Thursday, February 15, 2018

Highlights at Madrid Fusion 2018

International culinary conference Madrid Fusion, one of the most prestigious in the world, was held last January 22-24 at the Municipal Palace of Congresses Madrid. The gastronomy summit, now on its 16th year, gathered together top chefs from Spain and the rest of the world to learn, to share their latest works and discoveries, exchange techniques, to inspire and be inspired, to collaborate, and to support one another.

The conference also featured workshops, cooking demonstrations, and - brace yourselves - the best gourmet products in the market. I know I had more than my fair share of jamon iberico de bellota, Russian caviar, fresh oysters, Alaskan king crab, cheeses, turron, Bruno Paillard bubbly, endless wine tastings at Enofusión, and pork fat ice cream laced with saffron. 

There was so much to see and learn and eat during the three activity-filled days. I ate, I learned, and now it is time I share a few highlights from the event.

Present day eating tools: Spoon, fork, and phone
Diego Coquillat, CEO of online newspaper, emphasized how the digitalization of the world will revolutionize gastronomy, that technology is a connector of restaurants and customers. “Today the diners discover restaurants on the internet and social networks, which means that the doors of the restaurants are no longer made of wood or glass, but digital doors," Coquillat expounded. Restaurants must understand that the future is without limitations, it is not only the clients who go to the restaurants, but restaurants also go to the clients through digital tips and tantalizing food photos shared online. Technology allows food businesses to serve different neighborhoods, they are no longer limited by square meters, chairs or tables. Delivery boys are not just delivery boys but roaming waiters. Coquillat believes that the future leaders of the industry will not be catering companies, but technology companies that sell hospitality.

Zaiyu Hasegawa of Den, Tokyo

Unconventional approach to make people happy
Zaiyu Hasegawa of Den is a rebel through and through. At his restaurant in Tokyo, he serves kaiseki the unconventional way, making the traditional multi-course Japanese meal a fun and exciting experience for his customers, especially foreigners. “Kaiseki is hard to understand, but I make it easier, like how a mother teaches her child about food. I cook to make people happy,” the playful Japanese chef shared. The most popular item on his menu, Dentucky Fried Chicken (DFC), gives diners an immediate sense of familiarity, because really, who doesn’t know Kentucky Fried Chicken? Onstage, Zaiyu demonstrated how to prepare the famous fried chicken wing, stuffing it with jamon because we were, after all, in Spain. At Den, Zaiyu stuffs the wings with seasonal ingredients. I had it with edamame in the summer, and black rice with gingko nuts in autumn. His team also consists of three women, which is yet another unconventional practice in Tokyo where kitchens are dominated by men. Women, according to chef, “bear the important role of handing down recipes from generation to generation.”

Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Manila

Palamos prawns with green mango and bagoong, and pork belly wrapped in mustasa by Jordy Navarra

Buro and bagoong of the Philippines
My proudest moment at the conference was when our very own Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery introduced our humble bagoong and buro to the audience. At his presentation "The Wild and Untamed Flavors of the Philippine Islands," Jordy explained the fermentation process, which happens naturally in the Philippines because of our climate. Buro is baby shrimp or fish fermented with cooked rice, and bagoong is salted shrimp fermented for weeks and cooked with garlic, tomato, and onions. He demonstrated the use of these two ingredients in a dish where he married the best of Spain and the best of our country. He used Palamos prawns, quickly splashed with coconut vinegar, tossed with green mango and bagoong, and topped the seafood-fruit medley with our sweet Philippine mangoes, a squeeze of prawn head oil, a bit of seaweed and fried sweet potato leaves. He served this alongside pork belly topped with buro, wrapped in mustasa and drizzled with charred eggplant oil – a dish that made my mouth water heavily. A few lucky people got to try Jordy’s signature truffles, made with dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and another well-loved fermented ingredient – patis or fish sauce. 

Joan Roca of El Cellar de Can Roca with his mother, Montserrat Fontané

Simple can be sublime
Joan Roca announced to the packed auditorium that they were going to cook a simple soup, because we all need to be reminded that sometimes, simple can be sublime. The Roca brothers’ dear mother Montserrat Fontané took the stage to do just that, she prepared a painstakingly simple but a most beloved mint soup, which she cooks only for family or for herself when she is ill. The lovely 81-year old Mama Roca feeds and nourishes her sons and their staff of 70 every day at her restaurant next door. “She is our mother, but also the mother of everyone who cooks with us in the kitchen,” Joan shared affectionately.

Madrid Fusion inspires, provokes, encourages and awakens not only professional chefs but also the gourmand in each and every one of us. Chefs return to their kitchens armed with a wealth of valuable learnings, restauranteurs are probably scrambling to set up their social media accounts. I come home filled with desire to make dinner reservations at twenty restaurants across the globe. And as a soon-to-be wife, I am excited to take on the kitchen with new techniques I learned by watching some of the greatest chefs in the world. I plan to make that comforting mint soup for family, and I am currently creating a list of all the seasonal ingredients to stuff into my Jintucky Fried Chicken.

I am excited for Madrid Fusion Manila happening on April 19-21 at the SMX Convention Centre. Pam Samaniego, Director of MFM 2018, said at the announcement of the much awaited event, "The old will be making a comeback as traditional cooking techniques and native ingredients will be in the spotlight for the fourth serving of Madrid Fusion Manila."

This year’s chef presenters will include Susi Diaz, Curtis Duffy, LG Han, Mingoo Kang, Hajime Yoneda, Matt Abergel, Paul Qui, Pepe Solla, Aitor Jeronimo Orive, Roberto Ruiz, Diego Gallegos, Gorka Txpartegi, Akrame Benallal, Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe, Tom Cunanan, Floriano Pellegrino and Isabella Poti, Inigo Lavado, and Javier Estevez. From the Philippines, we have Nicco Santos of Your Local and Hey Handsome, Patrick Go of Black Sheep, and JP Anglo of Sarsa.

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