San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country closes its 20th year with more than 1,600 congress delegates and a message from Martín Berasategui: “20 years and the best is still to come”.


Juan Mari Arzak receives the Tribute Award and becomes the leading figure at a congress that highlights the evolution of the Spanish gastronomic revolution.


This Wednesday San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country 2018 has closed its 20th year, an anniversary that the congress has dedicated to Juan Mari Arzak in particular and to the gastronomic revolution that Spain went through two decades ago in general. The genius from San Sebastián picked up the Tribute Award among numerous congratulations and dedications, which were extended to a congress “that we have all attended and learnt from for years”. It is a phrase by Dani García; it could be by Joan Roca or Josean Alija, the leading figures in a revolution that “must serve to provide a boost so we can keep growing”, Quique Dacosta pointed out at one of the final presentations of the day.


Gastronomika 18 is closing its doors having increased the number of congress delegates and nationalities, with repeated messages that set trends “as this congress has always done”, Joan Roca pointed out, a regular visitor to San Sebastián. Garum, fermented products, respect and togetherness, the Mexican influence, the importance of local cuisines, generational renewal or awareness and inherent sustainability – these are shared concepts and ideas, values of a congress that has celebrated the revolution and its natural renewal, that must “be assimilated so we do not become standardized and so we can continue to open up new paths”, Matías Perdomo explained (Contraste*, Milan, Italy). The Spanish revolution didn’t stay in the peninsula, and it won’t. The gastronomic congress in San Sebastián will continue to be valid as a publicity platform and a meeting point. “The best is still to come,” Martín Berasategui mentioned at the end: the best of the congress and of Spanish gastronomy.


Quique Dacosta and the state-of-the art approach to prawns


“I haven’t been to congresses for four years but I haven’t stopped breaking new ground”. Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta***, Dénia) has come back to San Sebastián to defend the research work that he has carried out. “García Santos called me 20 years ago to teach him how I made prawns. Then, and now, controlling the temperature when you cooked them is state-of-the-art”. Dacosta presented four new dishes and reminded us of his commitment to the sea: “We must fish what we’ve got coming when it’s time to do so. So, we will continue to savour this prawn which is a real wonder”. He was referring, of course, to the Dénia red prawn, which he showed in a new format, together with a “sea fossil” created from prawn broth. The chef from Extremadura-Alicante also cooked the “serviette” goat’s milk cheese”, based on the cheese of the same name whose “magic is in its texture, which recreates a serviette”; the dried tomato slices –which highlights Dacosta’s work with salt-, and the creamy almond nougat – a dish that recreates a nougat where the prawn provide the fat and the waiter ends up at the table “throwing” almond blossoms-. “We chefs must be innovative and go beyond pure gastronomic hedonism”. Before this, Dacosta had introduced two pupils with a “nice little restaurant” in Jávea (Tula), Borja Susilla and Clara Puig.


Morán congratulates Manzano


Asturias affirmed itself with the presence in San Sebastián of its two great ambassadors: Nacho Manzano (Casa Marcial**, Arriondas) and Marcos Morán (Casa Gerardo*, Prendes). Celebrating a quarter of a century of his restaurant, Manzano prepared collagens, watercress and pickled turnip with sweet pig’s ear, “a fiesta of textures”; a cut of matured beef, Kalamata olives and fabes roxes (beans), “a really tasty dish full of umami”, and scrambled eggs on cornbread, “the first dish that I created when I was 13 which is linked to Donosti by the scrambled eggs that accompany it”. “Congratulations, Gastronomika”, he added. “Congratulations to you, Nacho, for the 25 years running the kitchen at Casa Marcial,” Morán answered back.


With his father watching him from the auditorium, he continually congratulated his colleague, “who I’ll be cooking with shortly in his restaurant to celebrate it”. And he’ll be doing this with the two dishes that he presented at Gastronomika, “a recent one and a completely new one”. Fish cheeks with salted egg yolks and “Rey al desnudo” (King stripped bare), “a dish that appears on the table as if it were just a complete fish, but which behind it involves some surprising confit and lacquering work with Lourdes water”.


Hilario Arbelaitz and Macarena de Castro


Last year he handed over to his brother Jose Mari, and this year Hilario Arbelaitz (Zuberoa*, Oiartzun) has once again cooked with an eye on the young. Together with Jose Mari, he prepared some cod cheeks (”the key to this is the mix of short and slow cooking processes) and took a back seat to Macarena de Castro. The chef at Jardín* (Mallorca) prepared a paired quail “in tribute to Hilario,” she pointed out.


About oils, rice dishes and lambs


María José San Román (Monastrell*, Alicante) and Mari Carmen Vélez (La Sirena, Petrel) opened the day with a presentation that focused on rice and paella, “the best-known dish in Spanish gastronomy”, according to the chef from Alicante, who, nevertheless, put the emphasis on olive oil. “In Spain they produce the best Extra Virgin olive oil but we consume refined oil. We need to know that if it says olive oil on the bottle, then it is refined. It must say virgin or extra virgin oil”. Vélez, for his part, ran through the different types of rice to conclude that “nowadays, at home, we’ve changed the Senia variety for Bomba rice, where you can tell there is more cereal. But the varieties are endless. You just have to get to know and study them”.


Miguel Ángel de la Cruz (La Botica de Matapozuelos*, Valladolid), Xanty Elías (Acanthum*, Huelva) and Firo Vázquez (El Olivar, Moratalla, Murcia) spoke about the possibilities of new cuts of suckling lamb and lamb, and also like San Román defended the qualities of extra virgin oil. We’ve taken note.


Deconstruction as a disruptive element


Jorge Bretón, Luis Arrufat and Juan Carlos Arboleya, also came out on stage together at the Basque Culinary Center, to review the techniques behind “20 years of innovation” and explain why and how this had taken place. Among the three of them they broke down the foundations of the advances in Spanish cuisine, “based on the ideas and desire of chefs, their search for knowledge and their encounter with technology”. Concepts, for example, like deconstruction, “because it is a concept”, “marked a turning point when textures changed. Until then we all just cooked the produce by following the rules”, they explained.


“We restaurant pastry chefs are a new profession. We deserve respect”


Jordi Butrón (Essence by Espai Sucre, Barcelona) and Francis Paniego (El Portal de Echaurren**, Ezcaray, La Rioja) came up on stage to defend the “profession of restaurant pastry chefs, because we are a new profession, hardly recognised by confectioners in cake shops and chefs. We need new rules and codes. We have collaborated with the revolution and we haven’t been given proper credit”, Butrón explained.


Alongside Pol Contreras, a pastry chef who studied together with Butrón and who is now in R+D at Echaurren (“yes, a pastry chef responsible for both salty and sweet R+D”, Paniego pointed out), reviewed the qualities of a restaurant dessert (it is immediate, fleeting and dynamic) and complained about what is misnamed a pre-dessert by chefs. “Do you chefs call any dishes pre-fish? A dessert is a dessert”, Butrón said.


Rodolfo Guzmán and Chele González


Four chefs from different parts of the world also dropped by at the auditorium in the Kursaal. Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó, #27 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Santiago de Chile, Chile) surprised people by presenting “the technique of roasting a lamb ‘the other way round’, attached to a stick on a cross that is moved away from a charcoal grill for 13 hours. That is how it gradually loses its fat”. The Chilean recalled that they cut the animal “with highly symmetrical, deep slices, just like the Japanese do with fish”. Although he’s from Cantabria, Chele González  defended the produce and the way they do things in the Philippines, the country where he has set up his restaurant, Gallery by Chele, (Manila) and he gave his opinion on tasting menus: “We chefs shouldn’t be so inflexible; we cannot force customers to do what we want. We can also express ourselves in the menu or with shorter menus, and even with tapas”.


Sustainability with Martitegui and De la Calle


Germán Martitegui (Tegui, #27 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Rodrigo de la Calle (El invernadero*, Madrid) rounded off the morning presentations by appealing for sustainability. The Argentine reviewed his “Tierras” (Land) project – which aims to raise awareness and restore producers’ pride and their desire to live on their land- by declaring: “Our most important task as chefs is to honour those outstanding people who work to make it possible for our cuisine to exist”; the same message that Virgilio Martínez launched on Tuesday.


For his part, the ideologue behind green cuisine, Rodrigo de la Calle (El invernadero*, Madrid), presented his latest drinks – beetroot cava as well – and urged people to always buy produce in bulk, and give up packaging and plastic “in search of a more sustainable kind of food”. “When we are in the orchard we tend to look for the prettiest apples, but we collect the fruit that has fallen before the worms eat it to work on it”. This is zero waste; De la Calle-spirit.


Local cuisines


Local cuisines also came to light on the last day at Gastronomika; to be precise, through three restaurants from Castile and León and one from Catalonia. Óscar García (Baluarte*, Soria), a habitual user of mushrooms and truffles, changed his fetishes to talk about pickles. “In such a global world, we must restore our traditions, and pickle is really typical of Soria and Castile and León”. That is why he prepared three pickles with different nuances, including one with fermented beetroot and mushrooms.


For his part, Víctor Martín (Trigo*, Valladolid) worked on “the way we understand local cuisine” with three pork and game dishes, by using two of the least-known parts for the pork: castanets and the breast, as well as the skin to prepare his dessert: chocolate scratchings. Yolanda León and Juanjo Pérez (Cocinandos*, León) – which will shortly be changing location to celebrate its 15th anniversary- came to San Sebastián to praise the chickpea “an item with very little fat, seal of origin and numerous applications”. Arnau Bosch (Can Bosch*, Cambrils), for his part, supported local Catalan coastal cuisine “in a non-avant-garde cuisine, a cuisine based on modernized traditions, a cuisine with flavour and essence”. He provided examples of this with various dishes of Delta oysters or crayfish from Cambrils.


Matías Perdomo gives pause for thought


The presentations at Gastronomika 18 came to an end with some unanswered questions raised by Matías Perdomo (Contraste*, Milan, Italy). The Uruguayan chef asked for calm and logical thinking “after the revolution we have gone through. We need to give ourselves time so we do not all become standardised, so that we can open up new paths”. Perdomo also presented two dishes to make us question our principles. The first one was a visual illusion; the second, a tribute to Elkano, a turbot and chicken dish,“ which I created after eating turbot at the Arregis’ home and noting that the chicken flavour came out. I created it and said that it was a tribute and people though it was for Alain Passard. We take too many things for granted…” Gastronomika gives pause for thought.


National Grill Competition and the final activities


Among the activities that were on offer on the last day the chefs José Antonio Sánchez and Fran Segura presented, in both sweet and savoury form, plankton cuisine (Algán), “a product with great nutritional and gastronomic value”; SmartVideTrack showed the latest forms of sous-vide and low-temperature work, and Balfegó cooked the ear and harmonic, two of the least-known marvels of red tuna. The day’s gastronomic travels took the public to Hungary, through its wines and best-known culinary destinations; to Soria, with dishes which tasted of its woods provided by mushrooms from its mountains, and to Malaga, a province that can boast about the produce in its countryside and sea.


The IX National Grill Competition deserves a special mention; a competition in which the top grill chefs and the very best meat in the country have once again played the leading role. On this occasion, Unai Paulis, from Ana Mari Erretegia restaurant (Irún), won the prize for best grill chef while Cárnicas Goya was considered to be the best meat.


Gastronomika nights


While the presentations, activities and the networking sessions at the Market were the focus of the events during the day in the Kursaal, at night San Sebastián also exuded the spirit of Gastronomika. There was the dinner to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the congress on Sunday at the Basque Culinary Center; the one in tribute to Juan Mari Arzak on Monday at the María Cristina; or the two that were held yesterday at Ni Neu and the Elkano. The first one, held in the restaurant adjoining the Kursaal, was provided by up to eleven chefs from Cantabria, who highlighted the produce and cuisine of their community through its tapas. At a standing cocktail reception, more than 50 guests discovered the delicatessens run by, among others, Sergio Bastard (La Casona del Judío, Santander), Nacho Solana (Solana*, Ampuero), Toni González (El Nuevo Molino*, Puente Arce) or Eduardo Quintana (La Bicicleta*, Hoznayo). Cantabria has left its mark. At the great temple in Getaria, the grilled dishes showed once again that, among others, Elkano is considered to be one of the very best temples of world gastronomy.



San Sebastian Gastronomika 2018 in figures


1,615 congress delegates

55 participating nationalities

170 exhibitors

420 people working

13.412 visitors to the fair

494 accredited journalists

Presence of schools and training: 635 students


Gastronomika on the social networks


Following for #ssg18: 11,000

Potential reach: 14.5M users

Interaction: 3,000 users

Tweets: 8,000

6,500 likes and 1,105 publications shared on Facebook

Reach of 55,000 on Instagram users