Miami Herald.com–Juan Mari Arzak, the legendary Spanish chef who helped spark a revolution in his homeland in the 1970s — not so much modernizing, but futurizing Basque cuisine and paving the way for later Spanish visionaries such as Ferran Adriá, that mad scientist of foams, airs and deconstructions — greets you in the lobby of the Metropolitan Hotel on Collins Avenue with a kiss on each cheek. And also a warning.
It’s after noon, but he has just gotten out of bed. “I’m not very hungry yet. There was a lot of traveling yesterday,” says Arzak, who at 72, with his wispy white hair and his gentle demeanor, might seem like any grandfatherly figure on vacation and out of place among the hipsters who are here to blow it out like they’re starring in their own MTV videos. But this grandfather can teach the youngsters a thing or two about living it up.
“Maybe just a little jamón,” he says when you’re seated for coffee. Straightaway, the chef at the hotel’s Traymore restaurant, which specializes in seafood, sends out a glistening plate of the finest Pata Negra, which appears nowhere on the menu. Then Arzak gets a hankering for gambas, instructing the waiter to make sure the kitchen doesn’t overcook them.