Madrid Fusión Manila 2017 cooks its way to sustainability

In Photo: Madrid Fusión Manila 2017, one of the most awaited events in the culinary and tourism industry

Story & photos by Gretchen Filart Dublin

For more than 300 years, Spain and Philippines shared a deep history in food. Colonizing the Philippines from 1521 to 1898, the Spaniards brought to the country not only Catholicism but also its cuisine and meticulous cooking methods, something that is still evident in Filipino kitchens, especially during feasts. It’s not surprising to see lechon, paella, leche flan and morcon on locals’ tables during birthdays and Christmases—all of which are adaptations of dishes passed down from Spain to its former colony.

Wine tasting at Madrid Fusion Manila 2017

From April 6 to 8 this cultural assimilation was commemorated in Madrid Fusión Manila, now on its third year. An annual celebration of the distinct cultural exchange between the two aforementioned countries, Madrid Fusión Manila highlights regional lunches, Spanish and Filipino food artisans, and renowned international chefs, who craft signature dishes and share insights, as well. Held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, it is the only Asian counterpart of the Madrid Fusión in Spain, a highly regarded national culinary event held yearly since 2003.

This year the convention’s theme was “Towards a Sustainable Gastronomic Planet”, in line with Madrid Fusión’s aim to show that gastronomy can be transformative, sustaining not only people, but also the culture, and land and water where it comes from. The goal is to impart ways on satiating gastronomic needs while putting cultural appraisal and environmental protection at the forefront.

“On our first year, our theme was the 300 years of the gastronomic journey with Spain. Last year, in celebration of the 450 years of the Manila Galleon trade, the theme centered on an east-meets-west. This year, with the many issues facing our world, we have chosen a theme that is relevant to our times:

DOT and the DA serve regional lunches
during the three-day event.

“Towards a Sustainable Gastronomic Planet”, Tourism Director Verna Covar-Buensuceso said.

Sustainable gastronomy is a hot global issue, especially in the midst of global warming and climate change. Through sustainable farming and state-of-the-art agricultural practices, greenhouse-gas emissions, the main cause of global warming, can be reduced significantly.

Herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops, for example, can reduce fuel use, insecticide use, and Carbon Dioxide emission—all of which speed up global warming. Non-GMO feed for livestock and improved animal health can both contribute to a decrease in greenhouse gas, as well as the eased-up pressure on the production and consumption of livestock, particularly beef. With healthier meat alternatives and dietary regulation, consumers can help reduce methane gas in the atmosphere and decrease fuel used to transport livestock from farm to market. Additionally, the support to sustainable farms can help in the growth of the local economy and provide fair wage to small farmers and other workers.

These were all tackled during Madrid Fusión Manila in three parts: the International Gastronomy Congress, Fusión Manila International Gastronomy Expo and Flavors of the Philippines. All three underscore the crucial role of culinary and agricultural tourism.

This year’s Madrid Fusion Manila focuses on agri-tourism and local farmers.

International Gastronomy Congress

The International Gastronomy Congress is one of the most awaited events for amateur and pro cooks.

Here, industry experts, bemedalled pioneers and world-renowned chefs from as far as Europe and Latin America come to the Philippines to discuss kitchen perspectives. This year a total of 20 chefs spoke about the origins and importance of sustainable gastronomy, including Locavore’s Ray Ariansyah and Eelke Plasmeijer, Belgium’s Gert de Mangeleer and Singapore’s Julien Royer.

Madrid Fusión Manila 2017 was extra special because for the first time, the proponents invited a homegrown kitchen talent to cook in Madrid Fusión in Spain: Myke “Tatung” Sarthou. Sarthou—whose cookbook and salt-making documentary were launched on the event’s final day—brought his own salt and ingredients to Spain and chose to create Filipino dishes to enforce that “Filipino food is good on its own.”

Fusión Manila International Gastronomy Expo

Highlighting gourmet food and beverages and relevant technologies, the International Gastronomy Expo opened with agricultural seminars and a flurry of international trade booths. The assortment of booths were highly diverse, ranging from organic farms to meat producers, even cutting-edge kitchen equipment. Within minutes of scouring the expo hall, I have made two favorites: Parañaque-based chocolatier Risa, which sources ingredients for its luxurious dark chocolates from South Cotabato; and Batsimansi, which makes all-organic, homemade vinegar in six interesting versions.

Platform for boosting local and global interest in Filipino cuisine. Also on site were the Department of Tourism (DOT) booths, each showcasing products from a specific region, such as Cordillera, Bicol and Cagayan.

Flavors of the Philippines

For food lovers, the best parts of Madrid Fusión Manila are its regional lunches. Flavors of the Philippines, as it is aptly called, showcased two luncheon sets daily—one set each from the DOT and the Department of Agriculture (DA). The former presented local dishes from the Philippines’s main island groups, starting from Luzon, followed by the Visayas and Mindanao.

The DA on the other hand, hosted rice delicacies on the first day, then nose-to-tail, and corn and seafood dishes on the second and third days. Alongside all these activities are food events, such as festivals, cooking demonstrations and “Dinner with the Stars”, hosted by acclaimed chefs, held across the Philippines from March 11 to April 20.

Next big food trend

When Madrid Fusión Manila began three years ago, international curiosity for Filipino cuisine wasn’t that widespread. This has changed drastically with the introduction of Filipino products and chefs in Madrid Fusión. In 2015, for example, Chef Margarita Fores—who leads Cibo and Lusso, shared her insights on kinilaw at Madrid Fusión. In 2016 Fores was awarded Asia’s Best Female Chef.

The success stories go on and on. The landscape for local talent will only keep getting better, said Covar-Buensuceso during the Madrid Fusión 2017 at Palacio Municipal de Congresos in Madrid. “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.”

The success of this year’s Madrid Fusión Manila is a testament to this massive potential. But more than that, it is a testament to the ingenuity of Filipinos when it comes to creating sustainable means for nourishment while respecting the farmers plowing our lands and the fruits that are harvested from them.

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