Celebrity chefs of Madrid Fusion discuss survival

Madrid Fusion 2010 pulls off another successful issue-driven F&B event

Ferran Adria addresses the audience.
Ferran Adria addresses the audience.
The show proved as popular as last year.
The show proved as popular as last year.
A live panel disscussion addresses the topic of the day.
A live panel disscussion addresses the topic of the day.

Madrid Fusion returned for another packed edition full of innovative ideas this year, but the importance of sharing new culinary concepts took a back seat to more pressing matters

Following a year of upheaval and enforced adaptation for the global F&B industry, Madrid Fusion gave chefs plenty to think about during the 2010 edition of the leading Spanish gastronomy showcase.

While culinary innovation remained a focus, underlying themes of sustainability and survival ran through this year’s exhibition.

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“It is difficult at the moment,” noted Grant Achatz, owner and head chef of contemporary Chicago restaurant Alinea. “There is a huge risk in allowing your outlet to become too contrived for the customer.”

Achatz, whose restaurant is positioned at the cutting edge of gastronomy, added: “I try to see most of the demonstrations here, as it helps you stay current and figure out what’s going on in the culinary world.”

Meanwhile Ferran Adrià, who used the event to announce the temporary closure of his world-famous restaurant El Bulli, said while the global financial crisis had been “hard for everyone in the restaurant industry”, he was optimistic about the future.

“I believe there is still room for many people to develop their culinary ideas and open new restaurants,” he asserted. “When we opened back in 1983 there were only one or two three-Michelin-star restaurants in Spain; look at the industry now and you realise that the 1982 recession had a massive effect on Spanish cuisine.”

Even the biggest name at the show, Alain Ducasse, admitted 2009 had been tough.

“It has not been an easy year,” he observed. “But what’s important is to not to change your ways — lower your prices, but never lower the quality.”

Ducasse also used his position as a keynote speaker to emphasise that culinary figures could play a role in ensuring sustainability.

“Nowadays chefs are lucky in that the media is interested in them, so we all have a role to play in regards to encouraging sustainability in the industry,” he asserted.

Alinea’s Achatz added: “If you are a chef and not environmentally responsible in terms of sourcing products, then you are simply not doing your job.”

Changing priorities

In a new format, each day of the 2010 edition focused on a different topic — all of which nodded towards the harsher economic climate.

The first day considered the future of haute cuisine, the second day focused on ecological and sustainable cuisine, and the third reviewed ‘gastro-economy’.

Despite the changed tone of the show, Alinea’s Achatz, returning for his second year, told Caterer Middle East the event was every bit as busy as the previous year.

Madrid Fusion director Esmeralda Capel agreed: “Madrid Fusion is becoming better known everyday and has now become a meeting point for experts in gastronomy from all over the world. It is unbelievable, but every year chefs improve the quality of their demonstrations,” she added.

Valerie Cotte, HORECA marketing manager for Grupo Lactalis Iberia, said the show was one of international significance.

“Madrid Fusion is a great place to share your experience with chefs, the public and other companies,” she explained. “Next year we will probably return because it has proved helpful; if you want to be an international company, Madrid Fusion is the place to raise your profile.”

Supplier showcase

While space for suppliers at the show was limited to the top floor of the congress hall, both local and international companies were keen to mark their presence at the exhibition.

Valrhona restaurant development manager Daniel Hughes noted: “For Valrhona, Madrid Fusion is very important because of the volume of international chefs attending. The people we find here are quality visitors from all around the world,” he explained.

Cerámica Industrial Montgatina export and marketing manager Olga Casanovas said she had been “very happy” with the show, which had proved “busy throughout”.

“The quality of the people we have been talking to — restaurant managers, chefs and other suppliers — have all been very professional,” she said. “It’s important to come here, because we create our plates especially for top restaurants, and this is where you find the top chefs in the world.”

While innovation and creativity were typically abundant at Madrid Fusion 2010, the congress did indicate that last year’s global crisis had cut to the heart of the food industry.

Sustainability seems to be the one non-finance-related theme that carries momentum in the culinary world right now. Despite the success of hugely innovative ideas that were exhibited during the good times, these now appear to have taken a back seat to economic issues.

As Alinea’s Grant Achatz noted: “At the end of the day we run restaurants, not Broadway productions.”

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