The World’s 50 Best Restaurants revealed the winner of this year’s Icon Award as Andoni Luis Aduriz, the chef behind the famed Mugaritz restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain. The Icon Award celebrates an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the food world that is worthy of international recognition, and who has used their platform to raise awareness and drive positive change in the industry.
Undoubtedly one of the most influential chefs of his generation, Aduriz has long focused not only on culinary evolution, but on a creative, innovative and interdisciplinary approach to gastronomy. Starting his path with an after-school job in a pizzeria, Aduriz went on to work at Spain’s prestigious El Bulli in 1993, which he has described as a life-changing experience, before setting off alone to open Mugaritz in 1998. The restaurant has been ranked in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list every year since 2005, including last year at No.21.
Aduriz has been named the recipient of this year’s Icon Award for his tireless work throughout his three-decade career in promoting sustainable agriculture and reducing food waste, while working towards a socially and environmentally committed gastronomy industry. He has also been fearless in challenging long-standing culinary mores, eschewing industry dogma in favour of exploration and experimentation through food and going as far as to question whether dishes even need to be ‘delicious’ to be valuable.
Located on the borders of two Basque towns of Errentería and Astigarraga, Mugaritz’s name is a tribute to the border (Muga, in Basque) and the oak (haritza) which has watched over these borders for 200 years. The restaurant prides itself on being a creative ecosystem where inquisitive minds create and reflect, crossing borders with gastronomy as a starting point, together with experts from the worlds of science, arts, philosophy and nutrition. Aduriz has described Mugaritz as a research lab: a space where gastronomy is a way to show the team’s reflections and trials to all those who visit.
The chef is known for utilising ingredients in unexpected ways, such as using pine needles to infuse a dish with a smoky flavour or incorporating soil as a seasoning. New dishes found on the menu for 2023 include: Face to face, an edible ‘skin’ made with psyllium and cider; Bunch: chives and butter, which is visually similar to a giant communion wafer as chives are compacted with gelatine, thinly sliced, spread with butter and dotted with pickled lemon; along with Memories of the future, which sees white bread caramelised for several days and served with bean molasses and fermented Port lees. Such inventive dishes co-exist on the menu with less abstract treats like creamy cuttlefish, black shallot and Idiazabal cheese.
William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “For 25 years, Andoni has been pushing the boundaries of creative gastronomy at Mugaritz, consistently presenting a menu that is at times dark, thrilling and unexpected, but always exquisitely innovative. He is one of the most influential and best-loved chefs of the 21st century to date. It’s an honour to name him the recipient of this year’s Icon Award.”
Aduriz comments on his award: “Being recognised with such a reverential term as ‘icon’ is both overwhelming and surprising, but it does not hide the illusion of knowing that, deep down, what is being rewarded is a trajectory – an effort to open up new paths. I think this award is shared with all the people who dream that things can be different, who are in that sea of doubt, and who need references from people who have also ventured down a different path without being certain that it will turn out well. I am eternally grateful, not only for myself and my team, but also for the message we are sending to the younger generations.”
The Icon Award 2023 is voted for by the same 1,080-strong gender-balance Academy of experts that create The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. It is one of several awards to be revealed ahead of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 awards ceremony in Valencia, which will be held at Les Arts opera house, part of the city’s modernist City of Arts and Sciences complex, on the evening of Tuesday 20th June.
This year’s programme will include a series of key events which have become the cornerstone of 50 Best Restaurants celebrations: thought-leadership forum #50BestTalks; the 50 Best Signature Sessions series of collaborative dining events open to the public; a Chefs’ Feast showcasing the finest produce and cooking from the Spanish region, all culminating in the awards ceremony and countdown itself.
The world’s most renowned chefs will also impart their knowledge to local culinary students through a 50 Best educational event, as 50 Best continues its mission to amplify diverse voices and positive messages, foster progressive discussion and cross-border collaboration, and encourage greater gastronomic discovery and exploration.