Luis Irizar, the ‘master of masters’ of Basque cuisine, dies at 91

Luis Irizar, in an image from 2017. / Sarah santos

The chef, with an intense international life, trained successive generations of professionals

Mitxel ezquiaga

His health had been battered for months, and his family and friends had already prepared for the worst. Luis Irizar, the origin of the great revolution in Basque cuisine, died today in Donostia at the age of 91. Considered by his colleagues “master of teachers”, the trainer of successive generations of cooks, his colleagues dismiss him “as the professional father of many of us”, as Pedro Subijana, his disciple, says, impressed when he heard the news.

This same year his wife and eternal companion, in life and in the trade, Virginia Alzugaray, passed away and the closing of the cooking school that bore her name was also made official, in the Old Town of San Sebastian, from which so many professionals emerged from success. And precisely in February a book was published that reconstructs the incredible biography of this man. ‘Luis Irizar, teacher of teachers’ was edited by Abalon Books, with text by Juan Aguirre Sorondo and images by photographer Luis de las Alas. Karlos Arguiñano, one of his students, wrote in the prologue that “at the Irizar school he taught us a lot, respect for the product, respect for the customer, respect for good work. And things that are very simple, important and so basic at the same time as that ‘without effort it is not possible to move forward’, that ‘affection is what makes it possible for everything to flow’, that ‘honesty is not a word that fits very well. the role, but a quality that is built day by day ‘. It opened our eyes, it helped us to mature ». “He is a great man from head to toe,” emphasized Tatus Fombellida in another prologue.

Beginnings at María Cristina

Luis Irizar was born in Havana in 1930 because his parents, from Igeldo, had emigrated to Cuba, but at the age of 3 they returned to Donostia, where he grew up. He began as an apprentice in the kitchens of the María Cristina hotel in the post-war period, went through the Monte Igueldo restaurant, made the leap to the legendary Jockey of Madrid, worked in some of the great Parisian hotels and would become internationally established as head chef at the Hilton Hotel From london.

“Moved by an intense teaching vocation, he founded in Zarautz in 1966 the first official school in northern Spain (Euromar) in which young people such as Pedro Subijana, Karlos Arguiñano and others would be forged”, the book related. «In Madrid he ran the Hotel Alcalá and was in charge of the Basque and Irizar Jatetxea restaurants of the Basque House. Already in the seventies he obtained the first Michelin star for Gipuzkoa in Gurutze-Berri de Oiartzun, and he was dean of New Basque Cuisine ». Generations of cooks have passed through his school in Donostia, and he received the Golden Drum in recognition of his work.

«I have dedicated my whole life to cooking. I was barely out of childhood when I started working as a girl. I have worked a lot, a lot, I have done practically everything. I have cooked for presidents and heads of state, for Nobel laureates, ministers, diplomats, aristocrats and politicians of all ideologies. And with the same affection and desire to please, I have prepared the daily food of workers in their factories, of students in their canteens, of the sick in hospitals, of the elderly in their residences … ”, recalled Irizar. «In my long career I have traveled all the steps to what, for me, is the pinnacle: the love and recognition of my colleagues, to be appreciated as a teacher who has known how to transmit the knowledge acquired in his long experience and that has spread his enthusiasm for cooking. If I were to be born again, I would put on my hat and apron again, “he said.

«I have dedicated my whole life to cooking. I was barely out of childhood when I started working as a girl. I have worked a lot, a lot, I have done practically everything »

His colleagues live the news today with shock, just the day that the Basque Culinary Center presents its international award to the chef from Huelva Xanty Elías

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Luis Irizar, the ‘master of masters’ of Basque cuisine, dies at 91