Inaugural flavors

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Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Calvo (left) and Madrid Fusión president José Carlos Capel (right) together with Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. (at the back) led the opening ceremony.

Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Calvo (left) and Madrid Fusión president José Carlos Capel (right) together with Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. (at the back) led the opening ceremony.

Madrid Fusión Manila brings the future of food to PH

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After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors,     the future of food finally arrived in the country over the weekend.Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors to an international delegation on April 24,    who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world.

Madrid Fusión Manila’s first day was historic marked by talks and exhibitions that showcased Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as the passion for innovation of the two countries’ respective chefs. The three-day gastronomic congress was opened by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.

He said Madrid Fusión Manila would confirm the Filipinos’ belief that “the best food and the most enjoyable experience is when food is shared with family and friends.”

“The whole concept behind Madrid Fusión Manila is to get the best in the culinary arts to come to Manila, share their knowledge, and learn from our local culinary chefs at the same time. Not only are we excited to learn from the modern techniques, this event serves to challenge our food artisans to bring out the best in their craft and to start a crusade to make Manila the center of culinary excellence in this region,” the secretary added.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. welcomes local and foreign participants to Madrid Fusion Manila. Photos by Melyn Acostya and Madrid Fusion Manila

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. welcomes local and foreign participants to Madrid Fusion Manila. Photos by Melyn Acostya and Madrid Fusion Manila

Madrid Fusión president José Carlos Capel confirmed that the Spanish delegation, most of whom are awarded several Michelin stars, had a lot to learn from the Philippines. He also reminded everyone that the Philippines is part of Spain’s rich culinary treasure.

Capel stressed that that the event was an opportunity for the two countries to learn from each other.

On the first day of the congress, most of the discussions centered on familial or regional roots, local ingredients, respect for tradition and passion for innovation.

The first speaker was “El Rey” or the King of Spanish  cuisine in Manila, Júan Carlos de Terry, who delivered a highly informative talk on Spain’s culinary roots. He also illustrated Spain’s influence on Philippine cuisine, which was coursed through the New World. Assisted by chefs Heny Sison and Rommel Hinlo, de Terry executed a pinakbet making use of garum, an ancient ingredient brought by the Phoenicians to Spain, which makes use of the innards of red meat tuna, which in turn is similar to the Pinoy bagoong.

One poignant point in de Terry’s talk was when he praised the late culinary Philippine icon, Nora Daza, to whom, he said, generations of Filipino chefs owe a great deal of gratitude due to her pioneering work.

2012 Veuve Clicquout World’s Best Female Chef Elena Arzak loves kilawin and lato2012 Veuve Clicquout World’s Best Female Chef Elena Arzak loves kilawin and lato

2012 Veuve Clicquout World’s Best Female Chef Elena Arzak loves kilawin and lato2012 Veuve Clicquout World’s Best Female Chef Elena Arzak loves kilawin and lato

Following de Terry was Quique Dacosta who talked about the many facets and uses of rice. In the first part of his talk, Dacosta presented three traditional ways of cooking rice: dry, creamy and soupy.

“Rice is the medium or bridge of flavors. There is so much more to rice though. Its by-products have a myriad of uses.” He ended his presentation with a delicate socarrat, topped with aioli, lemon juice, wild herbs and garlic flowers.

Chef Fernando Aracama shared his childhood experiences of growing up in the province savoring sour fruits such as green mangoes and kamias. Aracama prepared food that characterized his Negrense family roots: his Mamá’s burong mangga (pickled green mangoes), a kinilaw na talaba, candied santol and finally, a hearty KBL (Kadyos, Baboy, at Langka) with a broth soured with batuan.

The guests and the chef-presenters then feasted on the sumptuous lunch sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and curated by chef and food writer Angelo Comsti. The dishes presented was a representation of the various cuisines in Luzon, but with a modern twist. Some of these were kinilaw, laing, morcon, and leche flan enriched with pig’s blood.

After lunch, world-renowned chef Elena Arzak, daughter of Júan Mari Arzak, spoke on how her Basque ancestry never fails to appear in the innovative dishes she and her team create. Arzak thrilled the participants with showcases of molecular gastronomy and introduced them to cocina frondosa (leafy cuisine), which maximizes tree or vegetable leaves as either a medium of cooking or a major ingredient in the dishes. In an impassioned talk, Arzak spoke of her team’s relentless quest to creatively produce dishes that are sustainable, and that will lead people closer to nature.

Arzak’s cocina frondosa

Arzak’s cocina frondosa

Fascinated with Filipino cuisine, she said that it is “the taste” of local ingredients that overwhelmed her, such as the lato (seaweed), which she would like to use back home in San Sebastian, Spain.

Asked what she loved most about the Filipino dishes she tried, Arzak, the 2012 Veuve Clicquout World’s Best Female Chef, best kilawin. Her second pick was the turon, which compared to Spain’s version. “I also tried turon, which we also have in Spain. But your turon is not at all the turon we know about. We will now have to create a whole new food dictionary ju st for Filipino cuisine,” she exclaimed.

Following Arzak was the lively Myrna Segismundo who shared the coconut tree’s numerous uses, and how the Spanish chefs can sustain livelihoods and enhance their own food if they bring home with them any of the by-products of the versatile tree. Among the dishes she presented was a deconstructed ginataang halo-halo.

Segismundo suggested that it is time that Philippine cuisine be marketed and introduced through the different flavor profiles of ingredients unique to the Philippines: matamis (sweet), maalat (salty), maasim (acidic), mapait (bitter) and malinamnam (umami).

Francis Paniego then presented a sensory talk on Spanish marinades and innovative ways of cooking the lowly offal such as hearts, ears, snouts, blood, tendons, brains and kidneys. Examples of the dishes included a tempura-inspired way of cooking lamb ears and pork skin prepared as ramen, spaghetti and callos. He also asserted the importance of tradition, his regional landscape and its produce to the cuisine he produces.

“Our kitchen is always inspired by our region. We update the old tradition of cooking offal through a rigorous process. Creating new dishes is like giving birth: there are birth pains.”

Finally, Mario Sandoval closed the evening with a mouth-watering presentation on the science of roasts. Sandoval demonstrated the precision by which he and his team prepare their famous cochinillo (roast suckling pig). He also reiterated that one thing non-negotiable is taste.

“We believe in the motto ‘In Taste We Trust’. We can deliver a well-constructed, aesthetically-pleasing dish but the taste should always be priority.”

All in all, Madrid Fusión Manila’s first day saw a gathering of passionate individuals who are committed to promote cuisines, which are rooted in tradition and fuelled by an innovative spirit. From the congress, participants were able to learn that fusion happens when cultures compliment and interact with one another, and when individual men and women help each other innovate for more appetizing, sustainable and healthier cuisines.

Opening on the same day was the trade exhibition with 165 booths, 30 of which are from Spain. The Spanish pavilion featured seminars on wine, brandy, Jamon Iberico and cold cuts.  Meanwhile, seminars on Philippine heirloom rice and chocolates were the highlights of the Philippine pavilion.  The tunnels, a new experience in trade exhibitions, were busy with guests lining up to experience Philippine cheeses, jams, honey, nuts and grapes, Philippine liquors and cocktails paired with chorizo, among others.

With a report from Lea Manto-Beltran

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