What Do I Want To Get Out Of The Basque Stage?


So it’s official….. I have less than a month from when I leave the great Pacific NorthWest to start my culinary adventures in San Sebastian, Spain, as the next Basque Stage Rising Star! It has been a crazy, busy, and overwhelming couple of weeks since I have received the scholarship and I can’t imagine the my last couple weeks being any less crazy, busy, and overwhelming as the ones previous.

I feel that a month seems like a long time, but I know that time will fly by and I will be sitting in a plane, heading too my new home for 3 months. There is so much to do in such little time!

One thing that has been on my mind ever since I found out that I will be the next Basque Stage is what I hope to get out of living in San Sebastian, working with a great company like Sammic and staging under some of the most talented chefs, Xabier Diez and Aizpea Oihaneder, over at Xarma.

So here is a list of some of the things I have came up with that I hope to achieve upon returning to my real home in Seattle after my time in the Basque Country.

1. Develop a greater understanding and knowledge of the Basque Life.

I have the Harvest Vine to thank for opening my eyes to all things Basque. I’ve had an amazing 3 years working for/with some of the greatest people that have taught me so much about the culture and the food that comes from the Basque Country. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from working under my chef, Joey Serquinia, is that it takes more than knowing flavors and ingredients to cook good Spanish food. It takes a lot of knowledge about understanding about the culture and history of how these dishes came about.

With living in San Sebastian, I will be able to experience all the things that I can’t from just picking up and read about from a book about the Basque Country. I will be able to see and experience first hand what it is like to live the ‘Basque Way’. From the people, to the food, to the farms, to the wineries, I am so ready to soak up everything. I’m just hoping that my brain and heart will be able to handle all of the greatness that the Basque Country has to offer!

2. Utilize and expand the resources and opportunities presented to me

Everyone working in the restaurant industry  or any industry actually, knows the importance of networking. With staging in Spain, I will be introduced to a whole new circle of chefs, wine makers, farmers, and companies that I just would never be able to meet here in the States. I hope to take advantage of this great opportunity and really utilize all these networks that I could really benefit from in my career as a chef.

Sammic Headquarters

One of the coolest aspects of the Basque Stage is that it is sponsored by a great company called Sammic that develops and manufactures commercialized kitchen equipment for restaurants, hotels, etc., etc. I am really excited to work with this company and get to see and work with the products that they develop and really hope to build a strong relationship because they could be a great asset for whenever/if-ever I plan to start a restaurant of my own. (Can we say Discount!? Just Joking. =P) But on a serious note, I am very appreciative of what they do and for sponsoring such a great scholarship.

3. Help spread the word about the Basque Stage

I have to admit it. I’ve been a total Basque Stage Whore (pardon my language) ever since I had found about them more than a year ago. I have been and avid follower of the blogs of the previous Basque Stage winners and I was addicted to applying. I told myself from day one that I was going to keep on applying until I get it because its honestly such a great opportunity for chefs of all kinds, whether or not you are a home cook or professional cook. Everyone at the Basque Stage and Sammic have both teamed up and created something that I feel so passionate about and proud to be part of and I feel that more people need to know about it.

I was ecstatic to hear that The Art Institute of Seattle, the culinary school I had graduated from, was interested in getting in contact with me to hear more about receiving this scholarship. This is a good step into the right direction to let other students to know about this great opportunity that is honestly so easy to apply for. Yeah, I must admit, that it was pretty crappy the past 2 times I’ve applied and gotten so close to getting it, but persistence really pays off. Keep trying. Keep applying. Keep believing in yourself. Because in the end, there is no harm in trying, especially when the outcome can be as spectacular as cooking in one of the culinary capitals in the world!  And I don’t plan on just spreading the word with just students, I want to help encourage anyone and everyone.

4. Re-open Txori

Oh, beloved Txori. Txori was the sister restaurant of The Harvest Vine that sadly closed down in 2010. It was the first restaurant that I had my first real bite of real Spanish food. This was the restaurant where I started my culinary career as an intern that eventually lead into landing a job at. Quite possibly one of the best jobs I have had in my life.  It was here I knew I wanted to pursue cooking Spanish food.

Txori, which means “bird” in Basque, was a bar that served the traditional Basque tapas known as “pintxos”. Pintxos are basically small bites of food that are usually served on a sliced piece of toasted bread or pricked with a skewer that have became popular in San Sebastian. I feel that these are the type of bars that America need to adopt more of. There is so much to love about the concept of eating small bites while sipping on a nice glass of cava or albarinio and conversing with fellow patrons.I am most looking forward to pintxo bar hopping and really get to see what a real pintxo bar feels/looks/smells/tastes like. I want to take these things back because I feel that people need to know the greatest of Pintxos!

Re-opening Txori has been something I’ve always wanted ever since the day their doors have closed. But I’m hoping that with this Stage that it will maybe cause a spark, an idea, even a small thought of maybe re-opening those doors to something that not only I, but so many others, have grown to love. And whenever the time comes, I will drop and stop everything I am doing because this is something I really want, no, need to part of. (*hint hint* Carolin ;] ).

5. Be able to share my experiences

So of course it’s going to be great to share my experiences with friends, family, all you following my blogs, and so on. But honestly, one person I’m really hoping to share this experience with is my daughter, Tegan. She is my world, my mini-me, my pride and joy. Its going to be the hardest thing I will ever had to do being apart from her but everything that I do, I do for her. I have always known that with working in this industry, I had to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s quite a big sacrifice I’ve had to make, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. I’m going to gain so much out of it, but what I will be gaining the most is a story for her of how her dad has fulfilled one of his dreams and that if you work hard and keep trying, you will be capable of doing anything. I want her to know that someday, I hope she will be able to do something like this and be able to share her stories with me. No matter what, I will always be there for her and will support her in anything she wants to do.

Sorry for the lengthy post! I am just getting so excited and anxious and have so much on the mind right now that my brain kind of threw up all of my thoughts in form of this blog post. Haha


My First Post As A Basque Stage!

Hi everyone!

This is my official first post as a Sammic and Basque Stage Rising Star!

For those who are unaware, the Basque Stage Rising Star Scholarship gives the opportunity to a lucky aspiring chef to the Basque Region of Spain to work with under some of the most prestiges chefs in Spain for 3 months.

It was merely a week ago when I had received an e-mail with the subject titled “*Important*”. Usually I overlook these e-mails and proceed to send them to the trash but this one was from Marti (check out her blog, Blank Palate, its super dope!), one of the coordinators of the Basque Stage, so I knew that the e-mail must have been pretty important. So I sat up and prepared myself to read what could be one of the most important e-mails in my life.

“I just wanted to let you know that the judges have selected you as the winner of the II Rising Stars scholarship!!!!! Which means, should you accept, you will be headed to San Sebastián on April 1 through June 30 to stage at Xarma.”

My heart dropped in disbelief. Still to this moment I have a hard time believing that I am the next Basque Stage Rising Star. The feeling is unreal. This must be what it feels like to be on the top of the world.

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 1.11.34 AM

Hey! That’s me!!!!

I am so excited to get to work under Chef Xabier Díez and Chef Aizpea Oihaneder at their little gem, Xarma, in San Sebastian. I know that I will have a lot to learn from these two chefs who have worked inunder some of the best chefs that include Martín Berasategui, Michel Bras, and of course, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, where they both met. It is of highest honors to be chosen to work and learn under your team! I hope you guys are ready for me! =]

I have to thank my work family at The Harvest Vine. Working there the past 3 years have been so great and has filled me with so much love for all things Basque. I can’t wait to come back to show all you guys all that I have learned in the Basque Country!

A very special thank you to my girlfriend, Staci. I know it’s been really hard to watch me reach for something that involves me to be away from our beautiful family, but it means the world to me that you support everything that I do regardless of how selfish things may seem. It’s been a very stressful week figuring out what’s going to happen, but I can’t thank you enough for taking this crazy ride with me. You and Tegan mean the world to me and everything I do, I do for you two. I love you both so much.

Well it’s been a very overwhelming week and the next coming weeks are going to get crazier and crazier, but in the end,  it will all be worth it the moment I lay my first step in San Sebastian. Again, I would like to thank everybody at Sammic, the Basque Stage, and Xarma for this opportunity. I can’t wait to fully embrace the life in the Basque Region and be able to share my experience with the world!


P.S. Please check out the current Stage’s, Susy Santos and Clifton Su, blogs. They are both very exciting reads and just get me even more excited for my turn in the Basque Region!

Basque Stage Candidate Video!

Well this seems a little familiar…..

Here is my (second and hopefully last ;] ) Basque Stage Candidate Video!

I am no means, a film maker or video editor or screen writer or actor, so please bare with me people. I know the tacky transitions between clips is pretty unbearable, but hey…. I tried my best to make it a little bit more enjoyable for you guys! I always find it pretty hard to talk about myself, letalone, record myself, so this is me trying my hardest to get my point out. Point being…… I have never wanted or worked so hard for something in my life. Getting to stage in Spain under some of the greatest chefs would be a dream come true for me. Spanish food is something real dear to me and it has become a huge part of who I am as a chef. I have so much more to learn and all I want in the end is to open peoples’ eyes (and mouths!) to the greatness of Basque Cuisine!

So here it is…..


Thanks for your time and wish me luck!


P.S. If my video were a drinking game, ya’ll would get super drunk off of how many times I say “Basque” and “Spain”

P.P.S. Peep the ‘NorthWest‘ Shirt I’m wearing at 0:18 secs. I love my city! Have to show the 206 some love.

P.P.P.S. Special Shoutouts to Irbille Donia for being a great camera man! And Minus the Bear (more 206 love) for making such a dope song that I needed to use it in my video.

I Feed Off Of Excitement!

It’s been a week since my last post, and a lot has gone on so I haven’t been able get on here. Sadly, I didn’t get a position as a finalist for the Basque Stage to travel to the Basque Country and Stage at Restaurante Martin Berasateugi. It was a great opportunity for myself and I have not felt this accomplished about anything so much and I only made it to the top 30 candidates. Just being part of the Basque Stage has made me feel like a winner. I have learned so much about myself and it has only pushed me to work harder.

But anyways, this is a blog post about something that makes me strive in life and in the kitchen; my excitement for others. I work in an industry where I meet A LOT of people and that is still such an understatement. From other chefs, to our purveyors, to the guests that dine in our restaurants, we interact with so many people. I am lucky enough to have surrounded myself with some great people that have taught me so much about this crazy career. And one thing I have learned about myself is that my excitement for what my other colleagues are doing really influences the way I work in the kitchen. These are the people who are out there really doing what makes them happy. For them, it’s not just a job, it’s their lives and everything they love about it. Their passion and excitement is contagious.

Luuk Hoffman, Taylor Cheney, and Irbille Donia are only some  of the folks that I find myself really excited for, but are some of the chefs that best exemplify the passion for doing what they want to do.

As I mentioned before, it is a  little disappointing not to see my name as one of the finalist for the Basque stage,  but I really feel that two candidates that they chose were really deserving of the great opportunity, specially Luuk Hoffman. I find it an amazing thing when I am influenced so much by the people I am trying to work against. I felt such an excitement for this other candidate that the outcome didn’t really matter for me. We all deserve this opportunity. And thats what I love about the Basque Stage and what you guys are doing. Luuk has really impressed me from the first time I came upon his facebook and blog.I had been rooting for him since day one and I’m so glad to see he came out on top and am really anxious for all of the great things that he will get out of living in the Basque Country!

Luuk’s Basque Stage Candidate Video!


Taylor Cheney is a sweet, sweet girl that I have had great opportunity to work with at The Harvest Vine. She is currently working at Mistral Kitchen under Seattle Chef, William Belickis, and another Harvest Vine Alumni, Taylor Thornhill. I’ve been seeing so much about her and her Arabesque Meals that she is doing every Monday at Mistral and I just really love how it has came about. From such a simple task of cooking family meal for the staff, Taylor was able to transform it to an actual feast of Arab-inspired dishes that eventually lead into something much more. It is an inspiring thing to see her passion for such a cuisine and to be able to share all that she has learned in such a great way!  Check out her article from Seattle Met!

Taylor’s Spread For Seattle Met!

Irbille Donia is a chef/friend that I have known for quite a while. He’s always been like a big brother to me and I just love the passion and drive this guy has. Alike Taylor, he has a great passion and understanding for a cuisine, his being Filipino food. He is the creator of Irbille Edibles, which has been doing great things such as catering gigs and taking part of Pop-Up Restaurant Trend and doing Filipino Pop Up Dinners every last Monday of the Month at Olivar. I’ve been honored to fill the place of his sous chef for these dinners and I’ve never felt so exhilarated. He has such an eye for making something as simple as Filipino food and elevating it to a very sophisticated level. I find this very exciting as Filipino food is probably one of the hardest cuisines to market because honestly, the best place for Filipino food is in any home of a Filipino Mother. We have done two Pop-Up Dinners and we have gotten a lot of great response from the Filipino Culture in Seattle, which is a great accomplishment!

Irbille and I working our first Filipino-Inspired Pop Up Dinner!

I find it really exciting when people are able to take something they love and really put all their heart and soul into it and be able to share it with the world. These are the type of chefs that we need in this industry. I find it very important that we surround ourselves with these people because they are the leaders that will keep us motivated and inspired to do what we want to do as chefs. I can’t be thankful enough to have these great people in my life to help push me to the limits!

April 2012: The Longest, Quickest, Most Stressful, and Most Exciting Month EVERRRR.

It seems as if this past month has been one of the weirdest months in my life. All at the same time this month is what I mentioned it was on the topic. The Longest, Quickest, Most Stressful, and Most Exciting Month EVERRRR. With Seattle Weekly’s Voracious Tasting, 100+ Reservations for Brunch at the Harvest Vine, and the busy two weeks of Seattle Time’s Restaurant Week, it has been an eventful month. But ever since I found out I was a one of the to 30 finalist for the Basque Stage, I knew that it was going to be a very ‘different’ month. But I knew, what ever the outcome, I will take away so much from this opportunity because I already have such a feeling of accomplishment that I now know what I am truly capable of.

All I know that is I have grown these past weeks. From my attitude at work to my everyday life, I feel as if taking part of this Basque Stage has really made me want to better myself at everything I do more-so then before. I was already a hard worker, but I have found a new sense of confidence because of how far I have come. From all of the tasks I have had to do for the application process for the Basque Stage, I have learned so much about myself. I knew that I am a very determined and passionate at everything I do, but I tend to forget that there is no limit to these things. We will all face opportunities when we strive at a limit that we have never seen before and I feel like I am on Cloud 9. I felt like I have put my heart and soul into my Basque Stage Candidate Video, Food Blog Candidate Post, and my Essay (which I will post maybe… unless you all would want to read it.) And not just these things, but also into this blog. I think this blog is the biggest surprise  of this past month. I have now found such an interest in writing in this thing and am so glad I started it. I have a lot to share and hope that people out there are appreciative of the things I write about because I’m writing for you guys. I plan on continue writing no matter the outcome of the Basque Stage because it’ll be a nice reference for my future self to see how far I have came.

I’d like to thank all of you guys who have invested your time on myself and what is currently happening in my life. It’s such an exciting time for me and all of the support is so amazing.

So where do I stand now? I stand in this state of Nostalgia. I find myself recollecting on my Basque Stage Application and thinking that I could have done more. I should have done more. This is a weird feeling because I feel like I’ve already done the best I could do and just hope that its enough. But thats the way I am. Its the way I work. Enough is never good enough, I strive for the best. All I can do now is just is patiently wait the next week and just wish for the best….

In The Spotlight: My Bookmarks.

In The Spotlight: Bookmarks

So with all the time that we spend on the internet, I’m sure there are many of you guys have ‘bookmarks’ or shortcuts to the sites that you might visit pretty frequently to see if there are any updates or new news too read up on. This post is about the sites that I frequently read whenever I find myself at the computer. These are the sites/blogs that I go too whenever I need some inspiration or just need to read something interesting and new.

My bookmark bar!

1. Blank Palate/TravelCookEat

My Favorite Blog about all the happenings in Spain.

This is probably the one blog I visit the most. The author has created such a great way for readers to feel like they can experience Spanish cuisine from wherever they are reading it from. For the past year and the half, I have been making sure to come by every single Tuesday of every single week to read their weekly post called ‘365 Tuesday’, which was formely known as ‘Pintxo Astearteak’, or, ‘Tapas Tuesdays’.

Tapas Tuesdays were probably the single best thing about my Tuesdays. Even though the only thing the blog post consisted of was a picture and the description of the dish, it was was something I always looked forward to every week. The thing I really enjoy about these posts were how sophisticated it would be for how simple the post really was. Each dish for each Tuesday was specifically chosen for a reason. And that reason is because it was that damn good and seeing each dish makes me so envious that there is no where close to where I am to experience it. After working at Txori (RIP), I have found a love for pintxos so this blog was a great influence on me and the ideas I have while working in the kitchen. Here’s a link to her Top 5 Pintxos of 2011.

When the new year started, she has changed Tapas Tuesdays to 365 Tuesdays which doesn’t just focus on tapas anymore, but broadens it’s focus on what is currently happen all around San Sabastian. It’s a great change and I definitely enjoy it just as much as Tapas Tuesdays!

2. Burnt Lumpia & Jun-Blog

Burnt Lumpia and Jun-blog

These are two great blogs for those new and also very familiar with Filipino cuisine. I’ve grown up eating Filipino food but I feel like I still learn so much about this cuisine I thought I already knew.

Burnt Lumpia is a great blog where the author really shows his personality through his posts. He gives a great perspective about what Filipino food is to him and I find it easy to relate to who he is and what he is trying to portray. He is currently in the works for making a new Filipino Cookbook so it’s been a great time following his blog and seeing the progress he is making.

Jun-blog is a great reference for those who are new to Filipino food. I really like the fact that they have a ‘Glossary to Filipino Cuisine’ that outlines some of the most basic and foundations to Filipino food. The blog is nominated for one of Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards in the Best Regional Cuisine Blog. It’s an amazing thing to be nominated for such an award and it makes me proud that a blog can represent my culture and its food in such a great way.

3. Absolutepunk.net & FreshNewTracks

Fresh New Tracks and Absolutepunk

They say music makes the world go round and I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I need to find some new tracks to put on my phone I look to Fresh New Tracks to find any new music that had just came out. They have a good variety of music to listen to and also gives you a download link to put on your computer. Absolutepunk is a website that I have been following ever since I was in middle school and it feeds my inner-teenage angts with the latest news on not just punk-oriented music, but music of a wide variety. This is my main source of upcoming shows, rumors going on with the music industry, and when new albums are about to drop.

4. Comingsoon.net & IGN.com

Comingsoon and IGN

If there is one thing that Staci and I like to do more its watch movies in the theaters. Comingsoon is my go-to website whenever I want to know about upcoming movies and any movie news about movies that we are excited about. I also am a huge video game nerd so IGN fills my needs when it comes to video game news.


These are the blogs and websites that I check and I got to say that they really have an influence on my everyday life. As much as I try not to sit in front of the computer screen, at least I know that there are places I can go to occupy my time and find out something new that I can share with people.

Honorable Mention:


Basque Stage Candidate Luuk Hoffman

Gotta give my new found friend from the Netherlands, Luuk Hoffman. This is his blog and I got to say that even though he is competition of mine, that he has some pretty amazing stuff. He is only 21 and he has a sophisticated touch when it comes to cooking. I have found so much inspiration from this guy and am pretty excited for all of the things he does and will do. He is someone that everybody should keep an eye out because he’s going to be doing big things!

Thank you guys again and until next time!


Basque Stage Candidate Video!

So here is my Candidate Video for the Basque Stage! As nerve racking as it was recording myself talking about, well, myself, I had a really good time and had help from some of the best people. So without further adieu……

So there it is! I hope all of you can get a good sense of who I am and enjoyed hearing about myself. It is a such a pleasure to take part of this great opportunity and I am finding out so much about myself while finishing up this application process. I’m so excited to finish up the last couple parts of the process for you guys to see as well as the next blog posts that I have planned on writing. It’s going to be super dope!

Thanks again everyone!



So I was watching my video and would like to make some commentary about it! Haha

1. I’m pretty sure I clapped 9+ times throughout the video. I guess I clap when I’m nervous. Haha.

2. I meant to say ‘Basque Country’ not the ‘Basque Region’. The nerves got to me and I was already on a good roll!

3. Wearing a tie is not mandatory at my job. I just started wearing them because all the guys who cook wear really neat hats but my head is way too big for a hat. So I chose to accessorize with some ties. My favorite tie has got to be the bacon tie (my Lady Gaga meat tie). Thanks Juan Carlos!

My tie collection at work!

4. I’m sorry to all of the other great people I work with that I didn’t get to put in the video. I didn’t realize how fast 2 minutes go by. But I really appreciate you all and you guys will be the reason I make it to Spain!

Justin Legaspi, here. And welcome to my blog.

I’ve never really seen myself as one to write or make a blog. The thought that I am writing about my life or something about myself for all of you to read is kind of a crazy thing. I guess I’ve never really invested my time in reading blogs and it wasn’t until recently that I started really following other peoples’ blogs and I now have a better understanding of why so many people use blogs.

I see this blog as a chance for all of you to really get to know the me. There are a lot of you out there that know the person I am, which is a pretty simple guy. But there is a lot to me that not everyone gets to see. This blog will give me the opportunity to show everyone what makes me, me.

People work in different ways and it shapes them into the people that they are. From the music I listen too, the food that fills my stomach, to the people I interact with everyday. I am the person I am today because of the wonderful things I surround myself with. Welcome to my world and it’ll be a pleasure having your full undivided attention.

I am Justin Legaspi.

And this is how I work….