Madrid Fusion Gastronomy Summit 2017, Spain

Rupert Parker reports on this exciting culinary extravaganza

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For 15 years Madrid Fusion has been the most important event in the international gourmet calendar and 2017’s theme was The Shared World of Haute Cuisine – Future Paths, featuring chefs from Argentina, other South American countries, the Philippines, and of course Spain.

Without any doubt, Latin America is moving forward in its Haute Cuisine by looking carefully at ingredients that were used before the Spanish occupied the continent. German Martitegui, whose restaurant Tegui is rated number one in Argentina, has travelled throughout the country meeting farmers to discover new ingredients. He’s emphatic that contemporary Argentinian food is not just grilled meat but products that reflects the climatic and soil conditions where they’re grown. Potatoes, farmed at altitudes above 2000m, are just one example. He’s also interested in fermented foods, something which seemed to excite other chefs this year.

Mario Sandoval of Coque Restaurant in Spain, was keen to extoll the virtues of Kombucha, a tea fermented fungus which he uses to add flavour to sauces and used in ravioli. He’s also been experimenting with red cabbage Kimchee and Miso made from Spanish chick peas. Dutch chef Jonnie Boer, of Librije, even handed out three small phials containing Kombucha, fermented bell pepper juice and a cutting of tulip bulb in sweet and sour liquid. His speciality is shrimp ceviche flavoured with Kombucha.

Madrid Fusion still has still room for the wacky and Angel Leon, of the two Michelin starred Aponiente, detailed his quest for the source of bio-luminescence. Through a natural process of freeze-drying, he’s managed to extract a protein from seafood bacteria, that can illuminate his dishes. Janice Wong, the Singaporean queen of desserts, has ventured into the world of art, games and fashion, by creating aesthetic, fun objects. She caused chaos by inviting everyone up to the stage to taste her giant marshmallow artwork.

A growing trend is to pair cocktails with dishes and a number of chefs brought their own mixologists. Of particular interest was Ronny Emborg from Atera, in New York who serves haute cuisine tapas with matching cocktails prepared by Matthew Abbick. In the city there’s a demand for non-alcoholic drinks, so he’s developed an amusing line in temperance cocktails.

There was also a large Filipino presence at the summit and Madrid Fusion is staging another Asian summit in Manila, in April. There’s nearly 400 years of common history between Spain and the Philippines which, of course, has left its mark on the food. Filipino chef Tatung Sarthou detailed his search for the lost flavours of his country’s pre-Hispanic cuisine. One of his recipes involves blackening half a coconut in the fire, making a paste and then adding it to seafood in half an urchin shell.

Andrew Wong from the UK demonstrated there was more to Chinese food than chop suey and sweet and sour pork. In his A.Wong restaurant in London, he has dishes from all over China on his tasting menu. He demonstrated how to make noodles from scratch and then took us through his extensive preparation for Cantonese belly of pork. He makes the point that China has borders with 14 other nations and that influence is reflected in their regional cuisine.

To show that Spanish food is still developing, the Revelation Chef contest looks for the year’s most promising newcomer. Third prize was awarded to Pedro Noriega, from Castru el Gaiteru in Llanes, Asturias, with the second prize going to Toni Romero and Quim Coll, from 4amb5 Mujades in Barcelona. The winner was Jesús Moral, from Taberna de Miguel in Jaén, which is so new that it doesn’t yet have a website. He mixes classic haute cuisine with the traditional cooking of his home town.

Bringing us back to reality was the “People Cooking Sensibly” project of Carlos Zamora. He employs mentally disabled people in his kitchens to prepare organic meals for school children in Santander. He says that culinary businesses must be socially sustainable and he ensures that the children get tasty healthy organic food whilst the disabled get jobs.

Finally there was an extraordinary tasting of 12 Ribera del Duero wines, with vintages going back as far as 1985. The appellation has a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) and is located in the country’s northern plateau in Castile and León along the Duero River. The vast majority of production is dedicated to Tinto Fino, (the local name for Tempranillo), often mixed with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Merlot. With such exquisite reds on offer, I must admit that I swallowed most of my tastings – it seemed a shame to spit them out.