"A different look at salt" by Angel Leon
Ángel León, on the stage at Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión 2019, reveals a culinary technique that revolutionises the way we see salt.
Ángel León, chef at Aponiente, feels that his career came to a turning-point in 2007 when, while diving, he discovered a coral that looked like an underwater bunch of flowers. That was when he started to build a future for his restaurant based on exploring what else was hidden beneath the sea - marine fruits, legumes, cereals?
He hasn't found them yet, but he's still looking. This year his cuisine includes new ingredients that come close to flowers: for example, his “marine celery” that they are currently pickling; another seaweed in the shape of a pear, like one of those flowers he was dreaming of, his "marine currants", "sea radishes" and "marine tomato". All are examples of the way he sees the sea.
And it is that way of looking that allows him to discover products such as the pea crab, a pest that eats oysters, absorb all their flavor. It is crisp, and has a pure oyster taste. Another of the new ingredients.
But the topic of his talk today is salt, a product that exists all over the world and in our own bodies and that no-one gets excited about. León has found a way to spark that excitement. In Cádiz salt takes two months to form on the salt marshes. Angel wondered if we could cut the process short, buy up, capture, take over the crystallisation time.
At Aponiente they have learned to saturate the salt from sea water, which crystallises before the eyes of the observers. But there's still more. He manages, by combining different salts, to get the crystallisation to rise in temperature and to cook while it crystallises. Pure magic.
Another fact, for chefs. The combination needed is: table salt, plus sodium-free table salt, calcium chloride, vinegar salt, and fresh salt .
This is the mixture that works the miracle. From August, it will be on sale at his restaurant Aponiente.
"Beyond Sous Vide Cuisine" Joan Roca (El Cellar de Can Roca, Spain)
With his book La Cocina del vacío (Sous-Vide Cuisine) (2003), Joan Roca blazed a trail that we have all since followed. It was the result of an idea and many studies carried out in his day with Hervé This, who was at this stage already telling them that the key was the low temperature, not the vacuum itself.
From that moment on, El Celler de Can Roca has continued to research low-temperature cooking. It was the subject of Roca’s presentation, in which the chef from Girona showed us the countless ways in which this idea has borne fruit: oil at low temperature (cod); dry steam under pressure at low temperature (scorpionfish with gazpachuelo); cooking in a traditional controlled temperature oven (coated and smoked duck with boiled turnip and smoked daikon, dehydrated, in turn, at low temperature and then fermented); maturation in a cabinet plus brine injection and grilling at low temperature (pigeon à l’ast); cooking in the smoke oven (acorn-fed duck with orange)… And finally, yes, the vacuum: in a shoulder cut smoked and spiced for 70 hours at 55º. The dish: beetroot, red onion, pepper confit and avocado puree with beet juice, all accompanied by a meat that has acquired such delicacy that you can eat it with a spoon.
Along with all this and in keeping with the spirit of contemporary cuisine which is so evident in the Palacio Municipal de Congresos, Joan Roca presented us with some of the recycling projects that are underway at El Celler: reuse of the plastic from the vacuum bags, which a Caritas workshop has created together with the designer Andreu Carulla in order to make aprons that people can buy. So the vacuum not does not end: it is recycled. As are the bottles, which are reused in different formats, such as styrofoam: with every six boxes they build designer stools by pressing it in a workshop collaborating with El Celler.
Traditinally, the second day of Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión holds the Truffle Auction . This was one of the most enjoyable and treasured events(since this is the first time that I have witnessed one) to take place every year at the Madrid International Gastronomy Congress, which this year is celebrating its seventeenth edition. The proceeds go to the Luis Guanella Foundation , which uses the funds obtained to assist with the labor integration of women at risk of social exclusion.
On this occasion, two specimens of black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) with approximate weights of 450gr and 250gr were offered at auction. The quality of the Sorian truffle sparked a lively bidding war among the attendees and the largest of them went for € 5,100. The lucky chef who acquired it is a stalwart of the Truffle Auction: Andrea Tumbarello, from the restaurant Don Giovanni (Madrid). Tumbarello believes that “Soria is the temple of the truffle” so it is well worth bidding in the auction “and even more so if it also contributes to a good cause”.
Tumbarello came up against some tough competitors in the Riojan chefs. La Rioja looked to have a strong presence at this auction with a group of chefs from the region who acquired the 250gr truffle for € 4,000. Francis Paniego (Echaurren), Fernando Saz (Ice Cream Shop Della Sera), Lorenzo Cañas (La Merced), Ignacio Echapresto (Venta Moncalvillo), Iñaki Murúa and Carolina Sánchez (Ícaro) wanted to “close the circle of charity” and buy this truffle to be served at a dinner, also for charity, which they plan to hold in the capital of La Rioja in aid of the soup kitchen Cocina Económica de Logroño.
"Zero Foodprint: Can cooks change the world?" by Anthony Myint (The Perennial, San Francisco)
Anthony's culinary vocation was always marked by social and ecological activism. In the various restaurants in which he worked in the early years of his career, a large proportion of the profits went to social causes and environmental commitments, but that was just the start of what was to come.
His studies about how the Earth’s biomass affects the food chain astonished him – fertilisers that destroy the soil, fuel used to carry food back and forth. His conclusion was clear: capitalism is anti-nature. Most crops grow on unhealthy soil. The main problem lies in the food production process. The solution needs to focus on the recovery of degraded soils by responsibly growing organic crops, the so-called regenerative farming.
Myint has become one of the most influential thinkers in cuisine today, and advocates that the soil can save the earth. “A 2% increase in carbon in the subsoil of our planet would compensate for greenhouse gas emissions”, he states.
And that’s what his ZeroFoodprint foundation is working on, advising restaurants in different parts of the world, helping them to calculate and minimise the impact of their activity without affecting their costs and profits. Chefs such as Enrique Olvera or René Redzepi are already committed to this movement. But he also asks restaurant customers to get involved, choosing firms that are involved in the regeneration of our planet’s soils.
Today there are 25 restaurants with a neutral carbon footprint. Let’s hope the number will soon grow.
"Geniuses of Creativity" by Albert Adria (ElBarri, Spain) Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz, Spain) & Dabiz Munoz (DiverXo, Spain)
On this platform I learnt about a chef that I had never heard of before: Dabiz Munoz. He is the youngest chef in the world to be awarded a three Michelin star.
The conversation between these three stalwarts was an interesting one. They touched upon topics like inspiration & how it can appear anywhere, in any form. They also spoke about the changing culture in restaurant kitchens, the importance of spending time on research & development & how consumers are now more open to the chef's interpretation of food. Apart from these topics, there was a great camaraderie & lots of laughs. However since it was conducted in Spanish, I'm sure some things got lost in translation. However, just being able to witness such amazing chefs & listen to them was an honour.
"Collagens, fish & Sauces" Elena Arzak (Arzak, Spain)
Next, Elena Arzak along with her colleagues, spoke about RE-Arzak. A continual review of all the parameters that concern Arzak, because the changes that are taking place in gastronomy are constant and profound, and only the ability to continually adapt will allow renowned restaurants to maintain their prestige in the long run, they must ‘rediscover their essence’. The ideas she puts forward, all of them linked to the use of natural collagens (the ones used at Arzak are extracted from monkfish, as well as from Atlantic horse mackerel), confirm that this core pillar has remained unchanged.
Collagen is the most organic content of protein and can be sourced from various animals: Pig snout, Hake fin, cuttle fish, etc.
"Catering: No limits, No Distances" by Dani Garcia (Dani Garcia Restaurante, Spain)
Day 2 cannot end without mentioning the fantastic presentation given by Lourdes Muñoz on the service offered by Dani García Catering, a company that employs over three-hundred people and offers haute-cuisine catering not only in Spain, but also in other countries. She showed to what extent its success depends on the great professionalism of its team that is made up people who are passionate about what they do, and who work seamlessly with the huge machine that is set in motion for every event.
Personally, it was very inspiring for me since it opened my eyes up to the extent of creativity & professionalism that catering companies can achieve.