On the cusp of the opening of his second restaurant – this one abroad – it seemed a timely occasion to catch up with Paris-based Chef Inaki Aizpitarte, a rising star who has already ascended to great culinary heights both amongst his Parisian peers and in terms of international recognition.
Chef Inaki Aizpitarte's Basque origins, one might say, lend him his deep affinity for the origins of things – not only culinary traditions but also wherefrom he sources his ingredients, never wavering from seeking out, finding and then delivering the best to his restaurant patrons.
If Le Chateaubriand is any indication, Aizpitarte's is a recipe for success.
Interior of Le Chateaubriand, Chef Inaki Aizpitarte's restaurant in Paris — Photo courtesy of Le Chateaubriand
Chef Inaki Aizpitarte's Inspiration
10Best: Is there one or perhaps several French chefs who inspired you as you set off on your professional course to become a chef?
Aizpitarte: Well, yes and no. No, there wasn't just one. There were many.
I read lots of books, looked at what other chefs were doing and just drew from many sources. But I really couldn't narrow it down to one or even a handful of sources.
And now my inspiration comes from everywhere. Sure from travel, but also just life, everyday life.
It's difficult even to find the words, because I feel that artistically every little thing can be inspirational and can spark some kind of new creativity for me when I get into my kitchen.
A Fan of Natural Wines
10Best: Wine figures prominently at your restaurant. Can you tell us a bit about what really excites you these days?
Aizpitarte: Well, I am – still am – a big fan of natural wines. In fact, at Le Chateaubriand, we have a cellar devoted to natural wines from all over the world, not just France. Even from California!
Wine is the drink that accompanies gastronomy the best. So I devote close attention to the wines that we serve at my restaurant.
10Best: Is there one wine region in France in particular that you prefer?
Aizpitarte: Not really. There are so many great small producers all over the country doing great small production wines. You find gems in all the regions really: Alsace, the Loire, Auvergne even and of course Burgundy and Bordeaux.
From Paris to LA to London
10Best: Can you draw a comparison between the culinary scene of Los Angeles, where you recently participated in a food festival as one of three celebrated French chefs, and Paris' culinary scene?
Aizpitarte: It's really difficult to draw a comparison between these two cities, Paris and Los Angeles, in terms of culinary scene. The climate is so different, the weather and therefore the way of life and the art de vivre, so also the cuisine.
Los Angeles has a heavy Latin American and Mexican influence, which you do see reflected in the culinary and restaurant scene there.
Here in Paris, you can't cook like they cook in California because the products you have to work with are completely different. There you see a lot of spicy things on the menus and Los Angeles, I found, also to be very cosmopolitan.
One thing I did notice was the quality of products. The weather there means they have a good choice of products to work with. I adored the fresh lettuce and citrus fruits that were so abundant and other vibrant market fresh products.
Of course here in Paris, at my restaurant, Le Chateaubriand, I always cook with what's in season. Of course I seek out the best products here, too. And I generally stay within what's in season.
10Best: Any big new developments right now for you?
Aizpitarte: Yes. I am just opening up my new restaurant in London. It's called Le Chabanais.