Madrid Fusion 2014: Food & culinary wizardry

The unusual citron with octopus-like tentacles
The unusual citron with octopus-like tentacles
The unusual citron with octopus-like tentacles

We witness the ingenuity and variety of the Spanish culinary scene in an exclusive invitation to Madrid Fusion 2014

By Cheryl Chia

When I received the invitation for Madrid Fusion 2014, I was delighted. Later, I was flattered to find out that I was the only person from Singapore that was invited.

Madrid Fusion is an international gastronomic summit held over a span of three days, with various culinary industry players involved and with global media coverage.

From Jan 27 to 29, the Palacio de Congresos Juan Carlos I at Campos de las Naciones was filled with people eager to partake in the knowledge shared in the various seminars, workshops and exhibitions.

Eye-Opening Experience

There were various eminent speakers throughout the three-day conference, including Mehmet Gurs (of Mikla, Turkey) who gave his two cents’ worth on using rural tradition in food, and three Michelin-star chef Joan Roca (of El Celler de Can Roca, Spain) who spoke on what inspires and motivates him.

There was much creativity and skill on display, such as when chocolatier Oriol Balaguer (Oriol Balaguer, Spain) showed off his modern ideas by creating desserts, while Michelin-star chef Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta, Spain) impressed with the number of dishes he could create in mere 20 minutes.

At the summit, I eagerly lapped up all the information – through a translator, of course. I truly marvelled at the ingenuity and originality of the chefs and thought to myself, “Singapore, you have a long way to go before reaching that level.”

Balaguer’s workshop, “Restaurant Desserts, The Sweet Finish” struck me in particular as he created desserts that one could make at home but with some tweaks. This took it from “Oh, that’s nice.” to “Wow!” as he demonstrated an easy-to-make chocolate dessert filled with marshmallows in a cacao bean shaped mould.

The result was a beautifully-shaped dessert with a red jelly glaze, topped with a sprinkle of gold leaf powder.

“You could even make it any flavour you like, such as pina colada or in different colours!” Balaguer enthused.

One of the sweet creations by Oriol Balaguer
One of the sweet creations by Oriol Balaguer

Bountiful Food Floor

Apart from the seminars and workshops, the last floor of the convention hall held a large exhibition filled with stalls showcasing the best food, wine, olive oil and bread. Most of the produce was of Spanish origin, such as Sangria Lolea (bottled sangria), Hacienda Guzman (artisanal olive oil), Tiella de Salor (charcuterie) and Epagal SL (churros and patatas fritas – potato chips).

There was also San Miguel beer, and various wine tasting booths. Fish supplier Makro also had an impressive display of fish and seafood that prompted lots of photos.

There were also a few booths such as Oishii Washoku plying Japanese wares. Being a foodie, I thought I had died and gone to heaven with so many food booths at my disposal. I didn’t know where to start!

Splendid Spanish Staples

Olive oil is a Spanish staple, usually paired with freshly-baked bread, and that was what I decided to check out first. Many different types of olives with different flavour profiles – much like wine – grow throughout Spain.

The stronger ones are better as a salad dressing rather than consumed with bread, in my opinion, but it is up to your individual taste. There was much to choose from.

Next was the world-famous Jamon Iberico. There were so many booths with chefs slicing ham off the leg; I could almost imagine an orchestra of violins playing with each motion of their hands.

All of the ham slices were thin and had a layer of fat, which made them melt in the mouth – a signature trait of Jamon Iberico.

Have you seen purple cauliflower?
Have you seen purple cauliflower?

Intriguing Finds

The produce booths were even more outstanding. Have you ever seen a purple cauliflower before? Neither had I until Madrid Fusion. How about a citron? This is a citrus fruit shaped like an octopus with many ‘tentacles’. Simply amazing.

I even saw the photo and concept of a utility belt for oysters and champagne! The server wears this belt on his hips, with oysters and a bottle of champagne. After one eats the oyster, the shell is used to drink the champagne. Does someone want to bring this into Singapore?

All three days of Madrid Fusion 2014 were a remarkable experience. The insight into how excellent food is made with the freshest ingredients and the latest styles in Spain was truly invaluable.

This trip was made possible by the Tourist Office of Spain.