A gathering of ‘rock star’ chefs

The neutral-toned halls of the expansive SMX Convention Center in Pasay has been anything but muted these past three days. At the upper halls, a flurry of activity vivify each booth; the displays are both eye-catching and palate-pleasing, enticing passersby to stop for a while and imagine a cornucopia of flavors and textures that are either reminiscent of childhood or promise a gastronomic adventure.

The lower ground floor is where most food lovers are guaranteed a journey of flavors featuring the best of Filipino dishes, presented in both traditional and modern interpretations.

Day one was a showcase of Luzon fares and dishes that highlighted the five popular tastes (panlasa) in Philippine cuisine. At the center was the spread of cocktail-sized plates of dishes from Pampanga, Laguna, Baguio, among others. There were the favorites: different takes on adobo and, of course, the famous lechon. Two foreign participants were overheard by this writer to bestow a seal of approval on the plateful of succulent pork in front of them.

Today will be no different from the opening day.

Yes, indeed, the second edition of Madrid Fusion Manila is happening right now at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. Opening on a high last April 7 and running until today, April 9, the highly anticipated food expo and congress features all the "rockstar chefs" in an event dubbed by Department of Tourism (DoT) Assistant Secretary Art Boncato as the "biggest gathering of a constellation in one roof celebrating gastronomy in Asia."

The Tourism assistant secretary was referring to the illustrious lineup of Michelin-starred chefs and top culinary personalities for this year's "The Manila Galleon: East Meets West" theme.

Chef speakers from the West include Spain's legendary chefs Fernando Perez Arellano, Jordi Butron, Ricard Camarena, Dani Garcia and Joan Roca. Joining them are Leah Cohen from the United States, Virgilio Martinez from Peru, Enrique Olvera and Jorge Vallejo from Mexico. They showcase their latest innovations, cutting-edge techniques, ingredients and recipes.

Chefs from the East include Yoshihiro Narisawa from Japan, David Thompson from Thailand, Nurdin Topham from Hong Kong, Kevin Cherkas from Indonesia and Jungsik Yim from South Korea. The Philippines is represented by Michael Aspiras, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan and Tatung Sarthou.

To match up expectations after last year's success, improvements were made. According to Boncato, on of these is an increase in terms of delegation and booths. Some 1,100 registered participants is expected to grow to 1,500. Booths and kiosks number to 217 from last year's 171.

DoT overall project head Verna Buensuceso added that to make the expo more interactive, there will be the chefs' hour, twice a day, after every discussion. Chefs sit down with the press and some participants who wish to ask them tips and questions regarding their participation. She also added that spotlight will be given to Philippine ingredients, coffee and dairy, after the warm reception to the country's heirloom rice at last year's edition.

Another important component of Madrid Fusion Manila are the off-site events organized by partners. Some of the featured chefs have partnered with Metro Manila restaurants and hotels for their "dinner with the stars" events.

Major partners also had their Madrid Fusion Manila calendar. SM Supermalls, in particular, hosted a welcome party on April 7 at the SM by the Bay.

The giant chain of malls also brings a taste of the grand gastronomic experience closer to its customers with Fusion Flavors at 24 participating SM malls nationwide until April 15. A Weekend Market at SM Southmall and the SM Mall of Asia will showcase regional specialties and desserts from Asia and Europe.

SM's Fusion Flavors will have cooking demonstrations, culinary school face-off contests, food fairs and workshops.

The DoT and the Tourism Promotions Board will remain busy throughout the month of April, which is unofficially touted as the Philippine Food Month.

Ongoing is the Flavors of the Philippines, while from April 20 to 24, the Philippines will host for the first time the World Street Food Congress to be held in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Source: Tribune