It’s written that Inigo doesn’t have restaurants rather he has houses where he welcomes friends.  And true to this statement this is how he welcomed us to his newest ‘house’ Oben on 15th Floor of the Melia City Hotel Frankfurt to interview him!  He greats us with a warm brilliant smile, a generous handshake and a twinkle in his eyes!  With an openness that immediately puts everyone at ease, we sat down to ‘chat’!

This man has definitely done this before.  And to say that he has done this before is perhaps the understatement of the year.  Not only has Urrechu been in the restaurant business for almost as long as he could walk but he has 8 restaurants under his belt.  7 in Spain, and now one in Germany.  As a celebrity chef and media personality he is a much loved household name in much of Spain.

Without a doubt what is clear from the moment you meet Inigo is that he is passionate about family, and his family extends to those who work and eat in his restaurants.

So, who is the man behind the Urrechu name?

Originally from Villarreal de Urrechu, Iñigo Pérez began his culinary journey at a very young age.  The youngest of three boys he was often thought to be a nuisance by his older brothers when they played outside on the street with their friends.  And so as a result, spent much time at home alongside his parents learning the tricks of the cooking trade.  Undoubtedly he was a ‘seedling’ being showered with gastronomical passion and know how, left slowly to bloom into a entrepreneur, restauranteur and international chef!

A nickname is often synonymous with endearment, so how did Iñigo Perreira become Urrechu?

Well, at the age of 17 and with the blessing of his mother, Iñigo Perez set off to work under Martín Berasategui.  And it was here one day that Berasategui passionately asked the young Iñigo where he was from. Villarreal de Urretxu came the response.  Realising he had no idea where that was, Barasategui smiled, and in that moment ‘Urrechu’ was born. Years later that name hangs on the wall of 7 of his 8 restaurants.  So what perhaps only began as a whim has gone on to define Iñigo Perez forever.

This is Urrechu’s first venture outside of Spain.  What drew him to Germany and Frankfurt?

Curiously, Iñigo’s love of sport and running brought him to Germany and Frankfurt.  First running the Berlin marathon and then secondly competing in the Frankfurt ironman. Germany he says excitedly has all the things he love’s in his life, a rich history and culture, gastronomy and of course sport!

He elaborates more and says if cities have restaurants that are rich in recipes, wines and cocktails it means the city demands it.  In other words the people demand it, they welcome it.  This is of course something that really appeals to him.

Oben Restaurant and Skybar

Urrechu is known to refer to his restaurants as ‘houses where he receives friends’.  Why?

He elaborates saying that cooking for someone is one of the biggest expressions of love.  It’s more than filling their belly, it’s to make them smile, to connect with them to nourish them.  Moreover people head out to restaurants not only to eat but also to celebrate, to connect with friends, to laugh, to cry.  In essence, people trust you with intimate moments in their lives.   And for this reason it is so much more than just a meal, more than a restaurant it is a ‘home’.

Furthermore, those in the gastronomy industry have gruelling hours and so it is important to Urrechu that all those that work in his businesses feel and are treated like family.

Iñigo Urrechu

Iñigo Urrechu

Javier Barros

Javier Barros

Javier Barros, Urrechu’s right hand man who makes Oben tick

Urrechu and Barros are very good friends having known and worked together for many years.  Undeniably important is having someone you trust to run and support you in business.  And Urrechu has this in Barros.  For Barros having lived and worked all over Europe this was an incredible opportunity to not only come full circle to where he lived as a child but to oversee and run an important house.

Having come to Germany at the tender age of 3 months and spending most of his childhood here, he provides the vital insider knowledge.  Barros was instrumental in the development of the menu. Understanding the culture, the language, the taste, all the ingredients needed to be a successful restaurant in Frankfurt.  The importance of getting the Spanish Kitchen and German Kitchen aligned was not lost on Urrechu.  And Urrechu credits Barros as being ‘the heart of the project’.

The Oben family under the guidance of Barros and Urrechu

Urrechu’s eye beam with pride as he talks about the team who began this project still being the very same team today.  Often, he explains, starting any new venture is difficult and there are often many casualties in the process.  However, he smiles, ‘we are still the same team’ and that is amazing.

The admiration each of the men have for each other is easily seen and therefore easy to understand why Oben restaurant and skybar  has been so welcomed by Frankfurters and travellers alike.

For both men family is everything, and when you spend so many hours working, those you work with become your family!  Their passion is palpable and even more than this is that passion has filtered through to all aspects of the restaurant and staff.

The Inspiration behind your new house’s name, Oben?

It began as a joke or rather a play on words.  A name that was almost a word in both German and English.  Oben in German meaning up.  And Oven (tweak the b) meaning, well, oven in English.

Are Seasonality and Local Produce key to the menu?

Yes of course!  For two reasons, one, flavour and perfume.  And two, price of course.  However, Oben is first and foremost a Spanish restaurant and therefore require many ingredients that may not be readily available in Germany.  For example octopus may not best be served from the Main.  However as mentioned previously the goal is to use the best quality products, support the local economy as much as possible but remain true to Spanish flavours.

Urrechu is an avid runner and sportsman.  Does this influence how and what he cooks?

In a word, YES.  When he runs or exercises it’s his time to decompress to relax and to be inpired.  With an incredibly sensitive sense of smell he takes in his surroundings through fragrance and perfume.  Hints of blackberry, lemongrass or the smell of the spice market as he ran in Dubai are all sources of inspiration that shape the idea of a dish or inspire a new one.  He continues to say that it is not blood that runs through his veins but rather  rosemary, sage and thyme!

Are Michelin Stars on the Menu for the Future?

Two things that are very clear when you meet Iñigo Urrechu.  One, he is incredibly passionate and loves what he does.  But two, he is businessman. As he puts it ‘a man has to be able to live’ and you can’t eat the stars.  Of course receiving a Michelin star (or two or three) is of the highest honour.  However he goes on to say, these are often small restaurants with high price tag meals and often not as profitable as their larger cousins who are just as focused on quality and flavour but more patrons and table turnover.  So, for now he loves the crowds and the laughter, the ambience they create and of course that they give him the financial means to reinvent Urrechu with new ventures.

If you were not a chef what would you be?

Ask this question and it might be one of the few ways to leave Iñigo Urrechu completely speechless.  He tells the story of being asked this by a journalist a few years back and being completely stumped for at least a minute.  And, after pondering for a while he decided that if he weren’t a chef it would still be something within the gastronomy world.  Ultimately the rosemary, thyme and garlic run too strong within his veins!

Without a double Urrechu and Barros have their philosophy instilled in the every fibre of Oben!  Because, we felt truly welcomed!  And we felt we were old friends around a table.  Laughter, joking and total ease was how it began and how it ended!