ICEX Chefs Soak Up Madrid Fusión
Nearly a dozen international chefs and past participants in the ICEX Training Program in Spanish Gastronomy converged on Madrid Fusión last week for a look at the latest in culinary innovation
International culinary conference Madrid Fusión is an annual rendezvous for some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs, who flock to the city for three days every January to share insights, innovations, inspirations and more – dazzling an often Michelin star-struck audience with their culinary je ne sais quoi. But there are plenty of other stories to tell at this annual gastronomy fete, many of which result from the efforts of ICEX Spain Trade and Investment to promote Spanish gastronomy around the world.
Thanks to ICEX, Madrid Fusión also serves as a meeting point for the young (and not so young anymore) international chefs who have participated in various editions of the prestigious ICEX Training Program in Spanish Gastronomy. They are invited here year after year to experience the latest creations from the highest echelons of the Spanish culinary scene, as well as to refresh their senses with the wide variety of quality Spanish foods and wines that are on hand during the event.
This year, the following ten chefs representing six editions of this program – created in 2007 to familiarize young international chefs with Spanish gastronomy – travelled to Madrid Fusión: Ralph Shelling of Switzerland, Carla Chápero of Mexico, James Money of the United Kingdom, Peter Hanson of Denmark, Varin Keokitvon of the United States, Julie Anne Finan of Ireland, Denise Liao of Taiwan, Dzianis Herashchanka of Poland, Jin Shi of China and Nayab Siddiqui of Singapore.
While most of the chefs came to attend the conferences, workshops and cooking demonstrations, and to peruse top-notch products, Nayab Siddiqui's journey back to Madrid was the direct result of her first place win at the International Tapas Competition in Valladolid last November, the culminating event of the five-month training program. Not only did Nayab's original tapa win her two nights at a Parador hotel and a chef’s jacket designed by Agatha Ruíz de la Prada, but it also landed her a trip sponsored by Spanish extra virgin olive oil company Castillo de Canena to Madrid Fusión to prepare her winning tapa.
And present it she did, preparing her so-called "torto miniatura" before an enthusiastic crowd on Monday, January 23rd, while explaining that this bite-sized creation was meant to represent a fusion of ideas from Asturias and Castile-León, as well as her native India. The elements of this highly original tapa – including suckling lamb, Castillo de Canena extra virgin olive oil, Lodosa peppers, pimentón, garam masala, garlic and ginger – are perched on a fried torto, a typical fried dough from Asturias. Nayab spent the work experience segment of the training program in this northern Spanish region, working with acclaimed Spanish chef Nacho Manzano at two-Michelin star restaurant Casa Marcial. This experience was beautifully depicted in a short video depicting Manzano and Siddiqui that was produced by ICEX and premiered just before the latter's presentation at Madrid Fusión.
From Denmark to Spain to New York
While Nayab prepared her tapa in the upstairs exhibition hall, another former participant in the ICEX program was wrapping up a dynamic and jaw-dropping presentation in the downstairs auditorium. This time around, Danish chef Ronny Emborg was in Madrid to present some of the stunning creations from two-Michelin star New York restaurant Atera, where he is the executive chef. With only eighteen seats, most of which are around a bar that looks into the open kitchen, Atera could be a haute cuisine version of the classic Spanish tapas bar – a place where each bite-sized morsel might convey a hint of Emborg's time in Spain in 2007-2008.
This touch of Spain may also have infiltrated some of Emborg's dishes and ingredients, such as the "California grape" – made using typical Spanish ingredients like olives, garlic, squid ink and extra virgin olive oil – that Emborg and the restaurant's service director Matt Abbick presented at the conference.
Promoting Spain in print
ICEX's invitation to attend Madrid Fusión extended beyond the scholarship recipients from prior editions of the Training Program in Spanish Gastronomy to include the following four prominent international journalists specializing in Spanish gastronomy: Coleman Andrews of the United States, Juan Alejandro González of Mexico, Joe Warwick of the United Kingdom, and Chris Dwyer of Hong Kong. This year the invitation also included John Higgins, the chef school director of George Brown College's Centre of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Toronto, Canada, and culinary student Jeffrey David Miranda, who won the tapas competition that was held at the school with the participation of the Spanish Trade Office in Toronto.
International culinary conference Madrid Fusión is an annual rendezvous for some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs