Madrid Fusión


World’s top chefs kick off Madrid Fusión 2021, in person and online, as they discuss circular gastronomy

Tina Nielsen


Pioneering Aponiente chef Angel León unveiled his latest project to cultivate marine grain and a new take on the classic Spanish jamón Ibérico.

Alan Geaam demonstrated his uniquely singular cooking style, blending Lebanese heritage with French tradition.

Flynn McGarry outlined his approach to vegetable forward cooking in Gem, his New York City restaurant.

Asia’s Best Female Chef DeAille Tam, of Obscura restaurant in Shanghai, spoke about her partnerships with small producers in China .

Joan Roca shared a history of sustainability at El Celler de Can Roca as he unveiled the latest innovation.

Over 20 chefs came together on the first day of Madrid Fusión 2021 to discuss circular gastronomy and share their solutions to challenges in the kitchen and beyond. Innovation, imagination and creativity were among the main themes of an inspiring day.

Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España today made an emphatic return to the gastronomy events calendar. The first day of the 19th edition of Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España, the world’s leading gastronomy conference, saw chefs from three continents address the most pressing concerns of our time: circular gastronomy and finding ways to preserve the environment through innovation in the restaurant kitchen.

At the IFEMA exhibition centre in Madrid delegates attended in-person presentations from some of the best chefs in the world, while thousands more attended virtually in what is the first fully hybrid and truly global edition of Madrid Fusión.

Opening the conference with his presentation Gifts from the Sea, Aponiente chef Ángel León confirmed his status as a genuine pioneer, presenting his latest project, the discovery and cultivation of marine rice – to the world for the first time at Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España 2021. 

León unveiled his plans for cultivating Zostera marina, a plant that grows in the Bay of Cádiz and demonstrated the versatility of the marine grain, which is best described as a hybrid of rice and quinoa and can be boiled, roasted or even milled into a flour for bread. Of high nutritious value, the grain is also crucial to marine diversity.

He also shared his latest innovation – a marine ham made out of the belly of the wild blue fin Almadraba tuna, replicating the classic Spanish Ibérico ham. The result of a collaboration between Aponiente and Petaca Chico, the dish appears on the 2021 menu of the 3-starred restaurant in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

“Aponiente set out looking for new sources of protein and I told my team that we had to turn the sea upside down, to start observing again and to look at the depth of it. This has opened our minds it is that start of creating a garden in the sea. After almost 15 years in Aponiente there is still an excitement in the team” 

Chef Alan Geaam shared his journey from homeless and penniless in France to finding success with his Paris restaurant Alan Geaam. Born in Liberia and raised in Lebanon, Geaam made his dreams a reality after a journey of grit and determination becoming the first Lebanese chef to be awarded a Michelin star in 2018.

He demonstrated his singular proposition to share with the world the flavours of his Lebanese heritage while using classic French techniques cooking an elaborate dish of lamb kofta and carrot.

“I like to tell my story with French food and Lebanese memories; I want customers to feel what is happening in my head.”

Flynn McGarry, among the youngest of the chefs presenting to Madrid Fusión 2021 described his focus on a vegetable forward menu at his restaurant Gem in New York’s Lower East Side.  

As part of his presentation Rebel with a cause, he cooked two signature dishes from the Gem menu – a fruit ceviche, making the most of the sour fruits that grow in New York state, and cabbage and morel schnitzel, in a take on the classic veal dish.

McGarry, who started to cook in his bedroom as a child has enjoyed a meteoric rise as a chef. He hosted a supper club in Los Angeles aged 12, before opening his first permanent restaurant Gem in New York’s Lower East Side when he was 19 years old. 

“Why are we thinking of the vegetable as a side dish? For me it is so much more interesting and fun to eat the cabbage and morel mushroom schnitzel. Most of our food is focused on fruits, vegetable and plants from the sea. We use meat and fish to enhance the vegetables.”

Named Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2021, DeAille Tam is the co-founder and executive chef of Obscura in Shanghai, China. She appeared virtually with her kitchen team to share her presentation Innovation without rules and protocols. 

During the last five years she has explored China and the culinary traditions of different regions to learn about new produce and meet small producers. 

Countering the stigma of home-grown produce in a country that perceive imported ingredients as of better quality, she sets about celebrating the local producers. She told the audience about the ingredients she has encountered, from freshwater salmon and beef to eggs and cheese, grown on a small scale with integrity and a care for the environment.

Tam showcased some of the local producers she works with and how she cooks with their products, including Majime Food in Shandong who make Koji beef; le Fromage de Pekin, manufacturers of handcrafted cheese, combining French technique with local milk; and sustainably farmed cherry tomatoes from Arnott Agricultural technology in Shandong.

“Five years ago when I came to Shanghai, the challenge was not just about the language, there is a whole new genre of gastronomic culture in china. Our travels around this vast country has given me a deeper connection with Chinese culture.”

Joan Roca, head chef of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, twice named the world’s best restaurant, shared an insight into the efforts made to create a more sustainable way of life at the restaurant as he took the audience through his presentation 360 Degrees/365 Days.

Roca shared a history of the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability. Since 2015 the Roca Recycles project, has been implemented to reduce and reuse waste, including glass, polystyrene and plastic bags used for sous vide cooking.

At Madrid Fusión, Roca presented the latest step on the journey as he unveiled a range of uniforms for the team at El Celler de Can Roca, made of recycled cotton and plastic waste from the restaurant.

On stage he demonstrated how his team cook with ingredients that would formerly be discarded– a potato soufflé made with the peel of the potato and a tea made of the leaves from a pepper plant.

Roca recognised that sustainability goes beyond the restaurant and that the human part is a crucial part of the process. Stating an intention challenge convention by encouraging diners to visit the restaurant the traditionally established later time of dining, he said the earlier dining times adapted during the pandemic would be stay 
“During the pandemic our guests had to eat dinner early and now we are going to continue with this schedule to give our staff a chance to have a better quality of life.” 

Pastry chef Jordi Roca demonstrated how the team convert leftover sourdough bread into honey and sweet sauces for use in desserts and, showcasing the magic of El Celler de Can Roca, that diners are so familiar with, he shared a new technique to make chocolate foam fly.

The chefs spoke as part of a packed first-day programme also featuring, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas from Disfrutar restaurant in Barcelona; Javier García, founding director of World Central Kitchen who outlined the establishment of the Spanish brand of the non-profit organisation during the pandemic; Rodrigo de la Calle, the pioneer of plant-forward cuisine in Spain; Ricard Camarena from Ricard Camarena restaurant; Martina, Clara and Carlota Puigvert and Fina Puigdeval from Restaurant Les Cols; Xavier Pellicer from Restaurante Xavier Pellicer; and Pedro Sánchez from Bagá restaurant. 






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