The global culinary world’s superstars gathered to showcase artisanal, traditional, and ancestral cooking techniques, talk about experimentations, and treat audiences to some great cooking at Madrid Fusión 2022
Robert de Niro was Madrid Fusión 2022’s first guest.
In the first week of March, four great chefs — Mauro Colagreco, Joan Roca, Quique Dacosta and Martín Berasategui cooked a stellar dinner for the American actor.
Served in the plush Royal Suite of the historical Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, De Niro and his partner, Tiffany Chen, a martial arts instructor from New York, sampled the best of what Madrid and Europe’s biggest gastronomic fair-cum-culinary summit had to offer. Helmed by Chef Quique Dacosta, head of culinary offerings at Madrid’s Mandarin Oriental, the five cooked up iconic dishes from their restaurants.
The 16-course menu, a preview to Madrid Fusión 2022, included ingredients such as Iberian ham, Dénia and Palamós shrimp, bluefin tuna, asparagus, hake, eel, rice, black truffles, Albufera Duck, and caviar. If Chef Roca served up his famous White Asparagus and Truffle Contessa, Chef Colagreco put out beetroot with Oscietre Caviar (made from Russian Acipenser Gueldenstaedti sturgeon roes), and Chef Berasategui sent out Smoked Eel, foie gras, spring onion, and green apple, while Chef Dacosta served Ash Rice with black truffle from Maestrazgo.
There could not have been a more spectacular start to Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España 2022, simply called Madrid Fusión 2022, which is celebrating its 20th year. Traveldine was the only Indian publication to travel to the summit and here is what we thought.
While the Congress itself focussed on techniques and creativity, the exhibition spread across one of IFEMA Madrid’s centres and brought together purveyors of everything you can eat or drink — wine to beer, pork to fish, vegetable produce to stands of cafes and eateries such as Chocolatería San Ginés and the home-grown Montchis cheesecake.
Beyond Ingredients: Techniques and traditions at Madrid Fusión 2022
Some of world gastronomy’s biggest names such as René Redzepi, Gastón Acurio, Alex Atala, Dabiz Muñoz, Joan Roca, Rasmus Munk, and Antonia Klugmann brought alive the theme by exploring artisanal, traditional, and ancestral cooking techniques — from fire-roasting to cooking with microwaves or ultrasonic equipment — through talks, discussions, demonstrations, tastings, and competitions which formed the core of Madrid Fusión 2022.
While Madrid Fusión showcases the best of Spanish gastronomy, it is also a global platform for leading chefs from around the world to present their ideas, recipes, and techniques to an audience of their peers and the international culinary press corps.
The culinary fair and congress was inspired by a similar congress in San Sebastian. Benjamín Lana, President of Vocento’s Gastronomy Department and Vice President of Madrid Fusión says, “The pioneers of cooking congresses understood that what was innovative was not the new techniques they surprised the world with, but the decision of an entire sector to share the knowledge it held. For the first time, everything was being explained, from recipes to cooking techniques.”
At Madrid Fusión 2022, which returned after a Covid-induced break, the mood was electric, the chefs passionate, and the learnings, many. Much like previous editions, the 2022 edition played a key role in showcasing modern Spanish cuisine while offering a platform for a vital exchange of ideas between chefs.
The trends, the chefs, the talking points
Vegan and vegetarian cuisines have chiselled their way deep into almost every continent
A trip to MercaMadrid, a fruit and vegetable market (it has a larger seafood market, but we are talking vegetarian here!) early one morning introduced me to produce that defines the best of what Spain either grows, or imports: plummy oranges, bloodred beetroot, pomelos bright with pink flesh, fresh avocadoes, golden apples, fresh greens, strawberries, and a whole load of other ingredients.
Back at the congress, the focus on chefs doing stellar work with vegetarian and vegan cuisines was unmissable. Chef Joan Roca spoke about the experimentation with vegetarian cuisine at his restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, among them one by a Dutch stagiaire reminiscent of the landscape of Mas Marroch, the restaurant’s farm, and prepared with vegetable leftovers.
In one of the first sessions Chef Rodrigo De la Calle of El Universo restaurant, Madrid, presented the hidden flavours of his green universe. A former ‘green cuisine’ consultant on Chef Joël Robuchon’s team, his repertoire includes dishes made from all kinds of plants, including ones found in the ocean like seaweed. Among the techniques he demonstrated: A method to age vegetables to create amazing textures as moisture is drawn out and the flavours get concentrated, and the art of fermentation using veggie portions that are discarded.
Unlike other chefs who use vegetables and fruits to garnish meat, Chef Rodrigo uses animal protein to garnish his star ingredients. In his famous dish Vegetable and Mushroom Medley (Menestra de verduras y setas), he employs ingredients such as purple, white, and yellow cauliflower, with chantarelles, spring onions, organic eggs, as well as the cream of spinach.
Each ingredient is separately cooked — from cauliflower and broccoli couscous to eggs that are steamed and cooled in ice water, after which the white portion is carefully separated from the yellow.
Chef Denis Monroy of Elektra, a restaurant in Colombia, spoke about the struggle of running a vegan eatery in a South American country, despite the surfeit of vegetables, grains, plants, and fruits available. A former victim of anorexia who took to cooking “as a salvation”, at her restaurant she offers street-style cuisine.
Wellness is a large part of her food philosophy, evident from some of her star dishes: Pickled green papaya ceviche, probiotic cheese lemonade and magnesium citrate, seaweed fermented with miso, and coffees with adaptogens as means to offset the deficit of several nutrients in food. “We have created a fish-like dish by using dehydrated coriander and cottage cheese. We ferment pomelo with salt and leave it aside for a few days. The sauce made from it has a very peculiar fishy taste.” For her Pâté de Tomatoes, she emulsifies baked tomatoes, celery and purple onions with toasted sesame seeds and honey and serves it with Udon noodles.
In Frankfurt Germany, Chef Andreas Krolik, who runs Restaurant Lafleur, has pushed the boundaries further by rethinking vegan cuisine when the world is still trying to figure out how to rethink vegetarianism. His experimentations with how to combine vegetables, mushrooms, and fruits to create complex, nuanced dishes have found a legion of fans. He began putting vegan dishes on the menu way back in 2014. Even today, in Europe, vegetarian restaurants that receive a Michelin star are rare. Magdalena in Switzerland is one of those; the other is Lafleur, which received two stars in 2016.
Peruvian cuisine continues to be the ‘it’ cuisine in Europe, and now across the globe
Gastón Acurio, chef at Astrid & Gastón in Lima presented fascinating culinary traditions from Peru. The chef, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and set up his popular restaurant with a cakemaker and his wife, Astrid Gutsche, initially served classic French cuisine.
But a deep dive into Peruvian culinary traditions and produce convinced him that he needs to showcase the cultural diversity — from the Andes to Amazon — in his city, and world. Gastón Acurio has, by now, opened restaurants in 12 countries.
“Every dish in Peru is a story of a family of different people who came together: maybe the father is Italian, and the mother is Japanese, or the father is Spanish, and the mother is Inca. They joined together and tried to put both cultures into one dish, and the result of that was something beautiful,” he said.
Chef Hector Solis pushes the boundaries of Peruvian cooking while relying heavily on fresh and high-quality indigenous ingredients at his Lima restaurant, Fiesta. He demonstrated the versatility of the “murique” or star-studded grouper, a fish found in the north of the country, which he uses entirely. The grouper fiesta began by breaking the fish down into sections and continued with three recipes extracted from it (rice, the fish’s neck in garlic, and a “sudado” preparation), besides another Arequipa dish: “chupe” chowder.
Across the world, chefs are pushing boundaries
From South American countries to European, Japan to China — Madrid Fusión 2022 offered an opportunity to explore the global culinary world. Here is what I discovered:
- Ecuadorian cuisine can be very complex. A simple dish as great quality shrimps seasoned with lime juice, orange, passion fruit, and Andean spices, when marinated with the country’s craft beer, Caneo, and wines from Terra Santa, a winery in the Rias Baixas region, can be transformed into a layered dish. Miguel Monar, one of the three men behind La Fontana Gastro, a gastronomic project said that the best way to eat the shrimp is to bite into it and then drink the broth that has the shot of the ceviche. Ecuadorian ceviche is a blend of sweet and spicy flavours, as opposed to the acidity inherent with ceviche from other regions.
Ecuadorian chef Pablo Maldonado, one of the six finalists in the Madrid food competition, fused the gastronomy of his homeland with that of the Sierra de Guadarrama in Spain in a Yucca cake with goat cheese, seasoned with Achote, and French-style steak tartar with a peanut mayonnaise.
- Among the cooking masterclasses was an excellent one by the Nobu team, who cooked salmon sourced from Alaska, marinated it with miso sauce, and baked it with greens. The crispy salmon tasted of the sea — salty and crumbly on the edges.
- Chef Mario Sandoval from Coque Madrid restaurant displayed how marinades need to sit for a while to achieve new textures, while Chef Quique Dacosta showcased salt-cured food. At the Andalusia (southern Spain) sit-down lunch, the focus was on seafood, a lot of it raw. The coastal region put out scallops, langoustines, and fresh-caught shrimp.
The Big Talks
Chef Rasmus Munk of Copenhagen’s Alchemist fused art, music, and drama (there was footage of a planetarium thrown and even chicken cages with a screaming soundtrack) to talk about his concern for animal production (he introduces chicken feet as forks to make his point!).
René Redzepi, also of Copenhagen’s famous restaurant Noma, spoke about how the restaurant came at the perfect time as Nordic region cuisine was getting popular, and why food is the key to our health and environment, making chefs more than just mere people who cook the food you enjoy.
The rising stars as seen at Madrid Fusión 2022
There were many, but the ones I remember the most:
Three-Michelin star winner Chef Dabiz Muñoz of Madrid’s DiverXo restaurant. He answered questions from the audience, including one that asked about the future of gastronomy, to which he said, “simplifying things”. The Mohawk-sporting chef’s tasting menu is priced at an exorbitant 365€. His classic Spanish tortilla is made without onions since their use makes it too sweet; it just has potatoes and Evoo. Roast rabbit with carrot is among his favourite food at his restaurant.
At the Ibiza sitdown lunch, Chef Jose Miguel Bonet served traditional food that was cooked with 21st-century techniques, all paired with Ibezian wines.
At the Ibiza sitdown lunch experience, young chef Jose Miguel Bonet presented a stellar menu. “I’m a traditional cook, I do traditional cuisine with seasonal produce, yet applying 21st-century techniques,” he said. Among the technique he uses is cooking at low temperatures, which helps maintain the nutritional value of the food. He likes reinterpreting dishes from the traditional Ibizan recipe book, transforming some, while retaining the traditional quality of others as “they have too much personality”. At the Ibiza culinary experience, we sampled contemporary Ibizan cooking paired with their famous wines and aperitifs.
Madrid Fusión 2022 Wine Edition
There were the tastings, of course. But also, there were enlightening sessions, like one on how a handful of young vintners were transforming riojas. They talked about how verdejo grapes can be transformed into three wildly different wines, depending on fermentation and ageing methods.
If winemaker Telmo Rodríguez talked about the different projects underway in Spain to recover vineyards in mountains in Restoring the Mountainside session, Pedro Ballesteros, Master of Wine, explained the peculiarities of the wines from the Spanish-Portuguese border and compared six wines together with Pedro Ramos, sommelier at Lisbon-based restaurant Alma. Willy Pérez, winemaker at Bodegas Luis Pérez, and Ramiro Ibáñez, a wine grower, talked about their efforts to recover old vineyards and former winemaking methods.
While wines from several countries had tasting stations, including the crowd favourite, Argentina, the focus was on Spanish wine regions. Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, from the Envínate Project in the Canary Islands, and winemaker Telmo Rodríguez spoke about recovering areas where there may be high-quality vineyards, but which have been ignored. “In the Canary Islands, vineyards continue to be abandoned,” explained Santana, underlining the value of those “smaller production areas, which are more difficult to access.” Telmo Rodríguez, one of Spain’s great winemakers, talked about Valdeorras, where he found “some of the best vineyards in the world,” which shows that Spain “is a country of great wines and with great potential.”
At one afternoon session, four young and innovative winemakers, María José López de Heredia (Viña Tondonia), Sara Pérez (Mas Martinet), Carlos Miguel Cerdán (Bodegas Cerrón) and Pilar Salillas (Lagravera), narrated how they were using knowledge of ancestral varieties, acknowledgement of land, growing methods, and ancient winemaking techniques to preserve winemaking heritage.
One of them spoke about how, when his grandparents came into money, his grandmother wanted to buy a “closet”. His grandfather, on the other hand, went and bought a vineyard, the first in the family to do so. The rest is history.
Some of the best fun was had at the various pairings at Madrid Fusión 2022. Some incredibly fascinating stuff I learned:
At a wine and chocolate pairing session, the chocolatier revealed several secrets on how to taste chocolate: do not keep it in a refrigerator if you want to experience the fresh flavours (impossible in a hot country like India!); always do chocolate tastings in the mornings when your palette is fresh; and while tasting, let the chocolate melt in your mouth – do not use your teeth.
From black, bitter, and velvety chocolates to sweet and sugar ones, we tasted them all with white and red wines. Interestingly, chocolatiers made a case for white chocolate as a species far more “elegant and elite”. While Venezuela was the origin country of white chocolates, the world is now passionate about Peru. And if you are a ‘serious’ chocolate lover, your cocoa closet must include chocolates from Madagascar.
At a truffle and wine pairing session, they told us about how truffles depend on animals to spread their spores and reproduce. I learnt that autumn truffles have far more intense aromas than summer ones; dogs love to sniff out truffles not so much to eat them but for the party, they get afterwards, in form of turkey meals and lots of hugs; and in some regions, wild boars are used to sniff out truffles.
Madrid Fusión 2022 Pastry Edition
Devoted to the world of breadmaking and pastry making, the focus was on techniques and evolution, besides the need to maintain the sanctity of raw ingredients.
Franco Pepe, said to be one of the world’s best pizza chefs, spoke about making pizza dough without the use of scales, recipes, machinery, or ready-made ingredients. “I watched my father create it from scratch thousands of times over, and I didn’t even need to write anything down to learn how the dough should feel when it’s ready.”
The congress also played host to several stalls and exhibitions — from Galmesan, a cooked hard pasta cheese with fruity and dried fruit notes, to San Gines, a century-old chocolatería in Madrid, to coffee filled with cream, there was a lot to discover. More about that in another story!