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How A Basque Chef Smokes Out Food’s Subtle Natural Flavors

Chef Bittor Arginzoniz slicing beef. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Etxebarri

Chef Bittor Arginzoniz slicing beef. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Etxebarri

A man of innovation

Grilled anchovy fillets on flatbread. Credit: Copyright 2016 Amaia Zeberio

Grilled anchovy fillets on flatbread. Credit: Copyright 2016 Amaia Zeberio

He’s dreamed up other contraptions, too — a fine-meshed sieve for caviar, a latticed basket for egg yolks — but his greatest invention is the grill itself. Running the length of one wall, six separate racks are rigged to pulleys and lifted and lowered over the flat surfaces that hold the embers. “In this way, I control the fire, instead of letting it control me.”

As he demonstrated moving the racks individually, it was clear he is both artisan and innovator at once. “On the surface, Bittor seems like a man who’s closed off,” said Mikel Zeberio, a Basque food writer and longtime friend, “but at his core, he’s a sponge. The ingredients he uses change him, not the other way around.”



Zester Daily contributor Sofia Perez is an independent multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Gourmet, and Saveur, and she began her career in broadcast news at NBC. She's taught food-writing classes at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education, serves as a judge for the James Beard Foundation Book & Journalism Awards, and is the North American interpreter for chef Ferran Adrià. Most recently, she completed her first book, "So This Is How It Ends," a historical novel about the Spanish Civil War. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Perez is the proud child of two remarkable Spaniards who instilled in her their passion for food and their homeland.

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