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Chefs + Restaurants

Magic Moments from madrid

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Writer Lisa Abend, who lives in Spain, files this report:

ferran adria

"Hundreds of chefs, writers, and critics turned out for Madrid Fusion, the international culinary conference that ended today and proved, once again, to be one of the most interesting get-togethers in the food world. The theme this year was "product," and every chef, including wizard Ferran Adria (shown here), testified to the importance of knowing one's primary materials. But it was still technical fireworks that most everyone was showing off. Andalusian chef Dani Garcia used liquid nitrogen to turn olive oil into small sticks of "butter." Seiji Yamanoto dropped a pump into broth, turning the liquid into cascading foam. Through an ingenious use of silk screen, he created a "newspaper" plate whose "ink," when smudged, flowed as sauce. Even Adria, after a long entreaty to chefs that they learn the scientific composition of the foods they use, gave in and combined liquid nitrogen and a bit of Xantana—a product he has developed from corn starch—to turn coconut milk into a dry, crisp, utterly authentic-looking eggshell. Still, there were some exceptions to all the gimmickry.

"Dan Barber talked about how the sustainable animal husbandry that goes on at his Blue Hill at Stone Barns, north of New York City, actually produces better-tasting meat. Barcelona chef Santi Santimaria berated pretty much everyone at the conference for being addicted to technology. Heston Blumenthal, from London, avoided the issue altogether with his visual tour (complete with 3-D glasses) of how to create excitement in a restaurant. And despite being fed repeatedly and obsessively over the past three-and-a-half days, the audience swooned yet again at the striped bags of sweets Blumenthal passed out at the end."