Gastronomika and the strength of Spain

Celebrations in San Sebastian for the 20th anniversary of the most famous congress in the world. Though in fact it all began back in 1984

19-10-2018

Gastronomika 2018, the 20th edition, from Sunday 7th October with the traditional gala dinner, and then the congress itself in San Sebastian from Monday to Wednesday 8-10th, when the curtain fell over the protagonists of years and years of restaurant greatness in the Basque (Spanish and international) town. On the stage of the auditorium there were, among others, Juan Mari ArzakMartin Berasategui and Pedro Subijana, each one representing a restaurant-legend and three stars, all in San Sebastian. With them, many colleagues and all those who make the organization led by Roser Torras work. Reporter Xavier Agulló, one of the historic voices on the Basque stage, thus found it easy to repeat what he always says at the end of the congress: «Ladies and gentlemen, this was a memorable edition».

Twenty years is an important number for anyone. They celebrated and lived it with intensity, so much so that all that was not strictly connected to the Basque country and to Spain in general was deemed less important. For once there was no guest nation and only two foreign chefs: Japanese Yoshihiro Narisawa and Paul Pairet, a French who moved to Shanghai. For all the other international participants Spanish was the mother tongue, including Uruguayan Matias Perdomo who, lucky for us, decided to live and brighten up Milan, splendidly absorbing Italy. This choice perfectly represents the Spanish power when they have to work as a team and assess themselves around the planet, like at the 50 Best above all.

Rafael Garcia Santos, behind him José Carlos Capel

Rafael Garcia Santos, behind him José Carlos Capel

As Italians, we should follow this and endless other examples. Even though this focus on themselves has sometimes led to some exaggerated self-centred episodes, an excessive focus on their restaurant and cuisine without opening to the outside world, without giving a factual example. However, one must say that not everyone is Joan Roca, who recalled the innovations conducted by Celler during the twenty years of life of the congress, and left everyone stunned because the creative list is incredible. The same applies to Quique Dacosta and his eternal love for red prawns from Denia or Jordi Butron and the sweet world seen from Barcelona.

Ten years with Rafael Garcia Santos, from 1998 to 2008, and ten more with Gastronomika, were celebrated on Tuesday afternoon by summoning its protagonists. Firstly Rafa himself, as well as José Carlos Capel, the father of Madrid FusionJoan Roca and Quique DacostaSantos was determined and trenchant, Capel was bright and calm. The two chefs were a little on the defensive because criticism, of any kind, is something you understand in time, not when it hits you, and it does hit you as they recalled. And Rafa especially never had a doubt when he spoke. He was always sure or himself.

Matias Perdomo, of Contraste in Milan, on the stage of Gastronomika 2018. In the background, to the right, Simon Press, chef and partner 

Matias Perdomo, of Contraste in Milan, on the stage of Gastronomika 2018. In the background, to the right, Simon Press, chef and partner 

Listening to them was a real pleasure, going through twenty years of creativity. If anything, because Santos, long before the debut of lo Mejor de la Gastronomia in 1998, had already created a very new event in 1984, in Vitoria Gasteiz, in the Basque Country, at Gonzalo Anton’s restaurant Zaldiaran. Everyone made his appearance, «and when it was the turn of Ferran Adrià in 1990, then 28, none of his colleagues understood him», he recalled. Then Rafa added: «Paco Torreblanca once told me he was impressed by Ferran, before he became the one everyone praised, because in years and years he had been the only cook to enrol in his pastry-making courses. He asked him why, and the Catalan said he wanted to learn the strict rules of pastry-making so that he could then use them in the kitchen».

The end of Gastronomika 2018: everyone’s on stage 

The end of Gastronomika 2018: everyone’s on stage 

 Gastronomika, and all that happened before that, on a smaller scale, is part of 40 years of restaurant history. At first, it had no competition. Later, like every good idea, it was followed by many more congresses and festivals, including Identità. Today communication is conveyed mostly on websites, blogs and social networks. Often it’s enough for a dish to look good and colourful, ready for Instagram, and this is a mistake because there has to be more than a click. A title, a photo and an appearance. Everyone is allowed their 15 minutes of celebrity. It’s not much. Internet and social networks must convey ideas too, not just colours. Let’s hang onto GastronomikaJames Beard FoundationMadrid FusionMelbourne food & wine festival

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Sections

Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose