Why do people come to Madrid Fusión, the annual three-day gastronomic fair that concluded today — Thursday, Jan. 26 — in the Spanish capital? To sell (and buy) food products, culinary equipment, and wines and spirits, most of them Spanish; to observe new or unfamiliar culinary techniques and draw inspiration from chefs from all over the world; to exchange ideas, business cards, and occasionally lingering looks; to sample lots of food and drink, from the mundane to the ethereal (from, for example, the olive oil bar above); and most of all, just to connect with their peers and colleagues and idols from Spain and elsewhere in the contemporary cooking universe.
"I like this show because there are people from everywhere," said Dmitry Alexeyev, Moscow-based restaurant critic and vice president of the Association of Russian Gastronomy Observers. I suspect a lot of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Peruvian, Brazilian, Belgian, Italian, English, and Australian attendees, among others, would agree.
Onstage sessions run continuously in the large, comfortable, well-designed auditorium and from a temporary platform stage in front of row of folding chairs in a corner of the exhibition floor from 9:30 in the morning until early evening. The whole event seems very well organized in general, with programs paced well and demonstrations kept fairly short. (It is also remarkable how much food and drink gets served in various contexts and how quickly and efficiently the remains are policed.)
My first auditorium session of the day was watching Javier de las Muelas, proprietor of the elegant Barcelona cocktail bar Dry Martini, give a charming presentation on the importance of good service (one shining moment: his onstage bartender dipped his hands in an ice bucket before picking up a metal cocktail shaker so that he wouldn't warm up the contents as he shook).
After him, Sang-Moon Degeimbre, the avant-garde Belgian–Korean chef whose L'Air du Temps in Brussels has two Michelin stars, expanded the definition of what kimchi could be, creating a carrot version almost instantly with sous-vide technology, using kimchi juice to marinate scallops and clams, and combining it in various contexts with ingredients as diverse as fresh cheese, butter, acidulated mayonnaise, and Jerusalem artichoke purée. He then constructed a dish he calls "red tuna," which is in fact cooked beets (holding up a cross section of one, he pointed out how it resembles red tuna in both color and striation) garnished with slightly spicy cabbage kimchi, mini anchovies, clams, thin slices of pickled radish, green seaweed, microgreens, and probably one or two other little bits of things.
Joël Robuchon (identified on the program as "Jöel Robouchon") was supposed to talk about "cryoconcentration" with Bruno Goussault, the so-called father of culinary sous-vide technology. The great French chef was a no-show, but Goussault carried on, giving an interesting presentation focused on the ability of vacuum sealing to produce reductions and essences. Daniel Ovadía, chef-owner of Paxia San Ángel and Paxis Santa Fé in Mexico City, evoked a few quiet gasps when he dished up fat red agave worms (they seemed to be still wiggling as they settled on the plate) and garnished them with nopales, translucent slices of cactus pear, a purée of papalo (a cilantro-like herb), and wedges of sweet avocado, and smoked the whole arrangement with smoldering agave heart under a ceramic dome made from volcanic earth. Then he displayed roasted beef marrow bones showered in black pepper, salt, and lime juice, topped with thin slices of fried artichoke and cilantro shoots and served alongside small rolls of thin-sliced avocado and wedges of onion cured in lime juice and baked in bread dough.