Spanish Cooking, Spanish Ingredients—And One Acclaimed Filipino Chef—Take Center Stage At This Year’s Madrid Fusión In Spain
Spain’s love for wining and dining is undeniable; its tapas culture deeply ingrained. Consider the numbers: there’s one bar or restaurant for every 169 people, the highest ratio in Europe. It’s also home to 195 Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s therefore not surprising that its capital Madrid hosts one of the most important culinary events in the world every year.
Madrid Fusión is an annual international gastronomy congress attended by people in the food industry from the world over. On its 16th year, more than 12,000 people flocked to this year’s summit, with more than 600 chefs in attendance.
This event was held at Palacio Municipal de Congresos, a few minutes away from the heart of the city. Upon entering this building, it was easy to be overwhelmed and daunted by all the events that were going on, seemingly in every corner.
In that venue, you saw the myriad aspects of the food industry: All sorts of suppliers were out in full force, with some selling the latest in kitchen equipment like top-of-the-line rotisseries and ovens, as well as essential tools of the kitchen such as knives and pans.
Different regions of Spain, including Valencia, Murcia, and Mallorca, showed off their wine, cheese, ham and other regional specialties. Countries like Russia, Peru, Japan, Venezuela, Iceland, and the Philippines gave congress participants a sampling of their cuisines.
With 200 exhibitors present, there was an immense variety of tasting sessions of food and drink, ranging from turrón to olive oil, beer, coffee, liquor, oysters, to crabs. It was difficult to go hungry (or thirsty) at Madrid Fusión.
To serve as a counterpoint to the food frenzy, there was also a space for environmental activists who reminded participants that food waste should be avoided and care given when harvesting from the sea.
The open hall attracted a lot of spectators, as this was where cooking competitions brought out budding talent. It was curious to see the reactions of judges as they tasted and rated the chefs’ creations. There were competitions for the best croquetas, the best sandwich, and the best pastry.
Elena Arzak of Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain (3 Michelin stars), who consistently places in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, shared some of the recipes she uses in her restaurant. Arzak remains one of a handful of women who lead Michelin-star kitchens.
Zaiyu Hasegawa, the chef of Den restaurant in Tokyo, Japan (2 Michelin stars), is famous for including women in his team. His restaurant ranks number 45 among the best in the world. His presentation discussed the evolution of Japanese cuisine.
Eneko Atxa, from Azurmendi in Vizcaya, Spain (3 Michelin stars), talked about how to use gastronomy to achieve a more sustainable, healthy, and just society. His topic was consistent with his restaurant’s image of being one of the most highly sustainable on the planet.
Diego Guerrero from DStage in Madrid (2 Michelin stars) gave a scientific talk about how fats, proteins, and water interact and relate to each other to create dishes. He said knowing the relationship between these three will help improve recipes in any corner of the world, and stressed that it is necessary to know chemistry to improve in the kitchen.
Guerrero said it is good for chefs to aim to be successful, but added that you have to be well-prepared and be an expert on the ins and outs of the materials with which you work, for you to achieve this.
Chefs from Disfrutar in Barcelona (2 Michelin stars) demonstrated how to use a cutting-edge machine to prepare a wide variety of dishes. Eduard Xatruch, Mateu Casañas, and Oriol Castro showed the wonders of this gadget commonly used in the kitchens of Korea, for purposes of juicing, dehydration, and caramelization.
To cap off the hectic three days of frenetic activity, Madrid Fusión presented the Revelation Chef Award. This year, it was given to a young Alicante chef, Nanín Pérez, who has been head chef for only little more than a year at Murri restaurant.
This year’s Madrid Fusión evidenced a blend of the appreciation of the upcoming, with the respect for the experienced. This fusion will continue to propel the culinary scene forward, both in Spain, and the rest of the world.
Photos by Alex Alikpala