The nerves can be felt in the atmosphere of the Madrid Fusión auditorium when the name of the revelation chef of each edition. It is not for less, because for more than 20 years this award has been the most prestigious distinction that a young chef can receive in our country, and it usually preludes a successful career. And this year the lucky ones are once again two, the professional couple that they form Javier Rivero and Gorka Ricofrom the restaurant Ama Taberna, in Tolosawho we have seen collect the award with visible emotion.
We could already intuit it in DAP since we visited your restaurant at the end of 2021, when we were able to see first hand the desire and talent that these young chefs put into their kitchen, and it is not for nothing that their names have been buzzing around the world as possible winners of this award.
The relay of Peter Aguilerafrom the restaurant Mesón Sabor Andaluz in the Sierra de Cádiz, winner last year, is therefore taken by four hands in 2023, those of young friends formed among the Elkano grills who put into practice a kitchen true to the land in which they work, without losing sight of the traditional Tolosa recipe book, but surprising with a proposal different from what is typical of the area.
In his first statements after winning the award, Rivero commented with a voice broken by emotion that this recognition is “a commitment”, something that Rico confirmed, adding that it is “a proud”a kind of culmination to three very intense days shared with the other professional colleagues, and a sign that they are making the decisions they make well.
“Is a commitment to the land, to the peoplethe encouragement that they have sent us after a hard year, a lot of people have supported us”, commented Rivero. It was not easy to bet on the great change of gastronomic direction with which they risked so much, and how well it is working. blindly into the void, blindly, working with formats that we had never worked with before”. And they have highlighted the great boost that it also supposes for the region, the sector and small producers, the base of their cuisine. “Our objective is that they are well, that our environment is well.”
From tavern to gastronomic restaurant
They comment that it has been a hard year behind closed doors, despite the numerous recognitions and successes they have been reaping, a sign that they were on the right track. It was not easy to go from the tavern to the gastronomic format, to a tasting menu so little seen in the area, to break with daily customers, but they trusted that it was the only format with which they could defend what they believed in, value forgotten or reviled products, meats that are rarely used or vegetables relegated to mere broths. And as a romantic symbol of his philosophy, the name of the restaurant is a nod to how a mother cares for her childrenof the closest treatment and the most direct link.
In his gastronomic discourse there is no lack of constant references to the origin, the local seasonal product and the people behind it, their realities and their historical legacy. Always trying to mention your providers with names and surnames, when they do not use local raw material, they do reinterpret it from Tolosa’s own tradition. Mastering refined haute cuisine techniques, they never lose sight of the product, turning, for example, the humble leek in the great protagonist.
“The donkey is a dish that attracts a lot of attention because nobody expects it.” There in your land there is a tradition of donkey meat, because when the animal was no longer useful for work, it was sacrificed and cooked. Now, of course, they use young donkeys, not old ones, and it is one of the most surprising and attractive products, like lax sheep meat.
To the question of DAP If they believe that the fame and tradition of the Basque grill hinders the younger generations from developing a new and innovative cuisine, as is happening in other regions, Rivero laughs and answers honestly: “I think they are cycles. They have opened many projects young at the same time, some have already left the business, others continue and are doing very well even though they are not so much in the networks, there are very interesting generational changes… They are cycles, there are cycles in which a culture requires you to reconnect with your rootswhich is what we are doing, putting back in value very simple things that identify you, and once that is done we will return to the forefront and have fun.”
With a menu that changes in its proposal according to the season With the flavor of the farmhouse always present, Rivero and Rico are faithful to temporality, thus also promoting the local supplier once again, demonstrating that there is much more to Tolosa than grilled chops or spooning beans.
Second and third prize for Baeza and Las Palmas
The second prize of the contest has been taken by another young chef whose name sounded like a possible winner, Juan Carlos García from the Vandelvira restaurant, in Baeza. This chef works in an old 16th century Franciscan convent owned by his family, where he practices modern, highly technical and creative cuisine, but also of popular Jaen roots and rural soul. Trained in Japan with the chef Yoshihiro Narisawa and spent eight years in Albert Adrià’s restaurants, his dishes are light in complements and sauces, but intense in their contrasts, with a notable presence of raw foods and vegetable elements.
The third award flies to Las Palmas, from the hands of another couple of cooks, Abraham Ortega and Áser Martin, from the Tabaiba restaurant, cook and pastry chef respectively. In the words of the Madrid Fusión organization, “they prepare dishes that incorporate memories, flavors, passion, culture and gastronomic heritage of their island. Something equivalent to eat Gran Canaria with bites. Unpredictable snacks in which the pantry, knowledge and its roots play equal parts.”
In a world that is so difficult to get ahead and stand out among what seem to be constantly the same faces and names as always, leaving Madrid Fusión as the revelation chef means much more than a push to the career of these professionals, all under 35 years of age, although some already have solid careers behind them.
The best recipes of Direct to the palate (Cooking)
Congress itself boasts of having rising above anyone to figures of the stature of Dabiz Muñoz, Camila Ferraro -until now the only woman awarded-, Ricard Camarena or, more recently, Javier Sanz and Juan Sahuquillo from La Mancha, chefs of the Cañitas Maite restaurant (Albacete) who have not stopped giving speak since they triumphantly emerged from the auditorium in 2021.
Photos | Madrid Fusion
In DAP | Pedro Aguilera, from the restaurant Mesón Sabor Andaluz, in the Sierra de Cádiz, revelation chef 2022 at Madrid Fusión
In DAP | The best ham croquette 2023, again from La Mancha: it is from Albacete and it is cooked like this