Madrid Fusión 2021, Sustainable Hope For Global Gastronomy
The return to an in-person format by the most prestigious gastronomy conference in the world, Madrid Fusión, offers conclusions inspired by sustainability, emotion and the recovery of foods. These are the 5 key components:
1. Gastronomy committed to the environment
The 2021 edition of Madrid Fusión had a common thread: Spanish haute cuisine’s focus on the environment. This includes efforts within restaurants and their relationships with suppliers forging new paths that are increasingly sustainable, with an emphasis on energy efficiency, avoiding food waste, listening to the immediate environment, and focusing on emotion and nature. Fina Puigdevall and her team at Les Cols (2 Michelin stars) shared their concept of circular gastronomy: "The Les Cols menu has been inspired by local nature for the last 31 years: fish that comes from the river and never from faraway seas; lots of eggs from their own chickens raised in mobile coops to clean and fertilize the soil; vegetables they collect themselves and which grow with the help of compost mixed with kitchen waste at the end of the day; meat from their own breed of sheep; and the use of an almost extinct herb that they recovered, thanks to its flavor."
Joan Roca shared during his presentation that everything that occurs at El Celler de Can Roca restaurant is "audited from a sustainability standpoint: the logistics, with efficient transport; air conditioning; lighting, for which they ask the electricity company to use renewable sources; reusing water as much as possible...” The three Roca brothers' curious, non-conformist and creative approach had also led them to explore new uses for the unwanted parts of food. One example is the leaves of the pepper plant that they grow themselves, which they ferment, toast and chop up to make tea. They make a type of tea ceremony that revolves around the pepper: the drink is served with a freeze-dried Padrón pepper that is emptied and filled with Manzanilla olive pearls that look like the pepper's real seeds. It's followed by a cod brandade with pickled pepper flowers and a pepper juice served as a sauce. All of the possibilities of a single product are explored.
Taking advantage of every part of the product was another trend at Madrid Fusión, with Javier Olleros (El Culler de Pau, one Michelin star) sharing one of his dishes: coffee made with corn roots, chicory, dandelion and turnip. "We thought it might have an unpleasant taste but it's perfect and it allows us to take the idea of using every part of a product to the extreme," said Olleros.
2. Recovery of foods that are disappearing and relationships with suppliers
Spanish chefs are increasingly working with small suppliers to try to recover foods that are all but forgotten. In the region of Murcia, we have chef María Gómez (Magoga restaurant, 1 Michelin star) and her research into giant cane, a plant native to the area close to Cartagena; and chef Pablo González Conejero (Cabaña Buenavista restaurant, 2 Michelin stars), who is fighting to recover autochthonous vegetables in the region.
Eneko Atxa and his 3-Michelin-star Azurmendi are an example of how relationships with local suppliers can be an essential part of a restaurant's identity. He brought eight foods from eight local suppliers to Madrid Fusión to prepare eight dishes filled with emotion, poetry and the restaurant's immediate surroundings. Atxa said, “My local suppliers are the essence of my cooking, my success and my project.”
3. Aponiente and Disfrutar, cutting-edge innovation
Spanish chefs are always the spearheads of innovation at every Madrid Fusión and the 2021 edition was no different. Ángel León and his team at Aponiente shared their research into their marine grain, Zostera, which is obtained from a very nutritious type of grain, similar to rice. They stole the show on the first day when they explained how they made their marine ham using tuna, following a process similar to that of obtaining ham from pigs.
Disfrutar, one of Barcelona's most famous restaurants and helmed by three disciples of Ferran Adrià (Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas), presented their bubbles made from different fats (extra virgin olive oil, Ibérico ham, foie, etc.) and they showed how a table can actually be a crucial tool that adds another dimension to the dining experience.
4. Wine, in the spotlight more than ever
Madrid Fusión 2021 gave wine the pride of place it deserves within a gastronomy conference. The Wine Edition, a first at the event, gave rise to discussions about natural and biodynamic wines from Spain and how restaurants create the best wine lists, and set the stage for memorable tastings and topics like what wines are like before they become Grandes Reservas, unknown varieties from Castile-León, Garnachas from around the world, and extreme viticulture. Wines from Spain was one of the sponsors of The Wine Edition.
5. Awards and distinctions
Madrid Fusión is a laboratory of trends that acts, to some degree, as a gastronomic oracle, setting the stage for the awards presented each year. The Chef of the Year award went to a group of eight Spanish chefs staunchly committed to sustainability (Andoni Luis Aduriz, Rodrigo de la Calle, Ricard Camarena, Xavier Pellicer, Ignacio Echapresto, Javier Olleros, Fernando del Cerro and Luis Callealta). The Best New Chef award went to a duo comprising Javier Sanz and Juanjo Sahuquillo, from Cañitas Maite restaurant, located in a small town in Castile-La Mancha. Interestingly, this restaurant also won two other awards at Madrid Fusión: best Ibérico ham croquette and best escabeche dish. The young pastry chef Fátima Gismero took home the Best New Pastry Chef award and Domi Vélez was chosen to compete for the World's Best Baker award, which will be presented in Brussels in October.