Arts & Leisure

Madrid Fusión Manila, the second time around

Posted on December 03, 2015

IF LOVE is sweeter the second time around, the second wind of Madrid Fusión Manila will be a cacophony of flavors -- citrusy, saccharine, eggy, robust, nutty, and hot -- arranged thoughtfully via morsels and tidbits on small plates, topped with dollops of colorful sauces, before being served to the world.

SCENES FROM Madrid Fusion Manila 2015: chef Mario Sandoval demonstrates his roast piglet; chef Elena Arzak discusses her avant garde cuisine; a cultural presentation; and chef Juan Carlos de Terry discusses the history of Philippine-Spanish cuisine. -- WWW.MADRIDFUSIONMANILA.COM
Madrid Fusión Manila is the Asian edition of Madrid Fusión, one of the most important international gastronomy congresses in the world which has been held annually in Madrid since 2003. It brings together the most acclaimed avant-garde chefs from across the world to reach out to gourmet professionals, aficionados, and enthusiasts.

Last April, the first edition of Madrid Fusión Manila was held as part of the Visit the Philippines Year 2015 Campaign, through the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Tourism Promotions Board. It featured Michelin-starred chefs from Spain such as Elena Arzak, the joint head chef of three Michelin-starred Arzak restaurant and holder of Best Female Chef in the World title in 2012.

The nostalgic affair also let stellar Filipino chefs take center stage with modernized version of traditional dishes with roots in the shared history of Spain and the Philippines.

“Madrid Fusión Manila [2015] proved to be an emotional reunion between close friends who had not shared a meal in a very long time,” mused Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. at the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) between the DoT and ICEX España (Exportación e Inversiones), the public export promotion agency belonging to the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of Spain, on Nov. 26 at the Crimson Hotel in Alabang.

The maiden event in April gathered 1,381 delegates and 6,000 trade visitors, as well as 88 exhibiting companies from over 22 countries. Mr. Jimenez called it “not just a food festival” but a “gastronomical milestone.”

Next year, Madrid Fusión Manila 2016 is set to take place from April 7 to 9.

“It is an opportunity for the Philippines to realize how important gastronomy is to tourism,” said Spain’s Secretary of State for Trade Jaime García-Legaz who was at the MoA signing. He cited Peru as an example, as that South American country has recently been receiving press attention as an emerging global culinary center.

The Philippines may soon enjoy the same distinction as the second Madrid Fusión Manila frontlines star-studded chefs once again.

The list of confirmed chefs includes José Andrés, the Spanish-American chef who is credited for bringing the small plates concept to America. He organizes lunches at the White House, and has received high praise from US President Barack Obama, including being called “the quintessential American success story.” Earlier in his career, he trained under Ferran Adrià at the restaurant El Bulli.

Jordi Butrón of Espaisucre is likewise flying in, bringing in his skills as one of Spain’s foremost pastry chefs. The award-winning chef is credited with founding what could be the first dessert restaurant in the world.

Kevin Cherkas, who helms Cuca restaurant in Bali, Indonesia, has an enviable career history which includes working at Arzak, El Bulli, the two Michelin-star La Broche in Madrid, as well as three-star Daniel in New York. 

New-York based chefs with Filipino roots are also coming: former Top Chef competitor Leah Cohen of Southeast Asian restaurant Pig & Khao, who has earned a two-star review from the iconic Pete Wells in the New York Times; and Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, who have been in the restaurant business in New York for the past two decades.

The world of tastes is coming, courtesy of Dani García and Joan Roca of Spain, Virgilio Martínez of Peru, Yoshihiro Narisawa of Japan, Enrique Olvera and Jorge Vallejo of Mexico, Paul Qui of the United States, David Thompson of Thailand, Nurdin Topham of Hong Kong, Jungsik Yim of Korea, and Myke Sarthou of the Philippines.

The theme for Madrid Fusión Manila 2016 will be “The Manila Galleon: East meets West,” to mark the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade that linked Asia with the Western World.

It will again be composed of three simultaneous events: the International Gastronomy Congress, where the chefs will present their menus and food preparations one by one; the Trade Exhibit, where international and national food and beverage companies will showcase their products, equipment and technology; and the Flavors of the Philippines Festival, a month-long cultural and gastronomic feast in many parts of the country featuring food tastings and tours, bar crawls, roving food trucks, etc.

The spotlight on Philippine cuisine isn’t limited to Madrid Fusion Philippines. According to Director Verna Buensuceso, DoT’s OIC for Market Development Group, Madrid Fusion in Madrid in January next year will have a Philippine stand. Philippine-based chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask will be speaking on various Philippine ingredients, and the Philippines will host a cocktail reception that will highlight its cuisine.

Registration for the Madrid Fusión Manila 2016 Congress is currently open with regular rates at $450 (P20,000), group rates with minimum of 20 pax at $290 (P13,000), as well as an early bird rate until Jan. 15 at $320 (P14,000). Students are given a regular rate at $410 (P18,000), group rates of $240 (P11,000), and an early bird rate of $14,000 (P14,000).

At this year’s Madrid Fusión Manila, Spanish chef Paco Torreblanca said in his presentation: “We have to move on, move on, move on.” Next year’s Madrid Fusión Manila is set to be another “good meal” to be shared by the Philippines and Spain via small plates and a common passion for taste. -- Pola Esguerra del Monte

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