Peking duck without the duck.
Held over three days in April at the SMX Convention Center, the third edition of Madrid Fusión Manila Food attracted 1,400 local and international guests from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Taiwan, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Among this number were six Michelin-starred chefs. High Life sat down with Pedro Subijana, Paco Pérez, Jordi Roca, Julien Royer, Magnus Ek, and Gert De Mangeleer.
WORDS ZSARLENE B. CHUA
Before he was a chef, Paco Pérez wanted to take up Spain’s national pastime and become a football player but his fascination for cooking won over his desire to stand in a stadium — and with good reason, as he became the man known as the “father of state-of-the-art 21st century cuisine.”
With five Michelin stars under his belt — two for Miramar in Llanca, which is also his home, two for Enoteca in Barcelona, and one for 5 (Cinco) in Berlin, the extension of Miramar in Germany — Mr. Pérez creates dishes that represent his personality.
“If I didn’t reflect my personality in my food, I wouldn’t be honest and honesty is part of my philosophy,” Mr. Pérez told High Life during his recent visit to Manila for the third Madrid Fusión Manila Congress in April. In previous interviews, Mr. Pérez described his food as something that is “flavor-driven, honest, and surprising.” Without surprise, he added, a dish would be boring, similar to a person going home every day to the same monotonous life. “If you don’t have a person who continually surprises you — with a rose when you go home or champagne or a walk to the beach — life is boring,” he said.
Consider his Pato Pekin (Peking duck), a modern, avant-garde take on the traditional Chinese dish — without the duck. A video presented during Madrid Fusión Manila showed a cleaver hitting what looked like a duck lying on a bed of lettuce, only to reveal that it had no meat in it. Mr. Pérez did not elaborate on the ingredients but it appeared that the faux fowl was made of a crunchy outer layer (imitating the bird’s coveted skin) meant to be wrapped in greens and eaten. This signature dish is exemplary of the Catalan chef’s penchant for humor. “In the restaurant there has to be passion, there has to be laughter. Not boring,” he said.
“Not boring” extends to his use of ingredients. Mr. Pérez is known for experimenting with dishes, sometimes taking six months to concoct his seasonal menus. He shared that one particular ingredient — sea cucumber — gave him trouble. “We tried for a year to make a dish out of the skin of a sea cucumber but basically, it didn’t come out. The intense sea flavor is complicated to work with,” he said.
Sea cucumber notwithstanding, the bounty of both ocean and forest is the foundation of the much lauded 30-course tasting menu at Miramar, a seaside restaurant established in 1939 by his wife’s family (Mr. Pérez is married to Montse Serra). Located on the easternmost point of the Iberian Peninsula, Miramar is a Mediterranean restaurant that serves as the homeport of Mr. Pérez, who is involved in other restaurant ventures such as L’EGGS by Paco Pérez , La Royale and BAO Bar. Miramar’s current tasting menu is called “2017 Short Stories.” In between a Prologue and an Epilogue is a healthy mix of seafood and local vegetable fare such as Sea and Market Garden with shrimp, orange, carrot and orange blossom; as well as Asian-inspired dishes such as Nutella Mochi and Pigeon Beijing.
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