Madrid Fusión celebrates 20th anniversary with record-breaking edition
Madrid Fusión, one of the world’s largest and oldest international gastronomy conventions, celebrated its 20th anniversary with three days of talks and demonstrations featuring some of the most influential chefs across the globe.
This edition, titled Beyond Ingredients, saw most of the conversations touching on fermentation techniques, food sustainability, the rise of local cuisines – whether in terms of faithfully bringing the heritage of a country to another one (Santiago Lastra with KOL in London) or championing the unique traditions of a specific area, within the area itself (Antonia Klugmann with L’Argine a Vencò) – the exploration of gourmet plant-based dishes and the relationship between aesthetics and flavour.
Great chefs discuss techniques and the future of fine dining
As the three-day international convention Madrid Fusión comes to an end, it’s clear that the highlight of the event was the conversation between Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz and René Redzepi of Noma. The two “chefs provocateurs” stimulated each other, with Aduriz playing mostly the role of the interviewer-presenter. “The day people stop questioning what we do, it’s all over,” said the man at the helm of the Copenhagen restaurant. “Each year there are no new ingredients in nature – you have to look at the same stuff in a new way, looking for fresh opportunity. It’s really hard to keep filling yourself with fresh input after 25 years looking at lamb bellies and kokotxas.”
Madrilenian chef Mario Sandoval presented his work on acidic cuisine, which started by chance on New Year’s Eve, when they left sea bream in a container to pickle for three weeks by mistake. The collagen and vinegar turned into an exquisite gelatine, more flavourful than meat, opening up new routes in the world of “solid pickles”.
Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch of Disfrutar took the stage to showcase their latest innovations employing microwaves. The chefs from Barcelona, who run their restaurants together with Mateu Casañas, explain how they haven’t done anything new with a microwave oven in 16 years – so, it was time to experiment again. Using it with cheese in moulds, to boil and dehydrate the ingredient, they can create tartlets without flour, and play with different textures.
The Copenhagen influence
Aside from René Redzepi, more influential chefs from Copenhagen have taken part in Madrid Fusion. The Danish capital has recently been hailed as the new Barcelona for food, with an ever-growing number of restaurants playing a major role in the global food scene. Rasmus Munk and Eric Vildgaar, the chefs from Alchemist and Jordnaer, who have both earned two Michelin stars, gave two very different insights into their work: the former is a force of nature, who uses visual effects (the restaurant features a high-tech planetarium dome where videos created by a team of visual effects artists are displayed to deliver an immersive experience) and provocation (some of the dishes are quite challenging – think insects, brains and silicone tongues, and even political – and there’s a 1984-inspired course about mass surveillance) to make each guest reflect on what they are eating, whereas the latter talked about love and how the love for his wife (and business partner) and for the provenance of the produce they use make for a unique experience. Time, he said, is the most valuable commodity, and he’s aware that every second he spends in his restaurant is taken away from his family and every second the guests spend there is taken away from their lives.
Aesthetics and flavour
The relationship between a look of a dish and its taste has long been a subject of debate, and the effect of Instagram on the industry has only exacerbated the need for a conversation.
The most interesting, unorthodox reflection on the visual value of food came from Italian chef Matteo Baronetto, who recently published a book called Iconic Similarities, which explores how ingredients with a similar shape can heighten each other’s flavour when combined: lentils and caviar; baby squid and radicchio; chestnut mushroom and kidney; nori and seabass skin; lard and squid.
For Denise Monroy of Elektra in Bogotá, making visually pleasing fast food is a way to reach a wider audience and serve them nutritional and tasty vegan plates. Atsushi Tanaka of AT, which was recently awarded its maiden Michelin star, talked about aesthetics “that make sense” whereas Valencian legend Quique Dacosta showed the evolution of their menus – in terms of presentation, techniques and composition – over the past 20 years. Finally, Munk of Alchemist explained how they utilise a VFX unit of eight people to create and project content that expands on each dish – for instance, guests will have a chicken course while they are surrounded by cages of screaming caged poultry.
The croquetas of Santerra: Champion of champions
Madrid Fusión and iconic iberico producer Joselito celebrated the 20th anniversary of the congress with a special edition of the croqueta competition, opening it to the seven past winners. The jury crowned Miguel Carretero of Santerra – who won the contest in 2018 – champion of croquetas. In addition, Iván Cerdeño received the Golden Croqueta Award in recognition of all the times that his original recipe has led to the triumph of some of his disciples in previous years. Carlos García, from La Cocina de Enfrente, won the National Pickle Contest.
Wine and pastry
In addition to the main auditorium, the congress has expanded, creating a Pastry and Bakery stage, where internationally recognised professionals talked about their trade. The first day began on a high note with a demonstration from Catalan master Albert Adrià and David Gil; then pizza maestro Franco Pepe of Pepe in Grani gave a presentation on the story of his family business before cooking his legendary Mediterranean pizza, which was conceived with the contribution of nutritional biologist Michelina Petrazzuoli. Teresa Gutiérrez and Jesús Monedero spoke of kitchen and restaurant breads and Lucila Carnero and Juan Carlos Menéndez closed the event with sessions on vegan and gluten-free pastry. On the wine side of things, highlights included a tasting with Mohamed Benabdallah of Asador Etxebarri – who showed how to pair wines with meat – a theory session with chefs and sommeliers on natural wines – featuring Santiago Lastra and Anthony Gupal of KOL as well as Rafael Peña from Gresca and Daniel Ochoa from Montia – and, on the last day, a discussion with Albert Raurich and Tamae Imachi of Barcelona’s Dos Palillos on the challenges and new possibilities of wine pairings with Asian food.
The convention ended with a message of solidarity with Ukraine, with the participation of chef Ksenia Amber, one of the greatest culinary exponents of the country and a victim of Russia’s aggression. Vodolazska, who is from Odessa, leads a chain of restaurants “now all unfortunately closed, like all the restoration of the city”. Currently residing in Spain, she works for her country organising solidarity dinners, where she also shows the gastronomic potential of Ukraine, as she did at Madrid Fusion, cooking, among other dishes, a traditional soup of celebration in all Ukrainian houses: her borscht was made with pork and beef, roots, vegetables and crème fraîche. “I hope to be able to come back one day and resume my activity in Odessa,” she said before receiving a standing ovation.
The numbers: A success
The 20th anniversary of Madrid Fusión has been a success also in terms of numbers, with 16,500 visitors and 1,171 congressmen gathering in the auditorium, and over 1,000 members of the press from all over the world. The organisation proved once again that it’s able to deliver major events, despite challenges such as the strict requirement to wear masks indoors. After all, what Brazilian chef Alex Atala said is testament to the fact: “There’s a before and an after Madrid Fusión.”
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina (except Ksenia Amber and group shot)
For further information about Madrid Fusión 2022 visit the event’s website here.