José Carlos Capel, Rafael García Santos, Benjamín Lana, Quique Dacosta and Joan Roca debate the evolution and current state of gastronomy at Gastronomika.


Joan Roca, Ángel León, José Andrés, Pedro Subijana, Josean Alija or Virgilio Martínez, among others, confirm it is in good health, as is the sector and the congress.


Have chefs become more bourgeois? What is expected of them nowadays? The revolution that Spanish gastronomy has gone through in the last few years was broken down at one of the most eagerly awaited presentations in this year’s San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country. The journalists José Carlos Capel, Rafael García Santos and Benjamín Lana, and the chefs Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta, Dènia) and Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca, Girona) “clashed” at a discussion that was left open, and served to defend a profession and understand how it has evolved. The speakers who preceded and followed this presentation supported Joan Roca’s summary: “The paradigm has changed but we chefs haven’t switched off”.


Among the five of them they told the story of how the Spanish gastronomic revolution has evolved, from the birth of New Basque Cuisine to elBulli’s three Michelin stars, and the boost that the Vitoria congress gave the sector. “In Spain there has always been a spirit of collaboration, which is what has made us move forward”, Lana pointed out. Having analysed the road followed, they came to the present day and García Santos wanted to speak: “You are becoming more bourgeois. There’s no critical spirit anymore and nobody cares about creating things”. ”It’s not true, we have overcome a crisis without abandoning our principles and without ceasing to create” –Dacosta-. “We haven’t just switched off. We have a lot to say”- Roca-. Lana arrived to explain: “Nowadays, chefs are at the cutting edge of many other subjects, in responsible consumption, for example, and we need to bear in mind that the paradigm has changed. In the 1970s and 80s, haute cuisine was a minority affair. Now it isn’t, far from it. Gastronomy is global; it forms part of society”. The moderator, the journalist Pau Arenós, cut the debate short. There was no more time. “This will continue. At a congress, definitely”.


Joan Roca’s new ambergris dish


Because at a gastronomic congress a lot of things happen, you really do learn and share things and novelties get presented. This is what happened this Tuesday at San Sebastian Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country, on a day that was rounded off by Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca***, Girona) with a retrospective about his 20 years at the congress. “I came to the first one, I learned things here and here we presented the Roner, the smoking gun…”. Looking back, and looking forward. “This dish is new. We’ll put it on the menu next week”. This is a squid with ambergris “the idea for which we got from the book ‘Physiology of taste’ by Brillat-Savarin”. The ambergris, he explained, is a perfumery product, the feathers of squid that sperm whale discharge after eating them, “a product that Savarin used to perfume chocolate. We have applied it differently, to give the squid back what the sperm whale had taken away from it”. The creativity of the Roca brothers can also be found in books.


Ángel León’s sea chicken


Ángel León also presented some new items. The chef at Aponiente*** (El Puerto de Santa María) showed his work with fish skins, “that I have taken out a piece of nylon from that makes it possible to stuff them”. León especially stressed the work done with the skin of the Moray eel, “which allows for some incredible crispy textures and has enabled us to prepare sea chicken”. Last year it was suckling pig, and this year, chicken, with the Moray eel skin discoloured with seawater and stuffed with tomaso, “a bland fish, like chicken”, the chef smiled. The Andalusian also presented two new products that he is working on: the marine tomato (“a marine nettle that tastes of acidic tomato”) and sea saffron (a microalga), “to continue our parallelism between the land and the sea”.


Can Spanish cuisine exist without Spanish produce?


Another of the presentations that has aroused most interest has been the one given by José Andrés (Minibar**, Washington, USA), who presented his new gastronomic restaurant in Los Angeles. Named Somni, and with room only ten people, it complies with the advice “that Ferran Adrià gave me one day: ‘If you’re going to do something creative, it should be in a small space’”. While he adapted the traditional bread with tomato by using toasted merengue and coating it in a ham fat and tomato sauce, the Asturian asked the audience a question: “can Spanish cuisine exist without Spanish produce? They make gazpacho abroad without a single Spanish ingredient, so the answer would be yes. What we ought to ensure is for Spanish products to be available all over the world. Like the ensaimada, a product that we need to find as easily as we can find croissants now”. And he knows what he’s talking about.


Andrés also recalled another of his new projects. He’ll be opening Jaleo in Disney World and “this will fill a gap, as we are the only major cuisine that cannot be found in the park”. Wood-fired paellas or typical dishes from all over Spain will supply the more than 600 places that the restaurant will hold. With the audience utterly enthralled, the Asturian rounded things off with a general piece of advice: “Our profession can change the world”.


Virgilio and sustainability


Virgilio Martínez (Central, Lima, Peru) also closed the morning with a social theme. “We realised that only ten types of potatoes were being used in an area where there were hundreds of different ones”. The sustainability that is an inherent characteristic of the Peruvian was illustrated by the presentation of Mil, “much more than just a restaurant where we devote 70% to research. This is about cooking what the locals produce at the pace that they move at.” Martínez rounded off his presentation with a dish from Kjolle, the new restaurant in Lima run by his partner for years in Central, Pía León.


Agrasar, Pérez, Alija and Subijana


Before this, first thing in the morning, Fernando Agrasar (As Garzas*, Malpica de Bergantiños) had shown the possibilities that pastry provides for different ways of making empanadas, and Paco Pérez (Miramar**, Llançà), ran through several of his new dishes. Among them, the one called “wasoli”, an alioli based on wasabi, or a dessert in the form of a vanilla and cacao candle that comes to the table lit with a flame so you can make a wish. “At a restaurant it’s not all about eating; it is also about emotion and aesthetics”. One of Paco’s colleagues blew out the candle. “Many happy returns, Gastronomika. Best wishes to you, Juan Mari”.


Josean Alija (Nerua*, Bilbao) returned to champion the path followed by the restaurant and the congress and stressed his instinct for using very few ingredients in recipes. The Basque made way for Chele González, (Gallery Vask, Manila, Philippines), Paco Morales (Noor*, Córdoba) and David García (Corral de la Morería, Madrid), “chefs who passed through my restaurant and formed a team, which is fundamental in the kitchen.”


Pedro Subijana (Akelarre***, San Sebastián) came up on stage again and took the opportunity to introduce a colleague who worked with him for more than eight years. The Mexican Enrique Fleischmann thrived at Akelarre and has now “broken away” with the Bailara restaurant (Bidania-Goiatz) and Toxko Getaria (Getaria), and cooked some pork cheeks. Subijana, for his part, displayed his knowledge with an abalone (“a mollusc that is little-known but is highly appreciated) laminated with tiger milk sorbets. Alga codium reappeared.


Group sessions


Three of the best chefs in Valencia (Kiko Moya, Ricard Camarena and Alberto Ferruz) interacted on stage to defend their cuisine in a triple presentation entitled “Approaches to contemporary Spanish east Coast cuisine.” “The thread running through our cuisine is salt, light and time”, Ferruz (BonAmb**, Jávea) began by saying: salt and food conservation; salted fish and fermented products with garum as a nexus.  Traditional Valencian cuisine has come to light at Gastronomika from these perspectives with this advice: “The traditional popular cuisine that is prepared is what thrills customers because it brings back memories even to foreigners, as what they want is to take home a piece of your homeland with them”, Ferruz explained. Fermented tomatoes, katsuobushi, and salted fish, by Moya (L’Escaleta**, Cocentaina), and salted anchovy by Camarena (Ricard Camarena*, Valencia) were the examples used in their discourse.


Albert Raurich (Dos Pebrots, Barcelona), Paco Morales (Noor*, Córdoba) and Miguel Ángel Mayor (Sucede*, Valencia) also gave three group presentations one after the other. The three of them have restaurants with themed or historical menus, “that you need a lot of time and resources for. We must support each other”, Morales pointed out. Raurich and Mayor, with certain differences, transfer their menu back to Mediterranean cuisine since Roman times; Morales, back to the period of Al-Andalus. The three of them pointed out the reading work they had done to develop their propositions “and learn about the origins of our gastronomy”. And current knowledge, Raurich explained, “allows us to interpret them better”. By the way, Mayor announced he would shortly be opening his new project, Convent Carmen, a multidisciplinary space in the centre of Valencia.


Pepe Solla (Solla*, San Salvador de Poio) and Javier Olleros (Culler de Pau*, O Grove) enlightened people about “contemporary Galician cuisine”, a “pure, fresh and simple cuisine”, in Olleros’s own words, that “makes use of meat fat to add it to other dishes “, according to Solla. Juan Carlos and Jonathan Padrón (Rincón de Juan Carlos, Los Gigantes, Tenerife) focused their talk on the uses of avocado, with recipes in which they have even used fruit skins.


Gastronomika activities


This Tuesday, there have been non-stop activities all over the Kursaal building. With the Market running at full capacity, tasting sessions were held for everyone. In the Chamber Room the Horeca Speakers activity took place, where Federico Fritzsch, Eva Ballarín, Beatriz Romanos, Óscar Carrión, Ramón Dios and Manu Balanzino spoke about management, strategy, technology, talent and digitisation, “key” concepts for business success in catering. The late New York chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain also received in memoriam the “Pau Albornà i Torras” 2018 International Gastronomic Journalism Award from José Andrés and his American friend Mark Goulding, and Carles Abellán crowned the one made by Tapas 24 (Barcelona) as best potato salad in the 1st San Miguel National Spanish potato salad Championship.


Gastronomika thinks about the future, and nurtures the very young. That is why this Tuesday the 10th year –they are also celebrating an anniversary- of Gastronomika Adolescents was held, with the participation of Xanty Elías, Macarena de Castro and Ramón Roteta, as well as “Choose your assistant”, organised by MAKRO, in which the chefs María Salas, Aurelio Morales, Begoña Rodrigo and Enrique Pérez took part and cooked together with hotel restaurant and catering students. Laia Sebastià (Barcelona), who had an exceptional assistant in Begoña Rodrigo, won the competition with the creation, Red mullet with salted celery. Generational renewal for new gastronomic revolutions is ensured. Gastronomika can vouch for this.


The barmen Marc Álvarez, Javier Caballero and Vitalij Gutovsky also showed how versatile Cava is as a mixer with versions of the winning cocktail in the Cava Mixology Competition organised by DO Cava, and Nacho Manzano (Casa Marcial**, Arriondas) and S.Pellegrino held a deluxe meal, accompanied by mineral waters and the very best selection of wines from the sommelier Juan Muñoz Ramos. Acquanaria, Winterhalter, Sosa, Bodegas Roda or Embutidos Alejandro also carried out activities in different rooms in the Kursaal building.


Tribute dinner for Juan Mari Arzak


On Monday night, the restaurant in the María Cristina hotel in San Sebastián hosted the tribute dinner to the big star of this Gastronomika. Francis Paniego (El Portal de Echaurren**, Ezcaray, La Rioja) took charge of the kitchen to present five exceptional dishes, “my tribute, our tribute to the great maestro Juan Mari Arzak”. The 180 guests at the banquet broke into applause. Among other colleagues, Virgilio Martínez, Joan Roca, Dani García, Marcos Morán, Paco Pérez or Nacho Manzano were there to embrace Arzak.


“I’ve known you since you were small, Francis. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much,” the San Sebastián chef summed things up when the banquet came to an end. Cries of “Congratulations, Juan Mari” roared out in San Sebastián.


Tomorrow, the final day of Gastronomika 18


The climax to a special Gastronomika will be provided by individual presentations by Óscar García (Baluarte*, Soria), Hilario Arbelaitz (Zuberoa*, Oiartzun), Víctor Martín (Trigo*, Valladolid), Yolanda León y Juanjo Pérez (Cocinandos*, León), Arnau Bosch (Can Bosch*, Cambrils), Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta***, Dénia), Nacho Manzano (Casa Marcial**, Arriondas) and Pedro and Marcos Morán (Casa Gerardo*, Prendes) or Matías Perdomo (Contraste*, Milán, Italia), and group presentations by María José San Román (Monastrell*, Alicante) and Mari Carmen Vélez (La Sirena, Petrel), about rice dishes 3.0, or Miguel Ángel de la Cruz (La Botica de Matapozuelos*, Valladolid), Xanty Elías (Acanthum*, Huelva) and Firo Vázquez (El Olivar, Moratalla, Murcia), about the possibilities of new cuts of suckling lamb and lamb.


Chele González (Gallery Vask, Manila, Philippines), Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó, #27 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Santiago de Chile, Chile), Rodrigo de la Calle (El invernadero*, Madrid) and Germán Martitegui (Tegui, #27 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Buenos Aires, Argentina) will be talking about gastronomic sustainability and the Basque Culinary Center will be explaining “the 20 culinary techniques and applications that revolutionised gastronomy”. As well as this, Jordi Butrón (Essence by Espai Sucre, Barcelona) and Francis Paniego (El Portal de Echaurren**, Ezcaray) will be explaining their creative methods applied to restaurant desserts.


There will also be plankton activities with Plancton Algán, activities with tuna by Julio José Vázquez (El Campero, Barbate) and Balfegó (in this case by two of its chefs Ekaitz Apraitz and Marc Miró), by SmartVideTrack and its way of working at low temperature or with mushrooms from the mountains of Soria or with “Sabor a Málaga” products. Finally, Rodolfo Guzmán will be closing Private Kitchens; Hungary will be leading a tasting session through its national dishes and the IX National Grill Competition will take place. Street Food, on this final day, will close its doors at 19:00.