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Lessons from Madrid Fusion Manila 2017 Part 2

Nobu Manila satisfies local cravings with Filipino-inspired dishes


By CJ Juntereal

Images by Noel Pabalate

  • Kinilaw dish

  • Mango eclair

  • A walk through the gardens of manila

  • pan-roasted cabbage with malunggay pods and fermented mushroom stock

  • Platter of goat ham; and goat terrine and goat cheese

  • Chef Pedro Subijana

  • Chef Alejandra Rivas and Chef Jordi Roca

  • Chef Jordy Navarro of Toyo Eatery

  • Chef Simon Rogan

  • Chef Vicky Lau

  • Chef Gert de Mangeleer

    And here it is, part two of the lessons we can all learn from Madrid Fusion Manila 2017, whether we are chefs, home cooks, or simply people who like to eat. Part one was published last Thursday, April 13.

    1. You can create a stunning dish by choosing to focus on just one ingredient or flavor, and finding different ways to amplify that single flavor. Fil-Am pastry Chef Sally Camacho-Mueller demonstrated a dessert of éclairs and meringue using duck eggs. The éclairs were filled with mango pastry cream, and the crisp meringue shell with a rich and eggy mango-flavored yema. The plate was garnished with more fresh mangoes, mango yema, and mango puree. To echo the duck egg theme and add texture, Camacho topped the plate with dehydrated duck skin that had been deep-fried into chicharon and sprinkled with a sugar and garam masala mixture. She pointed out that balancing the sweet with a savory component ensures that people will finish the dessert. Pastry chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain described a dessert he created that played on a green theme with Chartreuse cream, green herbs and fruit, lime jelly, and lime zest. Odette’s (in Singapore) chef Julien Royer stressed that in creating a dish, one should consider not just taste, but also color, aroma, and texture.
    2. Perhaps it is time that vegetables take a starring role in our meals. Several chefs chose to create and demonstrate dishes using ingredients that they found from visiting Farmers’ Market, and some vegetable farms outside the city. Chef Simon Rogan, whose two Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the United Kingdom focuses on produce is foraged or grown in his nearby farm, began his presentation by stating that he truly believes the world is on the verge of climate disaster if people don’t do something about it. He said that in the quest for cheap food and higher profits, we have created a world where we can get any food we need, anytime, and seasons have become non-existent. Rogan pointed out that cattle rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases than driving cars, as he made the case for serving and eating more plant-based dishes. Meat and fish can take supporting roles, he explained. Among the dishes he demonstrated after visiting our local markets (it was more sustainable than flying in ingredients), was a simple “cabbage steak” pan-roasted in butter. Other components of the dish were malunggay pods, malunggay root, malunggay oil, sautéed mushrooms, and a fermented mushroom stock sweetened with palm sugar. Rogan professed to be fascinated by our humble malunggay (moringa). Belgian chef Gert de Mangeleer, whose restaurant Hertog Jan in Belgium was awarded three Michelin stars, demonstrated nine dishes in one hour. He dubbed one of the dishes “A Walk through the Gardens of Manila.” Mangeleer’s signature plating style is beautiful and deceptive in its simplicity. His dish was a salad that contained mangoes, fennel, baby carrots, papaya, local nuts, miniscule cucumbers, and a variety of edible local plants and flowers. He says that inspiration for creating a new dish often starts with a vegetable. He also makes sure that his food tastes good, as well as looks good. “If it only looks good, then it is like you are with a beautiful woman who has nothing to say,” he explained.
    3. We need to continue learning and changing, and we must remain humble in order to progress. These were the wise words of Basque chef Pedro Subijana of the three Michelin-starred restaurant Akelarre. Subijana, who is credited with being one of initiators of New Basque cuisine, announced to the audience at the Congress, “I have been 50 years in the kitchen, and I am just starting.” We will learn more if we humble ourselves, he said, adding that constant learning and changing fosters creativity. The best chefs in the world all have one trait in common—the need to constantly learn and discover new things. All of the chefs at Madrid Fusion Manila made time to visit our local markets and farms, and many of them brought home new ingredients that intrigued them and captured their interest.
    4. Filipino food is so much more than what we can find in Metro Manila. “Manila is just a speck of what the Philippines has to offer,” Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery in Makati claimed. Navarra advocated traveling and exploring our country’s many provinces to learn about ingredients and techniques from the different communities, and apply them in our own kitchens. The Regional Lunches and the Gastronomy Expo at Madrid Fusion Manila were an eye-opener as I discovered manok sa palagsing from Butuan, the Tausug pianggang, ice cream made from toasted rice at the Albay booth, bottled pangus fish from Lake Buluan, and so many more products that showed me that Filipino food is so much more diverse than we give it credit for.
    5. Have fun when you cook and create, and poke a little fun at yourself if you want to. Pastry chef Jordi Roca works with his brothers at the world renowned El Celler de Can Roca, but he also has an ice cream shop named Rocambolesc. It is where he plays, explained his partner, Chef Alejandra Rivas Gomez. It is a place where he adapts the high-end desserts he creates for the general public. He pokes fun at his distinctive nose by selling a strawberry popsicle shaped like it. Another popsicle is made of dark chocolate in the shape of Darth Vader. Humor is important, Roca said, because guests always need a new surprise.
    6. The things we take for granted are the things that other people find interesting. We should pay more attention to our different varieties of rice, vinegar, our salted, preserved, and fermented products, and our plants and fruits because these are what intrigued many of the international chefs.
    7. Find ways to bring fresh perspective to underutilized ingredients. Chef Robby Goco of Green Pastures built his presentation around a challenge to make goat interesting and marketable to skeptical client base. Goat, he said during his presentation, is sustainable because it is endemic to our terroir, can survive on very little food and resources, and cannot be industrialized because the goats will die. In finding ways to make goat more appealing, Goco created Goat Ham by brining it for five days in a variety of spices before roasting it in a low temperature oven. He presented a beautiful cold cuts platter with the ham, terrine of goat, goat’s cheese, and local salad greens. Chefs Kamila Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari from fine dining restaurant Gustu in Bolivia created a dish using Bolivian papas (potatoes), something rejected by their local diners because it was poor man’s food. Bolivia has a diverse array of 10,000 varieties of potatoes.
    8. I’ve saved the two most important lessons we can learn for last. The first is that while chefs have the power and responsibility to change things for the better, media has equal responsibility. Seidler and Cestari talked about the challenge of making their restaurant in Bolivia successful because at first the locals did not appreciate what they were doing; their main customers were foreigners. Eventually they said, articles written by the international press enticed people to change their minds. Here in the Philippines, we’ve seen what celebrity chefs’ visits, articles in international publications, and features in international travel and food shows have done to bring our cuisine to the world’s table. With information so easily available online, anyone who writes something—whether traditional media or blogger or even someone who just posts a comment online—has the responsibility to be fair and truthful because with our words, we can build or destroy anything.
    9. The second is that now, more than ever, we have reason to be proud of our cuisine. Not just of our cuisine, but of the wild, wonderful, diverse variety of fruits, plants, herbs, and ingredients that can be found on all of our islands. Ube and calamansi are just the tip of the iceberg; we have so much more to offer the world. It will take all of us believing in our products and ingredients for this to happen. I can’t wait for Madrid Fusion Manila 2018 and all the new things that are waiting to be discovered and learned.


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