In the Field: Food-Related Media and Innovation in Basque Country, Spain

Published on November 9th, 2017

We look at the thesis work of Graduate RA student, Vicky Zeamer.

I am exploring the interplay between ICTs and fine dining in the US & Europe. In particular, I am looking at how ICTs mediate creators (chefs) and consumers/also media producers (diners) relationship with food.


Donostia / San Sebastián in Basque Country, Spain is regarded as one of the epicenters of gastronomic innovation and experimentation. Many Spanish people regard the region as one of the best in Spain for food, most notably the pintxos of San Sebastián. Four of the top 40 restaurants in the world are in this region. Additionally, the city is home to the Basque Culinary Center, a world-renowned center for culinary innovation, research, education, and meeting of minds. San Sebastián is also lush, on the ocean, has rolling hills, and is just stunning.

After briefly chatting with a few locals, I learned about how the visual display of pintxos in taverns have changed over time. If you visit the oldest taverns, you won’t see any pintxos on the counter– they will go and make your pintxos fresh to order. However, over the past few years, the trend has been for the chefs to pre-make pintxos and lay them out in abundance over the counters. Like clockwork, diners would come up to the counter and take photos of the rainbow of food being displayed before choosing what they were going to eat. 

Besides witnessing (and tasting) some of the freshest, most flavorful food Europe has to offer, I came to the region in order to visit Mugaritz. The two Michelin-starred restaurant Mugaritz, considered one of the top restaurants in the world, is an engine for creativity and “techno-emotional” cuisine.

Wall of notes in the offices of Mugraritz from “fans” to the restaurant.
Directions to the restaurant hides in a shrub on en-route.

You have to drive into the “country” to get to the restaurant. But once you get there, the surroundings are unassuming. You see a humble garden with plants from all over the world growing, a giant owl sculpture, and a few country looking houses assembled. Inside, you find the mind of more than a handful people who are there to cook up experiences that will please and surprise all who visit.