Madrid Fusion Manila


Madrid Fusion Manila


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As Madrid Fusion Manila winds down, the annual food congress which took place for the first time in the Philippines brought together the best of both countries’ culinary stars and traditions. The Spaniards left dreaming of adlai grains, glutinous ingredients and newfound souring agents (say, ‘sua’), while the Filipinos are riding the high that comes with finally getting their moment in the gastro-limelight.

No doubt the Philippines is definitely on the global culinary radar. The New York Times and more recently, the Washington Post have written about it, while a few trend reports, including our Future of Food, have given it a nod as an emerging country of influence.

But is the Philippines really ready to be a culinary destination? I think it is, but it’s got a ways to go.

There is so much misunderstood about Philippine cuisine. It’s more than just the extreme balut or the ubiquitous adobo. In fact, for a country of over 7,000 islands, the regional differences are even lost on many Filipinos. So obviously a major educational and awareness building campaign needs to happen internally and externally.

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) needs to wrap their collective heads around culinary tourism as a campaign and designate adequate resources to build on the momentum created by this event. Lessons can definitely be learned from Peru, Spain, and Singapore.

There should be a separate dedicated F & B team within the DOT ranks, so initiatives don’t get mired in the usual bureaucracy.  In addition to bringing over international food festivals like Madrid Fusion, they should be aggressively hosting press trips for influential food writers as well as taking their chefs on road shows, pitching them to do pop-ups with international chefs.  I can think of countless ways to spin-off their current campaign slogan, “It’s more fun (to eat) in the Philippines!”

The point is, they should be prepared to invest a good 3-5 years to really put the Philippines in the global culinary map. Think of it as a slow cook campaign that calls for an unrelenting yet patient focus.

On the food front, kudos to the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture who’s done a terrific job connecting local farmers with local restaurants. For a country still redefining its feudal agricultural past, they’re making farming hip again and turning the spotlight on indigenous ingredients like heirloom rice and locally made artisanal ice cream, chocolate, cheese and liqueur brands. Local chefs like Margarita Fores (Grace Park) and Jose Luis Gonzales (Gallery Vask) have been sounding the gongs for local ingredients.

But we all know the real action is in export. At least, until local consumption catches up and “loving local” really catches on. Unless we can get all these wonderful ingredients into the hands of international food suppliers, who can then get them into the kitchen of chefs and shopping carts of consumers, gains made from Madrid Fusion will not bear fruit.

Madrid Fusion will return to Manila again next year. And given the Philippines’ buoyant reception and unmatched patriotic zeal for championing anything that promotes the country, this movement will likely catch on beyond its shores.

To learn more about the Philippines’ culinary scene, request a copy:

Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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