Mikel De Luis

Haizea
SoHo, NYC
The concept of Spanish food still feels forgein to the mainstream restaurant scene. For many of us, the extent of our knowledge hits a wall at tapas, which is what makes the new Basque and Catalan-inspired restaurant Haizea all the more intriguing. Nestled into a quiet block on Sullivan Street, Haizea is the latest in a series of restaurants by Chef Mikel de Luis, this one incorporating his Basque heritage in a contemporary way (and we mean contemporary. Chef de Luis forgoes cooking with gas to decrease emissions.) We squeezed into Haizea’s back gallery room to talk through the transition from childhood in Bilbao to NYC, and all the steps in between.
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Full name, age where are you from?

My full name is Mikel De Luis, I’m 46 and from Bilbao, the Basque country of

What was growing up like for you and did you have family meals growing up?

I was living in my grandmother’s house since I was a kid. I was in the kitchen all the time, just waiting to be fed. I’m a chef because of my grandmother. And I’ve been in the hospitality industry since I was 16 so 30 years.

What meal most reminds you of your childhood?

Pork belly.

How did you get into this industry?

Because of my grandma and also by accident. I was supposed to be a pilot but they kicked me out *laughs* out of pilot school. So then I met a woman in Ibiza, she was from Barcelona and I landed there. Since I landed there, I was general manager of the Basque House in Barcelona and then I decided to start culinary school. I came here [to the United States] because of my ex-wife. She was from Dallas, Texas. We lived together in Barcelona for about 2 years. After being back and forth between the states, I decided to come to the US.

What is your current role and how has the pandemic affected you?

I am the owner/chef. We are waiting to open up inside to express ourselves. Because what we are doing right is not what we are really going to be doing in the future.

What do you think working in this industry during this time has taught you?

It has been tough because I signed May 5th of last year and now we are August 18th? It has been challenging, I was supposed to open March 19th and the pandemic started around the 14th. So I needed to cancel the opening and wait for next steps. I opened last week of May.

What's your favorite item on this menu?

Octopus.

Once it is completely safe to eat out again and socialize, where is the first place you would go for dinner?

Babbo.

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