Siesssta!!!!!!!!!!!!

No I did not mean to write ‘Fiesta’. But I guess you can basically call it that! This post is about a certain time of the day, where all of Spain shuts down and goes on a 3-4 hour break. Well, maybe not all of Spain, but it definitely feels like it! And that is what we like to call a ‘siesta’!

Here in Spain, most restaurants are open for lunch and dinner. Sounds pretty self explanatory right? Wrong. I was pretty stoked to find out that I had such a long break to explore San Sebastian and get to eat at various places around town. But when I am on break, it also means everyone else is on break! So for any future visitors of San Sebastian, make sure you plan accordingly when you want to eat out at all the great places around here. I must add that a lot of the restaurants are closed Sunday night, all day Monday, and often Tuesday.

But back to my Siesta! As I’ve been staging at Xarma Jatetxea, I’ve been lucky enough to work relatively close to the city of San Sebastian. It is a very scenic 2-3 miles to and from work, which is a good 30-40 minute walk depending on how lazy and slow I am feeling.

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My favorite part of the walk to Donostia is the moment when I start to see the amazing site known as, La Concha. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked up and down this beach, but I just can’t help to take a picture every time because it seems as if it’s a different experience every time I walk by it. To me, I still feel as if this place is unreal. Places like this only exist in dream lands. And to be able to see this indescribable place almost every day for the past 3 month has me feeling like I have been blessed, personally, by God himself. This has always been more than just a walk to point A to point B for me; it’s a walk of the utmost amount of gratitude and gratefulness for being lucky enough to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. And I’m getting the most out of it as I can during my last weeks here.

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I have been able to see some of the craziest, coolest, weirdest, and most interesting things on my siestas, here in San Sebastian. And it is my pleasure to share with you all of these amazing things that have kept my soul entertained and happy during my time between shifts!

Koh Tao and Atari

These are my go-to places in San Sebastian whenever I am in need of a coffee and/or drink. Koh Tao is very much a café that looks as if it could be planted in the heart of Capitol Hill in Seattle. This seems to be where all the ‘hip’ kids (and even older folks!) like to go because of the great amazing atmosphere the place has. With having very inexpensive drinks and some of the better coffee in town, I find that this place makes me the most ‘at home’ away from my home in Seattle. Also, it is the only place that I’ve found that serves the amazingness known as Café Bonbon!

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Atari is another great place I like to go. Atari is a great pintxo bar that has an amazing staff and great food, but of course they don’t serve any food during whenever I come in! They are located in the old part of San Sebastian right across from one of my favorite cathedrals in the city. On gorgeous days, I like to enjoy a glass (or a couple) of txakoli on the steps of one of my favorite and also one of the oldest cathedrals in San Sebastian.

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The Sandman and His Lil’ Sandies

Okay, throughout this post I may make up names for a lot of these people because this is the type of stuff that goes through my mind whenever I see them during my walks. These are probably some of the moments I’ve enjoy the most during my walk by the beach. There is this man who makes some of the most amazing murals in the sand at the beach of La Concha. There are usually two different parts of the beach in which he uses as his canvases and it seems as if each the amazing piece of sand art always changes daily. One of my favorite aspects of these sand murals is that this man usually has an army of little kids who like to help me create and construct these wonderful pieces.

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The Beatlettes

So this is probably the place that majority of my loose change has gone. This Mother-and-daughter super group has taken street entertainment to another level with their perfectly crafted and mastered art of puppeteering . Going off the record now and say that I am usually terrified at anything that has to do with puppets, but I found this just simply amazing. With perfect replicas of the Beatles, they have somehow managed to recreate what I feel like would be a true, live, Beatles experience. But with puppets! I can’t imagine the amount of practice it took for them to get timing down with controlling very specific pieces of each puppet from the head movements to strumming of the guitars to the crashing of a cymbal. They are musicians and artists in their own right because there’s much more going on than the twiddling of strings. Also, they always have a huge group of little children that like to sit down and watch as they do their music. There was this one time where all these little munchkins were dancing in a moshpit. Long Live Rock n Roll!

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The Llama and His One Man Band

An amazing street act of this guy who is fitted head to toe with everything he needs to make up a whole band. Pretty surprised at the songs he was playing as they were all recognizable tunes. And plus he had a Llama as a Hype man. Super dope.

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The Bubble Guy

Always see this guy on the nicest days out. Seems as if he is one with the weather because he is always out when the wind is perfect. He makes some of the craziest bubbles using two sticks with a string tied onto them and a bucket of soapy water. Watching him help very excited kids make some of the biggest bubbles I’ve ever seen definitely makes me have a smile from ear to ear!

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The Saw

I had to double-take when I first saw this man. At first I thought he was playing a violin or some type of string instrument because I heard some of the finest classical music coming from his direction. But when I took a good look, he was actually playing music from a saw! Pretty ridiculous but quite an amazing talent.

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I really don’t get what this guy does or what to call him. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen him do anything other than look really creepy. Also, I have NO clue if his little friend is a real person or is just a freaky little mannequin. I’m still waiting for the day for it to move and scare the living bejeezus out of me.

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The Bongo Brothers

These guys are always bringing the jams to La Concha. Regardless if it’s an amazingly sunny day out or the gloomiest of days, they are always out and about banging on those drums filling the ears and souls of who ever walks by with some great grooves.

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I’ve got to admit, regardless of the large amount of time I had between work shifts and how exhausting it would get for me trying to find ways to occupy my time, San Sebastian always had a way to fill that void. I’ve been very grateful to see so much of the life around here in San Sebastian and it’s something that I’ve grown to love so much. This is definitely a site I’m going to miss seeing everyday once I return back home to Seattle…..

Pintxo Roundup: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

Where: Bar Borda Berri, Donostia-San Sebastian

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Pintxo: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

My First Week Pt. 2!

This is a continuation from my ‘My First Week Pt. 1’ blog post right here!

Thursday, I finally got to meet Marti! She is the person that I have been communicating back and forth with ever since I started applying for the Basque Stage. I was really excited to meet her because I have been an avid follower of her blog bout the Basque Country, Blank Palate, and she is just filled with so much information about what’s going on around here. She is definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve got to meet! We met again at Xarma to meet up with one of the chef/owner, Aizpea, to talk about my time staging there. I find out I started work the day after! So soon but I was really anxious to get started and learning.

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I ended up going grocery shopping for the first time the same night and got all the fixings for friend rice and a bottle of red wine. I thought it would be appropriate to treat myself with something familiar before my first day of work.

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Friday and Saturday were my first two days at Xarma. That is all I have to share for now because this deserves a blogpost of its own, fo’ realsies!

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Sunday, Susy and I planned to visit Getaria for Dia Del Txakoli!!! Getaria is a gorgeous town that is a 45 minute bus ride from Donostia. Dia del Txakoli, which translates to Day Of Txakoli, is the day where about 2 dozen wineries in the Designation of Origin Getariako Txakolina take part of a festival to share their latest crops of txakoli. Susy and I had found out about this festival through Viridian Farms. Viridian Farms is a farm based out of Portland that produces a lot of European products, especially from the Basque Country! We get a lot of product in from this farm at the Harvest Vine, so it was a great connection to have when I found out I was coming out here! They have been so great to us as they have given us a lot of great recommendations of what to do and where to go during our stay here in San Sebastian.

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Unfortunately, it seems that Susy and I didn’t really do our research and had gone to the wrong town. We had bussed all the way to Getaria to see no festival in sight. You could only imagine the confused looks on our faces. We later found out that the festival was actually in town of Aia, which isn’t that far from Getaria. But to 2 American kids that didn’t have internet access or have sense of direction, we kind of just gave up on making it to the festival.

But regardless, Susy and I know how to make for a good time! Since Susy has already been to Getaria, she showed me around town. She took me to Anchoas Maisor. This is where fresh anchovies die and go to heaven. Literally. It is here where fresh day-caught anchovies forego a process of being cleaned then packed in a barrel of salt for about 6 months. Then they are taken out of the salt, desalted, then meticulously filleted by the expert hands of the ladies of Anchoas Maisor and then carefully packaged with oil to help preserve them. It is an amazing thing to see how much care and love that these people here have these delectable anchovies. And to think that not at one point in time, that these anchovies are ever mishandled or mistreated since all of this work is done by hand. Bravo to all of you over at Anchoas Maisor.

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We then catch a bus and head to Zumaia, which is a town just 6 km east of Getaria. There was no reason to go to Zumaia other than the fact that its just incredibly gorgeous. It is a very scenic area that has some of the unbelievable views of the Bay of Biscay. We walked around a whole lot and ran into a little fair that was going on. Stopped by a churro stand and got a nice bag of deep fried yumminess. We make our way up to Itzurun, a beach on the most eastern part of the town that has a nice view of the bay that run into some caves off of the beach. We also get to this crazy pier that stretches right into the water and gives an amazing view of Zumaia. And at some point we try to hike around some cliffs to try to get a better view of the water. But all that got us is a couple pairs of really muddy shoes!

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On Monday, Susy and I met up with Marti, Nacho, and Andoni in San Sebastian for a good ol’ Pintxo crawl for my Welcoming to the Basque Country! We start off at Bidea Berri, one, if not, the only pintxo bar that serves grilled fresh piquillos. My god, were these good. Simply charred and then peeled and doused in a good amount of olive oil. Simplicity at its finest.

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The next pintxo bar we go to is Bodega Donostiarra (well, I think. I did not get a picture or remember the bar name!). Here we got a variety of pintxos from Pulpo a la vinagreta, chorizo, Jamon Tortilla, and a potato pintxo that we called montaña de la mayonesa, which translates to mountain of mayonnaise. It was basically that with a slice of jamon and an anchoa olive on top. It may have been a little over the top, but definitely was tasty with some crusty bread to sop up all that alioli up with.

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We thean head towards the old part of San Sebastian and go to Astalena. This was a nice little bar that had some great raciones and pintxos that I haven’t seen on other menus around town. I ordered Solomillo a lo pobre, which is beef tenderloin with fries, sautéed onions, and a fried quail egg. No complaints about this dish. It is a dish that I really could see being on a menu in America. There was a ketchup-like sauce made from piquillos that was good, but every time I ate it, I was always tricking myself into thinking I was eating ketchup. It only made me want ketchup more because it would of really complimented the dish better then the piquillo-ketchup. Marti ordered the Risotto de queso de cabra y tomate, Goat cheese and tomato Risotto. This dish was pretty good and really interesting. It was actually made with a wild rice rather than the normal Arborio or even Bomba rice. The sauce was really creamy and cheesey. Kind of too rich for my liking, but the flavor was right on. Susy had ordered the ravioli e foie y Margret, foie gras ravioli. Rich on Rich on Rich. This dish needed texture and some kind of flavor contrast. The ravioli was huge and was creamy and then it was drenched in another creamy porcini/mushroom cream that just added to the already large amount of richness. If this pintxo was 2 times as small, I can see it making a lot more sense, but this dish just seemed a little too crazy for me! Nacho ordered taco de bonito, seared tuna. The tuna was perfectly seared and still rare in the center. The meat was buttery and super flavorful. As it should be! =]

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Our last spot was Atari. I’ve actually been to this spot a lot on my breaks between services at Xarma. I usually come during the downtime so I just get a couple glasses of txakoli and a café con leche then back to work. Here we wind down and the girls both order dessert, but I order savory because I was still in search for the best croquettes in town. I order just a small portion of croquettes de bacalao. They were tiny in comparison to other croquettes I have gotten, but I’ve got to say that they were extremely creamy and did not have that dense texture that I have seen in majority of the croquettes I have experienced. They were exceptionally delicate and the flavor was delicious! Nacho ordered the foie gras terrine. Its accoutrements were rather interesting as it came with a banana puree, apple, and a red wine reduction. The terrine in itself was perfect. Probably the best foie terrine I’ve had recently. It paired well with the apple and the wine reduction, but the banana puree kind of just throws everything off. Nevertheless, it was a really great dish and I have no room to complain. You get two huge slices of Foie!

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This was an amazing night to really welcome me into this great city. I couldn’t have asked for better company and even better food. I am so grateful and appreciative for this opportunity that these guys at the Basque Stage and Sammic have presented me with. Just like the open arms that these amazing folks welcomed me with, my arms are stretched wider than the biggest seas to welcome whatever adventures and obstacles the next 3 months bring to me here in the Basque Country!

There Is A Heaven. Believe Me, I’ve Seen It.

So after 3 connecting flights from Seattle through Chicago, Boston, and Madrid, I finally made it into San Sebastian. Surprising, my flying experience wasn’t as brutal as I thought it was going to be. Thank goodness!

I arrived at San Sebastian Airport and was instantly spotted by Andoni, one of the people who help out with the Basque Stage. I grab my luggage and then we were off to see San Sebastian for my first day as a Basque Stage Rising Star!

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There is a heaven. Believe me I’ve seen it.

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This place is unbelievable. That is basically the best way I can describe San Sebastian. Yeah, it’s been only about a week, but i’m still in disbelieve that I’m actually here. This is the one place I have been wanting to visit ever since I started working at the Vine. And now that i’m actually here, it’s like i’m getting to see this amazing country in High Definition. It’s all so real.

So upon my arrive in the Basque Country, I was ready to just see everything. Without any plan Andoni and I left the airport and made our way to where everything is happening.

I had a real great time with Andoni as he showed me around town. The first place he took me was to one of his favorite pintxo bars called, Borda Berri. He recently just had surgery so he had the pleasure of watching me scarf down couple plates of pintxos and a nice glass of txakoli. I was pretty excited that I was able to understand most of the menu. I surprisingly wasn’t too hungry from being jacked up after a 14 hour flight. So I only started with two pintxos. Andoni recommended the Kebab de Costilla de Cerdo, but they were sold out of the already unfortunately. But that’s alright. It gives me another reason to return and try it later! So I ordered the Pulpo a la plantxa con membrillo (Octopus seared on the plancha with quince paste) and Arroz Bomba con Txipiron-Maiden (Bomba Rice with Calamari). After I put in my order, I order a glass of txakoli while I wait. Andoni fills me in about San Sebastian and I express to him how excited I am to finally be out there. The food then comes and I start indulging into my first bites in Spain.

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Both dishes were really great. Seasoning was pretty spot on. The seafood was cooked perfectly. And a lot of surprises in each and every bite. I have never really seen pulpo paired with quince paste but it was delicious. The flavors were perfectly balanced between the creamy potatoes, pimenton oil, alioli, and ever so tender octopus. And each bite that had membrillo was just so new and refreshing that I really think that it is a matched in heaven. It is definitely the best octopus dish I’ve had so far in San Sebastian. The calamari dish was really delicious as well. After the first couple bites, I really felt like that the dish really could have benefited from a nice squeeze of alioli, but then I reached to the bottom of the bowl and there laid a pool of it! I was so happy because it really turned a good dish into a really amazing one.

We then headed out and walked down more streets of the old part of San Sebastian. We stopped in another pintxo bar for one more bite. This time a pintxo with a hake and monkfish mouse with alioli on top of toasted bread. This was extremely delicious as it had a very mild fishy flavor and had a super light and creamy texture. It was like eating a fish rillette cloud.

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Andoni then proceeded to show me the more of San Sebastian and took me to the docks that overlook all of La Concha. Luckily, it was a gorgeous day. Apparently, it had rain the majority of the past 3 months so it was nice to get to see everyone out and about. The view was gorgeous and it left me speechless.

Later we met up with my new roomie, Susy Santos, who is the Basque Stage Top Chef winner, as well has the previous Basque Stage Rising Star winner, Clifton Su. They have been here in the Basque Country for the last 3 months and I have been able to read their amazing experiences on their blogs. Sadly, Clifton flew back to his home in Cali the next day, but I was really glad to meet the guy behind the keyboard.

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We then headed back to Lasarte-Oria, my new home. We all hung around for a couple hours and then we went out to Lasarte, a bar that is close to our apartment. We all ordered a Calamares con Alioli. This was basically a deep fried calamari sandwhich that is slathered with the famous garlicky alioli. It was huge and so good. Lasarte is definitely a cool place and will be my go to bar whenever I need a quick trip out of my home. We all head home and then it was lights out since Clifton had to head to Bilbao at 4 to catch his flight at 6:30.

This was how my first day went in San Sebastian. It could’t have been more perfect as it was filled with good company, beautiful weather, and some great food and wine. I am ready for the Basque Country and all the adventures that it’ll bring. Til next time…..

-Justin

My Last Days….

I forgot how fast a whole week can fly by. It felt like yesterday that I worked my last shift at the Harvest Vine but it was actually a whole week ago.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day of service before hanging up my apron and tie for the last time until July. it was a gorgeous day out, it happened to be one of the busiest days of brunch we’ve worked in a while, and best of all, I got to see so many familiar faces to say goodbye and farewell before I left.

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The next day, Monday, marked my last dinner service i’d work in Seattle. it was the last Monday of the month so that means it was time for another Irbille Edibles Pop-Up at Olivar! (Check out my post on Irbille Edibles and the Evolution of Filipino Food Here)

This was a pretty exciting night as it was the 1 year anniversary of Irbille Edibles Pop-Ups and we were fully booked. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the kitchen with Irbille since day 1 and I can’t thank him enough for letting me sit shotgun in this incredible ride we’ve been on as his sous chef. He is the Shawn Kemp to my Gary Payton. The Timbaland to my Justin Timberlake (this is probably the most accurate analogy I’ve made in my life). We just work really well together. I’m so excited for him and the IE crew to tear it up in the kitchen the next 3 months and especially excited for his new venture in Kraken Congee. You are doing some big things my Friend and I’m proud of all that you’ve accomplished.

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On Wednesday, my chef, Joey Serquinia, had told me to come in to eat at the Harvest Vine. It was National Paella Day and he wanted to make sure he sent me off right and cooked a Mega Paella. And with no surprise, the paella was perfect, as is all of his paellas. It was a special night as I got to be around everyone that I have spent the past 3 years of my life with. I had my beautiful family with me, my work family (there’s no such thing as ‘co-workers’ at the Vine), some of my favorite regulars, and some new and old friends that i have made while cooking at the Vine. The amount of love and support that I was surrounded was something can’t even describe. I am so grateful for everything that everyone has done for me. Especially Joey, Carolin Messier, and Jeffrey Watanabe. I couldn’t ask for better managers. Thank you for guiding me and taking care of me and my family. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough!

Photo Taken from Brandon Patoc!

Throughout the week, I also made sure to eat at some of m favorite places since I know i wont be able to enjoy them in Spain. So i was fat kid for the past week!

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Fast forward to Saturday. My last official day in the great North West. I had spent the whole day with he people most important to me, my family. All gazillion of them! it was the day before Easter and we were celebrating the 3rd birthday of my daughter, Tegan! It was another beautiful day that was filled with Easter egg hunting. filling up plates upon plates with food, passing around all the babies to different family members. This is all i wanted before leaving.

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It was a very bittersweet moment for me as everyone congratulated me and expressed their excitement for me, but at the same time, it means that I was leaving one the biggest part of me behind, my family. This is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, but I know in the end that the outcome of this will be greater than anything I Can imagine and everything I do is for them.

As of right now, I’m sitting in the apartment that I will be occupying for the next 3 months with the current Basque Stage and my new roomie, Susy Santos, and the most recent Basque Stage Rising Star, Clifton Su, as he packs and leaves tomorrow at 4 in the morning. Good luck on that 17 hour flight home dude! It’s the end of my first day in San Sebastian and am looking forward to sharing all of my experiences in my next blogs!

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

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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

-Justin