The ‘Charm’ in Xarma Jatetxea


Xarma Jatetxea. Located in San Sebastian, smack dab in the middle of my home in Lasarte and Donostia. Headed by chef and owners, Xabier Díez and Aizpea Oihaneder, this is the place that I will spend my 3 months learning and staging at while in the Basque Country.

Meaning “charm” in Basque, Xarma is a restaurant where diners are able to see the dream that these two chefs have worked so hard to fulfill. From the décor of the very elegant 35 seat dining room to the ever-changing menu of very thought out dishes, Chef Xabier and Aizpea have very much created  a very restaurant with the upmost amount of ‘charm’ (pun intended).

xarma interior

Xarma offers 3 different tasting menus that range from various prices and dining experiences and also offer an a la carte menu. I find that the food at Xarma to be very exciting and quite impressive, especially with having such a small crew of them 2 and another chef named Marcos. With a super stacked resume of working under some of the most renowned chefs in Europe from Juan Mari and Elena Arzak to Martin Bersategui to Michel Bras in France. Through every dish that leaves the kitchen, you can definitely see all of the knowledge and skills that these talented chefs have gained from putting in their time at such celebrated kitchens.


April 5th marked the day that I would first step into the kitchen as their newest addition to their team. With a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness, I was ready for anything and everything. From the get go I knew it was going to be a huge challenged not speaking any Spanish. But luckily, with working at the Harvest Vine, I was able to understand a whole lot when it comes to kitchen terms and ingredients.

Marcos, the other chef that works their aside from Xabi and Aizpea, showed me the ropes for a typical work day. I was quite surprised to find out that he has only been working at Xarma for a month when I started because it has seemed like he knew everything and anything about the restaurant. First thing we do when we get into the kitchen is take out the garbage and recycling. We then set up all the stations with cutting boards, utensils, mise en place for service, and then we usually take a quick coffee break then its on to prep.

At around 11:45, we set up a table in the dining room for family meal, which happens at 12. I have found this to be very nice as it reminds me of how things are back at the Vine. There’s nothing better than being able to actually sit down and spend some quality time with your work family before a busy service! I was actually very impressed with family meal as the chefs like to actually make an effort to cook amazing food for the staff. Everyone knows that only great things can come out of a happy staff!

family meal

After family meal, comes coffee time and then it’s back to the kitchen where we set up the rest of the kitchen for service. This means heating up complimentary bread that we serve to the diners, getting all of the proteins and items portioned for each of the tasting menus and heating up all the sauces so they are ready to go.


Then around 2 o clock (or 9 o clock if we are talking dinner service) the restaurants starts to fill up with hungry customers. I have always known that every kitchen runs different from one another, but I have never worked in a kitchen where tasting menus are so dominant in what the customers order. Especially with having 3 different tasting menus to choose from, it is very easy to get confused with which dishes belong with what menu and how the progression of the dishes should go out in. And then throw in items of an a la carte menu and you could basically say that my mind might have gone a little bit crazy. But with some studying and some guidance, I was able to learn about each menu from head to toe within a couple of days. Thank Goodness!

As we get through the last couple tickets, we start the wrap up process as we refill our mis en place for the next service/day and start to put all of sauces and proteins into containers. As the last desserts go out, we turn of the oven and the planchas and we sweep up and mop up the floors.

This is basically how a typical day goes at my work. But in reality, there is no ‘typical’ day at Xarma Jatetxa. Each day I come in, I find myself still learning something new and exciting, especially working with chefs like Xabi, Aizpea, and Marcos. They always seem to find new ways to blow my mind and make me feel so freaking excited about food, especially Basque food. These are chefs that are doing really great things to a cuisine that is already so special in itself and can be seen as a model for the new and young generation of chefs that are wanting to bring new things to the table when it comes to the progression of what we know and perceive as “Basque cuisine”.


There is an unbelievable amount of gratitude I have for being Sammic’s Rising Star, especially for putting me in such a special restaurant like Xarma. I have learned so much and I’m only at the half way mark. I know I’ve said it so many times, but I just cant help to be so excited about all things to come in my last month as a Basque Stage!

Pintxo Roundup: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

Where: Bar Borda Berri, Donostia-San Sebastian


Pintxo: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil


Probably one of my favorite Pintxo bars here in San Sebastia via Andoni. This is the bar where I had my first bite here in Spain. And I had the chance to revisit it after my trip to the Sammic Headquarters. I was really craving some seafood so Bacalao was my go to! I have been familiar with Pil Pil, which is basically an emulsified sauce made from oil and the protein of a gelatinous fish, but I have never actually got to experience it. So this was my chance! I’ve always been so interested in Pil Pil because it really captures the essence of flavor from the fish and transforms it into a very creamy and decadent sauce. I also really like the fact that sauce’s name has came about because it is supposedly the onomatopoeia (vocab word of the day!)  of the sound that is made during the rotation motion that happens in the pan when the oil is being emulsified with the cod proteins to make the sauce.

The dish in itself was everything I wanted. The bacalao was super tender and had a very rich flavor. The pil pil sauce really enhanced the fishiness of the dish without it being too overly-fishy. There was a nice border of alioli that encapsulates the cod and it’s sauce that really rounded out this whole dish. And like I have always said, alioli makes everything better! With a couple slices of fresh bread and a glass full of txakoli, my day was made and my tummy was so happy.

But what is part of the cod was I eating exactly? It wasn’t until a couple days after when I  decided to actually look up what ‘Kallos de bacalao’ really meant. And to my surprise, what I was served was Cod Tripe. Seen as a delicacy in many countries, this part of the fish is actually pretty difficult to find. I was really surprised to find that I was eating the offals of the cod, but it kind of makes sense because it had a texture unlike any piece of cod I’ve had before. It supposedly isn’t actually like the part of tripe you’d find on a cow, but actually is the natatory bladder of the cod, or for all you fans of Asian cuisine, the fish maw. Either way, this dish was very exceptional and definitely worth ordering again!

My Trip To The Sammic Headquarters

Andoni in front of the Sammic Headquarters!

Andoni in front of the Sammic Headquarters!

On Wednesday, April 17th, I met up with Marti, Nacho, and Andoni for my visit to the Sammic Headquarters. Sammic is the main sponsor of the Basque Stage and is one of the main reasons for this great opportunity to live in the Basque Country.  Sammic manufactures commercial kitchen equipment and distributes their products to all over the world. The first piece of kitchen equipment that started it all was a potato peeler. No I’m not talking about one of those small peelers that you use to peel potatoes and other vegetables, but an actually machine that you place potatoes in and then it spins the potatoes and peels every potato until its skin free. Since then they have expanded their catalog to equipment from glasswear washers to vacuum package machines.

Marti and Nacho whatuppppppp.

Marti and Nacho whatuppppppp.

Upon arriving to the headquarters in the beautiful town of Azkoitia, Spain, I meet Amaia Altuna who works in Marketing. She is this very nice lady that seems to know about the company inside and out. She introduces me to my tour guide, Asier Bereziartua, and then it was off to see the factory where all the magic happens.

The Storage Facility.

The Storage Facility.

Asier works in the office of the factory and is the man that takes all the calls when it comes to information about the equipment and specific pieces and parts for all of their products. His English was pretty excellent so that made the tour that much more informative and exciting for me!


We start off on the main floor of the factory. The first thing he shows me where they melt down all the pieces of aluminum to form into specific pieces for each of their products. He asked me if I had seen the film “The Terminator” and then he has me look into this deep crevice that is filled with melted metal. The reference he makes is pretty perfect as it actually does look like T-1000 from the movie. It was a beautiful sight and almost hypnotizing as I just wanted to touch the liquid as it looked so pretty. But of course I knew that the consequences wouldn’t be the greatest. He then shows me a big pile of equipment parts that was not usable and they reuse and recycle any scrap metal to form into new pieces that they can utilize.


We continue on the tour and he shows me some parts for their potato peelers that they made that morning. Amazing to see all the work they crank out in the matter of a couple hours.  Next he shows me the room that these newly formed parts go to get buffered and polished up to look all nice for assembling.


Aiser and where the polishing happens!

Asier and where the polishing happens!

We pass by the assembly line where we see workers putting together different equipment from dishwashers of many sizes to potato peelers. I noticed that these machines are all being put together all by hand and I ask Asier if all of their products are put together like this. He confirms that everything that comes out of their factory is put together by hand and then every single piece of equipment is tested to see if they are working in perfect condition before they distribute them to establishments. I find this to be an amazing thing about Sammic because it really shows that this company really care and have a lot of pride for all their products that leaves their factory.

The makings of two different dishwashers.

The makings of two different dishwashers.

Asier then takes me to my favorite portion of the tour, the development area. This is where they take equipment concepts and then build them to test them out. The piece of equipment he shows me that is was in the middle of development was a washing machine. It looked like any other normal commercial washing machine but he explains to me that there is a special part on the top of the machine that takes all the steam that the dishwasher expels once you open it and suck all of it up and then recycles it and turns it into clean, usable water for the next batch of dishes.  I found this to be such a great idea and very cool to see that this sort of machine is being developed.


Next, we head to the testing area where they test their equipment for a straight 24 hours. They developed these machines that press the ‘on’ button on their equipment every minute to see how well they run to make sure they are working properly.


To conclude our tour, we leave the factory and he shows me other parts of the Sammic Headquarters like the marketing office and the offices where the engineers work. Not too shabby place to work it seems like!


I am very excited to be working with such a great company and really appreciative of all they have made possible for me and all of the previous Basque Stages.  Special thanks to Amaia, Asier and everyone at Sammic for having me visit their facility. I am looking forward to trying out some of the products that this company produces and see them in action!

The room where all the Basque Stage magic happens!

The room where all the Basque Stage magic happens!