la otra selección – the chefs
Another two very important and beloved members of Team España are the two chefs, Javier Arbizu (right) and Patxi Belandia (left). We’ve met Arbizu before, and we’ve seen him hang out with the two lions, but let’s get to know him even more!
Javier Arbizu is from Ciordia, Navarra, has been married “for so many years that I don’t remember how long,” and has three children. He was a “bad student,” so he turned to cooking. He went to San Sebastián in 1964 to learn the trade, and he worked for 10 years at the legendary restaurant of Juanito Kojua, as well as with Ignacio Gárate at the Hotel María Cristina. In 1974, he took charge of restaurant El Salduba. In 1991, he began collaborating with the RFEF when Vicente Miera was coach. In 1994, he left El Salduba and went to work exclusively for the RFEF for health and family reasons. At one point, Javier also worked for Real Sociedad, where he presumably met Juan Luis Larrea, who would later on ask him to collaborate with the federation.
This World Cup was Javier’s fifth, to go along with four Eurocopas and three Olympic Games. He also cooks for the other teams of the RFEF.
Paxti Belandia is Javier’s assistant, and collaborates from time to time with the RFEF. He’s from the old part of San Sebastián, and started off in the txokos, learning a lot from Fernando Tierno.
In South Africa, their typical day started at nine in the morning. The two would have breakfast together and plan the day. They work from 09h to 14:30h, and then from 18h to 21:30h. There were a total of 12 people working in the kitchen, including two translators, one working in the kitchen and the other as the link between the kitchen and dining room.
In Potchefstroom, the players ate a lot of pasta, chicken, vegetables, salads and ostrich meat, most of it purchased locally. And of course, olive oil was used in a lot of the preparations. On most days, the players ate healthily, but on their off days, they were allowed to eat fried eggs and hamburgers (it was Iker during the 2008 Eurocopa who convinced the doctors to give them a break on off days). By the way, it’s the doctors, concretely Óscar Celada, who prepare the menus and decide what the players are and aren’t allowed to eat.
The players love the two chefs, because no matter where they go, they can always look forward to their cooking and eating familiar things.
According to the chefs, Pepe likes his meat really raw (“grilled at the most for two seconds”) and Busquets, extremely well done (“until it has the texture of a shoe sole”). And Santi Cañizares used to drink a liter and a half of cucumber and carrot juice each day, which meant three kilos of cucumbers and three kilos of carrots for the chefs to blend.
And a funny anecdote from Arbizu: “in my first game with the team [back in 1991], I was taking coffee and tea to the locker room. There was a man sitting at a table with some cards on top of it. He left, and I saw that a card with the name ‘Javier Arbizu’ on it was the last one. I took it and put it in front. When the game began, I saw that they wrote, ‘coach – Javier Arbizu’ and ‘chef – Vicente Miera.'”
Watch Javier talk about his job: