Madrid Fusion Manila, the global gastronomic gathering is back for a third serving and it is larger than ever, and along with it is the more long-term goal of establishing the Philippines as an important and vibrant culinary destination in the region.
Held for three days at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Madrid Fusion this year focused on sustainability in the culinary industry as the award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs invited to deliver their talks discussed ways in which they run their respective kitchens where they showcase innovations and cutting-edge techniques in creating exquisite dishes.
“The whole world now gets to see the Philippines as a culinary destination. We really want to promote the Philippines this way,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo told the Asian Journal. “More than just a celebration of gastronomy of the highest order, Madrid Fusion is instrumental in spreading the word that Filipino chefs are world-class and that the Philippines is poised to be the center of gastronomy in Asia.”
More than 1,400 Filipino foodies from around the world, people with passionate love for food and cooking and industry professionals gathered under one venue to celebrate yet another year of gastronomic experience and thereby giving Filipino cuisine the international prestige it deserves. This year’s delegates come from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Taiwan, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Today, food forecasts for 2017 have predicted the Philippines as the place where the next big food trend will start, and many articles have been written worldwide about how the food scene in the Philippines is heating up,” said Tourism director Verna Covar-Buensuceso earlier this year at the Madrid Fusion 2017 held at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos in Madrid.
Among this year’s featured chefs for International Gastronomy Congress were 19 celebrated Filipino culinary chefs and Michelin-starred culinary chefs from Asia, Europe and the Americas led by Gert de Mangeeler (Hertog Jan, Belgium), Jordi Roca and Alejandra Rivas Gomez (El Celler de Can Roca, Spain) and Pedro Subijana (Akelare, Spain), all of whom have three Michelin stars each, one of the toughest achievements in the restaurant industry.
Two Michelin star holders Paco Perez (Miramar, Spain), Julien Royer (Odette, Singapore) and Magnus Ek (Oaxen Krog & Slip, Sweden) and Simon Rogan (L’Enclume, England) joined the aforementioned chefs as presenters.
The half-Filipino, half-French sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha (Le Servan, France), Filipino-American Sally Camacho-Mueller (Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 2 runner up) and Filipino-British Josh Boutwood (The Test Kitchen, Philippines) talked about their respective journeys and how they practice sustainability in their respective kitchens.
The Levha sisters talked about cooking from stem to stern and explained their enthusiasm when they learned about Madrid Fusion’s theme this year.
“Sustainability is a major concern for us in the restaurant,” Tatiana, who trained in both L’Arpege and L’Astrance shared. “We choose what’s seasonal, healthy and sustainably grown. And that also applies to our wine selection.”
Filipino chefs Gene Gonzalez (Café Ysabel) and Robby Goco (Green Pastures), delivered the opening and closing plenaries, respectively. Gonzalez talked about the evolution of Filipino cuisine and told the audience to watch out for artisanal and Philippine-made chocolates.
The past two years have been an incredible journey for the food industry with the chefs from the different parts of the world coming together, discussing their knowledge about their food and cuisine and sharing best practices that chefs from this part of the world could emulate.
Madrid Fusion is divided into three components: the International Gastronomy Congress, where award-winning chefs shared their views and techniques in cooking; the International Gastronomy Expo, which featured the finest food products and gourmet food, ingredients and technologies from Asia and Spain; and Flavors of the Philippines, a month-long festival across the country featuring the finest delicacies from every region.
The expo had anchor booths from both the Department of Agriculture and Department of Tourism, featuring various forms of culinary tourism, farm and agri-tourism models, along with other exhibitors involved in sustainable farming and fishing in keeping up with this year’s theme.
From fine food to gourmet products and new ingredients, from equipment and services to culinary and farm tourism prime-movers, the gastronomy expo is meant to reach out to the trade and tourism buyers and decision-makers. Destination and lifestyle stands showcased the culinary tourism attractions of the country, along with their respective and iconic food, beverages and ingredients.
There were also “food and beverage tunnels” which became a venue for delectable tasting sessions of wines and spirits, heirloom rice and grains, fresh farm produce, artisanal chocolates, various coffee varieties and other products. Food seminars were also held throughout the three-day affair.
With Madrid Fusion Manila on its third edition, the culinary industry of the Philippines is beginning to expand and grow as it serves to challenge the country’s aspiring chefs to bring out the best in their crafts and how to make Manila the center of culinary excellence in all of Asia.
Madrid Fusion Manila is the first and only Asian edition of Madrid Fusion, the most important international gastronomy congress in the world, organized annually in Madrid since 2003.
When it was first staged in Manila in 2015, the theme focused around the 300-year gastronomic journey between the Philippines and Spain, and the celebration of the 450th anniversary then of the Manila Galleon that opened up trade routes between Asia, Europe and the Americas.
“There’s a lot of interest in the event now. We have Fil-Ams coming in from the United States and foreigners signing up for the congress. We also have the tourism buyers program and we have tour operators specializing in gastronomy and food tours from different parts of the world here,” Buensuceso added.
The Tourism department is pushing culinary tourism further and they are encouraging these global tour operators to meet with their local travel trade counterparts and develop packages to the Philippines that are centered on food and gastronomy tours.
This year’s theme, according to Buensuceso, aligns well because this is also the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, one of the advocacies of the many chefs in the world and many of the chefs speaking at the congress are pushing for sustainability.
“We are on the right track because we have so far generated a lot of buzz about the Philippines as a food hub and many of the publications in the world are already saying that Filipino cuisine is the next big food trend. We also have enclaves of Filipinos living abroad where Filipino restaurants are now coming out and they’re getting to be very popular so it also creates that awareness and helps build the awareness about the Philippines as a center of food and gastronomy,” Ms. Buensuceso explained.
“I think all these elements are conspiring together to push the Philippines into the limelight,” she added.