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Madrid Fusión 2007, Jan 15-18


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And as a food writer myself, I find it very tiring and insulting when perceived evils of the (food) world are blamed on "the media", or, as you call it, "the hungry media".

Since I am also a "food writer" with a fairly good following(and one who can affect the profitability of restaurants by his reviews given the prominence of the paper where I publish reviews) I should be allowed to comment on it. I respectfully but strongly disagree with your statement. The food media is often easy prey to the PR guys or gals (Blumenthal does not even travel without his PR people), and the element of self interest (even venality) is a factor in the creation of fads. This is at least how many people in the public perceive us, given the lack of transparency in the way we operate, given the perception of our close relationshiops and friendships with some chefs, etc. I think we have to fight this image and the correct way to fight it is not to deny it or be angry with the messenger but accept that there is at least a perception problem and then devise solutions and transparent rules of conduct to gain public confidence.

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I imagine that Arzak uses a pressure/vacuum device similar to Aduriz, though I might be way off-base.

You're right, way off base. It's this he uses: Volcano Vaporizer

More usually seen in the coffee-shops of Amsterdam, seriously!

Louisa Chu has done a nice piece on this device and another on Chow.com. I was referring to Alexandra's question

How did he inject this volcano eruption into the meats?
when I made my statement.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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And as a food writer myself, I find it very tiring and insulting when perceived evils of the (food) world are blamed on "the media", or, as you call it, "the hungry media".
I see so many wrong things with the statement above, I hardly know where to begin. So maybe I won't begin. This specific post opened a huge can of worms and suddenly this specific topic - the 2007 edition of the Madrid Fusión - has veered off topic.

Shouldn't this discussion of whether Ferran, Heston et al. deserve all their accolades or whether they've been "raised to genius status by a hungry media with nobody better to praise", doesn't this argument belong somewhere else?

I think it belongs in this thread. Is not Madrid fuision all about getting the food media to danse after the pipes of the chefs attending the show or perhaps most importantly Spanish cuisine? Is this event, like it was last year, not insignificantly sponsored by the Spanish Tourist Board including paying airfares and lodge and boarding for from aboard visiting journalists in order to "mindshare" and make them evangelists of the message put forward, namely to promote the avant garde chefs and their toys?

I imagine that Arzak uses a pressure/vacuum device similar to Aduriz

Just as a side note, Aduriz uses a Gastrovac. I have used it but I will not ruin this thread with what I think about it and its viability.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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If memory serves me correctly, somewhere in his rant Santi said he didn't care about the tomato itself.

I'm not sure about this stuff about a dish not made with "great" ingredients not being a great dish, but one you simply enjoyed. Is there such objective reality out there? I really enjoyed Ernesto's pizza at Pizzaiolo del Presidente (made with bulk flour and canned tomatoes and tap water) and Wally le Saharien's couscous, made with Ricci superfine couscous and the cheapest possible ingredients, but I don't think that takes away from their greatness. I suppose they would be even greater made with designer ingredients, but to me that is gilding the lily. Honest enjoyment is enough for me.

And for the record, I paid my own passage and lodging with my own money. I also challenged Heston in the Q&A, yet I see merit in his project. I don't consider myself to be in anyone's PR pocket.

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Thanks to Shirley, here is a link to video of Heston Blumenthal at Madrid Fusion. Unfortunately, the quality of the video isn't the greatest.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Adria's cultural importance cannot be despised, Santi Santamaria is an erudite chef, and the clash of their ideas are very interesting to help us read the zeitgeist, and we should examine cautiously their speeches and writings in order to have a better view of cooking in our times. Blumenthal's performance is just pathetic, a kind of disneylandization of many already childish and dazzled palates around the world. It's natural to have such mockery after Adria, the same way all vanguardist movements produced their own clowns through history, but the centre of the discussion is what Adria and Santamaria think.

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qxnxgf

:wacko:

Ah, Rogelio, it's the surrealistic touch by a Spanish chef! What better and more Spanish way to culminate an often surrealistic debate?

A couple of brief comments...

We tend to say Arzak has gone down to a one-star level after just one bad experience there. Or to disqualify Santceloni as a "bad" restaurant because of the same - one single experience.

We'd better refrain from such over-simplistic judgments. All restaurants, even great ones, can fool us on a single visit. Heck, some bad ones have fooled me on the positive side...

The Ferran/Santi debate epitomizes the diversity, now bordering on divergence, in haute cuisine worldwide. It's healthy, and there's no way an intelligent, sensitive food lover with a decent palate can choose a clear-cut winner between the two.

Speaking of these two chefs, the classic bent in Santi's cuisine can sometimes translate into 'so what?' dishes, while Ferran is also a prisoner of his own device, in his case the need to go one step further into tha avant-garde every year, to the point when a whole meal of seeds, algae and 'spherifications' can leave you befuddled.

But they're both great chefs. No, Ferran is not a phony. He does show that very Catalan mixture of madness and genius, but he's made cuisine evolve worldwide.

To the point where it ceases being cuisine? That's the juncture where we may find ourselves, if not now, then perhaps in the near future.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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qxnxgf

:wacko:

Ah, Rogelio, it's the surrealistic touch by a Spanish chef! What better and more Spanish way to culminate an often surrealistic debate?

The Ferran/Santi debate epitomizes the diversity, now bordering on divergence, in haute cuisine worldwide. It's healthy, and there's no way an intelligent, sensitive food lover with a decent palate can choose a clear-cut winner between the two.

I couldnt agree with that more.....lets stress the Intelligence + decent palate part!

How can anyone say that this chef is ridiculous or that chef is absurd!!

Cusine is personal....each personality is different. We should respect that!

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In my opinion, a major strength and weakness of either movement is the same, analysis.

The presence or lack thereof.

The lack of analysis in tradition is its greatest strength and greatest weakness.

The presence of analysis in the vanguard is the same.

Tradition tends to trust in the nature of things, without asking too many questions as to why things happen; they are just that way because they are that way. This makes tradition weak in the sense that it often cannot explain the reasons for individual elements or outcomes, it only knows that when you heat water hot enough it boils, it doesn't know why - nor does it really matter - if it works or produces the desired end result.

Of course the weakness lies in, when something doesn't work; an explanation as to why and a way to fix it are out of reach. It's like building your website with a WYSIWYG editor, but not knowing how to code or design. You are limited to the parameters that this method allows, but can easily and quickly produce excellent results with little or no knowledge of how things work.

This is fine for most.

The problem arises when you want to break out of those parameters, or when something doesn't work - you don't know how to fix it - because you don't understand how it works. If you have the knowledge to do by hand what the device does in a push button fashion - you have unlimited creative potential and can makes things look and work exactly as you wish.

That is the strength of analysis.

Though the weakness of analysis lies in the fact that there are many natural phenomena in this world which have existed without detailed explanation or focus for eternity, and generally require none.

Anyone whom has stuffed aromatics in the cavity of a roasting turkey

has made deliberate use of aroma to enhance their cuisine, anyone who has made homemade ice cream by first heating their milk has made a deliberate attempt to change the chemical structure of the dairy to produce a smoother end result.

These things go without saying, and pointing them out is one thing - though focusing on them is quite another.

I would liken it to sex.

There are undoubtedly millions of subtleties in the process, most unspoken or simply known by intuition, and some still that occur without consciousness.

Imagine if someone gave a play by play of the smallest detail during this process, leaving nothing to intuition. What if I, in the process of offering my affections to a woman explained, verbally, everything I was doing - why I was doing it and why it felt the way it feels - or worse - how it is supposed to feel?

What do you think the standard reaction would be?

"Beautiful, I am going to undo this button now and it will cause you to become more excited, the reason for this the reaction of chemical x and chemical y in your bloodstream, and if you think you feel good now just wait, I have devised a method for for the second button which magnifies the affect of the perception of my undoing the button, when in fact I have not undone the button at all. It should make you feel exactly the way you feel now only better, but only if you do what I say when I say and exactly the way I say it."

I don't think, in most cases, that would be met favorably. Though I am not opposed to enhancing a mood or experience through more subtle, or not so subtle methods - as in everything there is a point when you have taken things too far.

Analysis, intuition, explanation and silence all have their place and time.

Anytime you make a sound in a place that others feel should be silent - you may be reprimanded.

The key is in understanding when they are right and when they are wrong, when it doesn't matter, and when there is no correct answer.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Garcia Santos weighs in.

He didn't really say anything new or special. Without naming names he said that there are chefs in essentially all styles and camps who are charlatans and others who are the real thing. I do appreciate being directed to the website - he has some interesting perspectives on specific restaurants. Notable by its absence on his scorecard is elBulli, though he does have a number of the satellites.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 2 weeks later...
[stand:

- How did Seiji Yamamoto (Ryugin, Tokyo) "stamp" a bar code on a sauce?? I know he

used squid ink, but still... And how did he "read" this bar code, which apparently

contained the

list of ingredients used in the sauce? Puzzling.

He silkscreens the sauce onto the plate with the traditional silkscreen method. The bar code can be scanned by Japanese cell phones, which are far more advanced than Western ones. The code then directs the diner to a URL which contains a greeting from the chef and a description of the dish. A fun gimmick, nothing of great gastronomic value, but somehow very Japanese.

I had several of these silkscreened sauces when we ate at Ryugin last September. His unagi was probably the best I ever had, although some of his Spain-influenced dishes were rather shaky. He has some of the best traditional knife skills of anyone in Japan.

I was also the one who asked Heston in the Q&A how he planned to keep manipulating diners' expectations once they had been to FD 3 or 4 times, as I have, and the menu stays the same. I have nothing against classics or working slowly to improve a dish, but most of his tricks work only once. After you know the punchline, the joke falls flat.

For the record, he banned me from the restaurant.

The scent is a perfume, I believe. I find it sickly, like the way I feel after eating a meal at FD. .I usually avoid the sardines on toast and the pigeon, and that seems to help.

Edited by Culinista (log)
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I was also the one who asked Heston in the Q&A how he planned to keep manipulating diners' expectations ...

For the record, he banned me from the restaurant.

I think you have your answer.

The scent is a perfume, I believe. I find it sickly, like the way I feel after eating a meal at FD.

The whole sweetshop thing is sickly in conception and is probably based on a delusional memory brought forth from a particularly intense NLP session. For a start, we don't have, and didn't have, sweetshops in the UK, we have newsagents, which don't smell of anything one would particularly wish to put in one's mouth.

Sounds to me like a displacement activity for actual cooking.

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The whole sweetshop thing is sickly in conception and is probably based on a delusional memory brought forth from a particularly intense NLP session. For a start, we don't have, and didn't have, sweetshops in the UK, we have newsagents, which don't smell of anything one would particularly wish to put in one's mouth.

Sounds to me like a displacement activity for actual cooking.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

You are right!! I have never seen a sweet shop in the UK.

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Getting back to Madrid Fusion: many were shocked that Santi's tirade got a standing ovation. Yes, Santi's machine-gunning of the vanguardists was in many ways illogical and intellectually unsound. However, he is a great preacher for someone who claims not to be a missionary, and his hellfire and brimstone approach brought down the house with a romantic image of a pure-hearted chef as a cook for friends and family, not a commercially-minded courtesan to the elite. Clearly, he struck a chord.

I suspect that Santi represents a crisis of nouvelle cuisine chefs faced with the challenge of the upstarts. He himself has made many of the commercial compromises he was condemning, and so I think there was a huge element of self-disgust in his speech. Is he having an identity crisis at this point in his career?

But the applause is another matter. Santi did strike a chord, and it reverberated all over the hall. Maybe people are getting nervous about what they might be losing, and it was reassuring to hear the old values being defended, even by a person who does not have the power to turn the tide. I'm also thinking about the lukewarm response to Heston's presentation. Are people beginning to doubt that there is a Wizard in Oz?

As Zoticus says, the critics are not going away.

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After all the talk, gossip, articles, etc. It seems that everybody's using the common sense and starts talking about what Philippe Regol calls the third way, ie, creative cooking using the modern techniques but based on the product.

I for myself,believe in this middle of the road way between traditionalists and ultra modernists.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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After all the talk, gossip, articles, etc. It seems that everybody's using the common sense and starts talking about what Philippe Regol calls the third way, ie, creative cooking using the modern techniques but based on the product.

I for myself,believe in this middle of the road way between traditionalists and ultra modernists.

Just for the record, I wrote about third way in this forum back in 2003:

Berasategui and the third way

Again

Berasategui was doing this in the late 90s, as Daniel García, Pepe Rey, and to some extent, de la Osa, were or are doing.

Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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The "third way" is kind of obvious in real life applications of vanguardist technique, isn't it?

It's not as though people drive concept cars on the street or wear runway creations to a dinner party. Pure creative expression has to live in its own sphere, but real food is something else.

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The whole sweetshop thing is sickly in conception and is probably based on a delusional memory brought forth from a particularly intense NLP session. For a start, we don't have, and didn't have, sweetshops in the UK, we have newsagents, which don't smell of anything one would particularly wish to put in one's mouth.

Sounds to me like a displacement activity for actual cooking.

Maybe there aren't any left now, but we used to have a sweetshop near my old house when I was a child in Chester. (I do have false memories – "I didn't say that…" "I did the washing up every day last week" – but that ain't one of them.) It was the whole works: bell on the door, big jars behind the counter, sugar and liquorice in the air... It's now a posh Spanish deli and wine shop. What does that tell you?!

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