Is It Food? Is It Art? It's Molecular Gastronomy, Spanish Style

Last night, we traveled to Madrid… right here in New York City! We had the pleasure of joining renowned Spanish chefs Paco Roncero, David Muñoz, Jordi Roca and mixologist Carlos Moreno at the International Culinary Center to preview Gastrofestival 2012, a molecular gastronomy culinary event, taking place in Madrid January 23 through February 5. After tasting a few of the innovative dishes (the ox tail crispy sandwich and Vanilla Dessert were particularly tasty), we talked to the culinary masters about their work, most daring creations, and the Spanish “hamburger." 

Tell us about Gastrofestival 2012. What is it?
Jordi Roca: This festival is a great way of letting the world know about new trends in avant-garde Spanish gastronomy.

David Munoz: Gastrofestival intersects gastronomy with culture, art, youth and society. Good food and cocktails, modern and conceptually different.

Carlos Moreno: It’s about making high-level gastronomy accessible for everyone.

Tell us about your restaurant.
Jordi: My restaurant (El Celler de Can Roca) is a family business that is run by myself and my two older brothers, Joan and Josep. Joan is the chef and Josep is the maitre d' and sommelier; our cuisine is a combination of avant-garde techniques and traditional gastronomy.

David: DiverXo is a young and very creative restaurant with its own culinary point of view.

Carlos: O'Clock is a funny cocktail bar playing between classic cocktails and modern mixology. We try to do our job always with sense of humor. We love and enjoy our job and try to pass this feeling to our customers.

What does Spanish food offer that you can't find with any other type of cuisine?
Jordi: Its main contribution is the culture of the tapa! It's a way of eating that is unique in the world! Spanish food varies greatly, depending on which part of the country you’re in.

David: A spectacular variety of kitchens, the best product in the world, and much history.

What would you say is one of the most unique culinary creations you've ever made or you've ever eaten yourself?
Jordi: I'm proud of my desserts based on adaptations of perfumes. It's all about “translating” a well-known perfume into a dessert, interpreting the aromatic notes and turning them into flavors. My latest creation has been just the opposite… along with Catalan perfumer Agustí Vidal, I've made a perfume called Nuvol de Llimona (Lemon Cloud) inspired by my dessert.

David: The best thing I've ever eaten is the deep-fried squid that my mother makes! That I’ve made? Sour soup of bull’s tail, smoked eel, sirashi bushi, and eels.

Carlos: My most unique creation is the Charleston: rye whiskey, yellow blackberries, jam, Kola Tonic, Vegetal Elixir Bitters, stirred in an old-fashioned glass with an ice ball. It's a cocktail with personality, that mixes classic technique with unusual ingredients.

Where do you find culinary inspiration?
Jordi: My inspiration comes from many sources, from the world of smells, from colors, from tradition, emotions, personal experiences.

David: There is no place in particular where I find inspiration or doing [anything] special. I like to eat anything and work hard to arouse the mind.

Carlos: I take inspiration in classic cocktails, food, dishes I try in restaurants, music, movies and art in general. More than anything, I let my feelings and experiences guide me in the creative process.

How do you find a balance between keeping traditional Spanish flavors and creating innovative dishes? What is an example of one of your best signature dishes?
Jordi: The balance happens all by itself. When I create something new, I always look to the past. My most representative signature dishes are my perfume-based desserts.

David: Eggs with blood sausage and ear of pig. A dumpling is stuffed with sausage and egg yolk of quail with lace of egg white and crunchy pork ear.

Carlos: One of my most beloved signature cocktails is the "Campeones" (Champions). It's inspired by the spanish triumph in the 2010 soccer world cup, and features Gin Mare, passion fruit, orange juice (remembering the holland team), quince liqueur (typical fruit in Spain), agave nectar and red food coloring to turn the cocktail from orange (holland's color) to red (spain’s color).

Every culture seems to have a food that is served in a bun or a roll, especially in America where burgers and hot dogs are traditional. What would you say is a favorite Spanish food that is served in a bun?
The Spanish “hamburger,” so to speak.
Jordi: In Spain, we spread fresh pureed tomato on our bread, drizzle olive oil over it and then top it off with some mouth-watering slices of Iberian ham.

David: Mollete De Antequera

What are some of your favorite food pairings?
Jordi: Earth and chocolate, sheep's milk and guava, vanilla and licorice.

David: Fat acids, citric and iodide. An example would be: foie with sea urchins, citrus and chile.

Do you think New York offers a good selection of Spanish food?
Jordi: Yes, I do!

David: Honestly, I do not know the cuisine of New York as far as Spanish cuisine is concerned. When I travel, I do not usually go to a Spanish [restaurant].

Jordi Roca is the pastry chef at El Celler de Can Roca, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Madrid.

David Muñoz is the chef of DiverXo, a one-star Michelin restaurant in Madrid.

Carlos Moreno is a mixologist at O'Clock in Madrid.

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