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Madrid Fusion Manila introduces the world to Filipino cuisine

Published on May 5, 2015

Three-day culinary event strengthened Filipino-Spanish culinary ties

The doors of the most celebrated culinary event to hit Philippine shores has formally closed with presentations that marked the journey that truly makes cooking more fun. A common theme that weaved all throughout the third day’s discussions was the celebration of ingredients and people who contribute to the creative process that has made way to the creation of culinary masterpieces.

Chef Rob Pengson of The Goose Station shared his passion of making Filipinos rediscover history and look back at the life of this country’s most central figure – Dr. José Rizal. His degustation menu retells the story of Rizal through food and colors that capture the life of our country’s national hero.

Pengson was followed by Michelin-starred Ramón Freixa who delivered a demonstration on new ways of interpreting traditional Spanish tapas which included favorites like pan con tomate, gazpacho and stuffed olives among others. Consisting of 12 tapas, Freixa’s exhibition showcased the chef’s widely-acclaimed creativity and culinary prowess in miniature cuisine.

“We are true to origin, but we execute it in a different way. We keep the original name because that’s where we get the inspiration,” Freixa explained.

Delivering the third presentation was Spanish-born Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask, whose heart-warming talk touched on the importance of relating to the people he encounters during his sojourn to the Philippines. Gonzalez said that at his restaurant he and his team “can have fun, and create dishes that give reverence to the communities where local ingredients are sourced. I need to make dishes that speak about my experiences.”

In a demonstration inspired by Philippine street food, Gonzalez spoke on the recurring question of “Why?,” and in his search for ingredients, he said: “I am having fun and I am happy. I didn’t only find ingredients; I found people, communities… I met friends.”

His talk ended on a very personal and poignant point when he said “the Philippines has made me into a better person, a better cook.”

Coming back from lunch where delicacies from Mindanao were prepared by some of the best chefs in the country, participants were electrified by the tongue-in-cheek presentation of the so-called Demon Chef Alvin Leung. The Hong Kong-based chef created dishes based on his quirky interpretations of Filipino favorites such as tortang talong, sardines on bread, lugaw (rice porridge), and chicken with Coca-Cola. Keeping the audience in stitches, Leung reminded participants that “cooking is fun! Eating is fun!”

“What’s the role of fun? Fun introduced you to cooking. When you have fun, you are enjoying what you are doing. At the end of the day, enjoy! Enjoy each other’s company and the food you are eating,” Leung said.

Following Leung was the man considered as the “best pastry chef in the world” and one of the highlights of the three-day congress Chef Paco Torreblanca. In a breath-taking presentation of his artisanal works, Torreblanca repeatedly emphasized the importance of chefs knowing their ingredients and understanding how they work “for only then can we play with them.”

“Food must have a limit of provocation. But without knowledge of the product, it will not serve its purpose. Part of creativity is seeing something which might not be there,” Torreblanca added.

J. Gamboa wrapped up the talks with a presentation on how his family’s iconic restaurants, namely El Cirkulo and Milkyway, apply “nose-to-tail eating” in the Filipino-Spanish context. Gamboa began with a video detailing how they source their pigs for El Cirkulo’s famous asado cochinillo. He also touched on how all the parts of both pork and beef are used in many well-loved, traditional Fil-Hispanic dishes such as lengua sevillana and callos madrileña. Cooking their version of cabeza de cerdo sisig, Chef J ended his talk reminding cooks, restaurateurs and those in the food business to know their farmers and butchers on a personal level.

In his closing remarks, José Carlos Capel, president of Madrid Fusión, drew profuse applause from the participants when he spoke in Filipino and said, “Kita-kits ulit sa susunod na Madrid Fusión Manila sa 2016!”

Following Capel, Tourism Sec. Ramon Jimenez, Jr., thanked everyone who contributed to the success of this culinary celebration of Filipino-Spanish culture while also expressing his excitement for the next Madrid Fusión Manila.

The three-day event has been an important step in positioning Filipino cuisine on the forefront of the global food scene. With varying flavors and cultures expressed through a plethora of unique dishes, Filipino cuisine through Madrid Fusión Manila captured the attention of the world.

“We have always thought of the Philippines as a center for culinary excellence in Southeast Asia. The fact that we are fortunate to have Madrid Fusion in Manila is a virtual recognition of that fact,” Jimenez concluded.

Then just as Capel and Jimenez opened the conference by lighting the fire of the giant palayok on stage, both men covered the palayok in a symbolical simmering of the two countries’ cuisines as they continue to meld together.

For information about the event, please visit

About Madrid Fusión Manila:

In April 2015, as part of the “Visit the Philippines Year 2015” festivities, the eyes of the entire world will focus on Manila with the staging of Madrid Fusión Manila. This global event is envisioned to showcase an encounter between Spanish and Filipino chefs to celebrate 300 years of shared history.

Highlighting the Philippines as a culinary center of excellence in Asia, Madrid Fusión Manila presents a unique opportunity for chefs, food aficionados, and food-and beverage company professionals to come together, learn new things and share their talent, expertise, as well as products to the market.

Figure 1: Madrid Fusion Manila – The Congress

Figure 2: Madrid Fusion Manila – Local and international chefs and organizers

Figure 3: One of Spain’s famous chefs – Paco Torreblanca