Elena Arzak, Spain’s most celebrated female chef, was recently in town as part of Madrid Fusion Manila, the big gastronomic event that renewed the culinary spark between the Philippines and Spain.
She is a fourth-generation and the head chef of Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain. This is the first Basque restaurant to earn 3 Michelin stars and considered one of the best in the world, while Elena Azark was Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Awardee at the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards.
Our very own Chele Gonzales, the talented chef of VASK Gallery, invited Elena Arzak for a one-night-only, exclusive dinner for select members of the press and loyal patrons of Gallery Vask.
Chele is a Spanish chef himself, but (I always say) he is more Filipino than most of us, having lived here for quite some time and having loved our country like his own. I am blown away by how much he believes in and promotes our cuisine, culinary talent and our local produce. Some trivia : Chef Chele worked in Arzak for a year and a half and this experience has influenced his creations at Gallery Vask. Specifically, he applies the Arzak philosophy of using ingredients he personally sources from all over the country to create his own mark, on his avante garde dishes.
The event started with cocktails at the restaurant’s art gallery. There, I was pleasantly surprised to see Elena Arzak in person chatting with her guests before the actual dinner began.
The 14-course dinner menu that Chef Arzak and Chef Gonzales prepared last April 24 went down as one of Manila’s most coveted, innovative and much talked about dinners to date.
Isn’t it great to know that all these innovative dishes were made from our local Filipino ingredients?
Crispy Rice with Barramundi Mousse
Besugo Pudding with Fried Noodles
Ravine : King, Aligue and Local Crab with Coconut Meat, Avocado Cream, Cilantro, Pumpkin Pebbles and Vuko Soup
Oysters with Cellophane, Confit Potato and Grapefruit
Crispy Manioc Hydrated with Huitlacoche Stuffed with a Preparation of Onion, Green Tea and Foie Gras
Sorsogon Lobster, Cashew, Green Mango Pickled, Green Munggo Soup, Sibojing, Pansit Pansitan
Fermented Rice, Mustasa and Maya Maya
Pigeon Breast over a Selection of Dried Fruits served with Elaborations of Seeds like Pumpkin, Grape or Sunflower
Roasted Pineapple served with Pinacolada Bubbles
Cassava with Coconut, Carabao Milk, Biasong
Large Cocoa and Sugar Truffle with a Creamy Chocolate and Carob Filling.
This might just be the biggest, darkest and notably, one of the best chocolate desserts I’ve ever tried!
Elena Arzak herself served most of the dishes. She was very generous to talk to each guest, explaining every dish that came out of the kitchen. For someone of her stature, this is truly remarkable. What a gracious host!
Sungka for our after-dessert course. Each hole contained an assortment of our local candies like yema, sampaloc, pastillas, pili nuts and chocolate tablea among many others.
As if the meal wasn’t enough, each guest was given memorabilia to remember this special dinner by : a signed copy of the menu by Elena Arzak, a personalized apron and some beautiful notecards from the supported charity, Fundación Santiago.
Oh and as if I wasn’t happy enough (or more like I didn’t want the night to end so soon), I asked Elena for another signed copy of the menu — and this time I wanted with my name on it! She graciously accepted and as she was writing, she asked me what my name was, I said “The Spoiled Mummy” and she said, “That’s your name?!!” and gave me one big smile and wrote this for me…
Truly, my most memorable meal to date.
Congratulations, Chef Chele for all your contributions in making Madrid Fusion Manila a big success! You did a wonderful job in helping put our country on the global culinary center stage.
Now that the world’s spotlight is on us, our job is just about to begin! May the local culinary industry be inspired by Chele Gonzales, Elena Arzak, and by all the other international chefs who came to our country, as well as our own talented and world-class Filipino Chefs who gave their very best during the Madrid Fusion Manila. May this cultivate our love for local ingredients and the creativity to use them to make our beloved Filipino cuisine more presentable, more innovative and more appreciated and loved all over the world.
If you want to see what happened during the Mindanao Regional Lunch of Madrid Fusion Manila, click here.