does make a difference. People are taught from a very young age to appreciate the diversity of flavors and aromas, they grow up respecting the land and its products… All this is essential to awaken in the new generations of chefs a genuine passion for the culinary arts.

From farmhouses to vineyards to architecture, everything at VISITGastrOH! is an ode to gastronomy, an invitation to appreciate traditions and, at the same time, to explore new combinations. Here, it is well seen to be daring and fearless, to play with flavors and be creative with food. Here is a culture that is never afraid to reinvest in order to move forward.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more famous chefs are opening restaurants in this region where neither locals nor tourists can resist tasting all the flavors of the world.

VISITGastrOH!, a land of affordable haute cuisine

It is clear that quality and innovation have to be paid for and it is not every day that you go to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but for a special occasion or to treat yourself once in a while, it is worth it to scratch your pocket.

And, I’m telling you the truth, they’re not always as expensive as they look! In fact, the region is littered with Michelin-starred restaurants where you can eat for 50 euros per person. So why not give yourself a treat and dedicate at least one night of your stay to a truly extraordinary experience?

Floral kiss at Mugaritz – two Michelin stars

Twenty minutes from San Sebastian, surrounded by a beautiful garden, a typical Basque farmhouse holds the secrets of the best avant-garde cuisine.

Andoni Luis Aduriz’s cuisine, joyful and highly innovative, is an art form that not only aims to open mouths but also the minds of diners.

Here at Mugaritz, gastronomy becomes an intellectual exercise because the menu takes you through 30 different dishes that constantly change according to the season and test your perception of flavors.

The dishes, with emotive names such as “How long a kiss lasts” or “It depends on how you look at it”, offer a new perspective on food and explore new ways of eating: with the hands, with the eyes, through a kiss.

If you are interested in transforming your dining experience into a sort of museum visit, this site is for you!

Three Michelin stars for an unconventional vision of the traditional in Akelarre

There are very few restaurants in the world with three Michelin stars. It is a feat that few chefs achieve and they usually do so after many years, or decades, of tireless work. Meet a restaurant that has not only achieved three stars, but also…. it has kept them since 2007!

Chef Pedro Subijana, of the Akelarre restaurant, is the culinary genius behind this success, based on a traditional but absolutely exceptional cuisine in which every bite becomes an explosion of flavors in the mouth.

Since 2017, there is next to the restaurant a hotel with several rooms, a spa and a new bar and restaurant area with large terraces. The whole place is a gift for the senses…. for all five senses!

Winning couple at Les Rosiers – one Michelin star

I have promised to offer you several options for all budgets and here is a more economical one. With prices ranging from 60 to 125 euros per person, and a tasting menu for 95 euros, Les Rosiers restaurant in Biarritz, on the Basque-French coast, is the perfect place for a special occasion.

Chefs Andrée and Stéphane Rosier invite diners to discover the true taste of local products cooked with an exotic touch to take you out of the “comfort zone of flavors”.

El Molino de Urdániz, in Urdániz – two Michelin stars

Chef David Yárnoz is capable of creating impossible and spectacular harmonies and stands out for his sensitivity and creative lucidity. Thanks to this, Molino de Urdániz has become a reference in Navarrese and Spanish cuisine, achieving two Michelin stars and two Repsol suns.

The restaurant offers a warm and familiar atmosphere, with a creative and surprising touch.

Do you want something traditional today or are you up for a risk? Here, you can choose between the eleven dishes of the Classic menu or the fourteen dishes of the constantly changing Evolution menu. Whatever you choose, you will travel with your senses and rediscover the true richness of local products.

Fire and traditions revisited at Nublo, Haro – one Michelin star

La Rioja, closely followed by the Basque Country, has the highest number of Michelin stars per inhabitant in Spain.

One of the latest additions to this list is the Nublo restaurant in Haro, which won its first star in 2021.

At Nublo, chef Miguel Caño defends his daring combinations based on the reformulation of traditions.

Here, gas and electricity are replaced by fire and everything is cooked slowly on the grill. Ingredients are carefully selected and sourced from local producers and dishes are paired with wisely selected Rioja wines. A real treat for slow food lovers.

Caribbean and Spanish fusion at Ikaro – one Michelin star

And, last but not least, I invite you to cross culinary frontiers at the Ikaro restaurant in downtown Logroño.

Iñaki and Carolina, a couple full of light, met at the Basque Culinary Center and discovered that their love for food could only work thanks to their love for each other. They soon decided to combine their talents and take advantage of their Spanish and Ecuadorian roots to create beautiful fusions of flavors and colors.

Here, the cuisine updates traditional and regional dishes, with special emphasis on careful presentation and seasonal ingredients.

A small curiosity: if you like cooking shows, you will have heard of Masterchef. Well Carolina Sanchez, who is the only Ecuadorian chef with a Michelin star, was part of the jury of MasterChef Ecuador in 2019. A true star with a star!

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