Juan Mari Arzak was born in 1942 in San Sebastián, Spain. He grew up working in the family restaurant Arzak established by his grandparents in 1897. After studying cuisine, he took over Arzak in the late 1960s.
At Arzak, Juan Mari pioneered Basque New Cuisine, innovating regional flavors using avant-garde techniques. Dishes like Hare in Chocolate Sauce modernized Basque staples.
Under his leadership, Arzak earned its first Michelin star in 1978. In 1989 it obtained 3 Michelin stars – a first for Basque cuisine. Juan Mari also won the National Prize for Gastronomy in Spain in 1994.
Beyond Arzak, he founded the New Basque Cuisine movement to reshape perceptions of regional fare.
Juan Mari also trained other notable chefs including his daughter Elena, who now runs Arzak.
Juan Mari co-authored several cookbooks introducing Basque cuisine globally. He appeared in films and received honors including Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in France in 2000.
For pioneering Basque nouvelle cuisine and earning Arzak’s first 3 Michelin stars, Juan Mari Arzak cemented his legacy as one of Spain’s most influential chefs. He secured Basque cuisine’s place on the haute cuisine stage.