I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to photograph the Congreso de Cocina de Autor in Vitoria, featuring world-renowned chefs like René Redzepi (Noma), Pedro Subijana (Akelarre), Patxi Eceiza (Zaldiaran), Quique Dacosta, Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) and of course Martín Berasategui. I’ve always been infatuated with [g]astronomy (en serio, I like my constellations) but it didn’t occur to me until I was in the kitchen at Zaldiaran that I would be surrounded by these shining stars.
Martín y Pedro
With so many top dogs in the house you’d think the kitchen would be a whirlwind of shouting egomaniacs but such was not the case. The chefs were professional, humble, endearing and funny. Sí, chefs got jokes. They were human. They were approachable. They didn’t mind me going mama-razzi on them. These are the qualities I admire and carry with me.
When the kitchen was busy prepping and there was no room for me and my spiderman-picture-snapping-body-distortions, I snuck away to the pastry corner to chat with Patxi and his team. What an amicable bunch! They handed me a spoon to taste during pre-service and again later, after all the day’s work was done. Such fresh, clean and bright flavors. Me gusta! And I don’t say that often about dessert.
I also caught sight of the Joselito rep setting up in the sala. Mouth-watering goodness. Literally. Inside I was like a werewolf mad with rabies, salivating for jamón. Thus I cut my sala time short and returned to the kitchen.
When it came time to plate, everyone had a hand in plating, chefs, sous-chefs, practicas alike. We were like the musketeers: ‘All for one and one for all.’ The plates were beautiful. Can you tell I enjoyed every moment? Capturing the concentration and synchronization of plating for a room full of a hundred or so diners, with these fellow chefs for this particular event, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I suppose every day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but this event moved me in many ways that I cannot explain with words. I guess you had to be there.
David and Sergi define ‘tranquilo.’ I so admire the way they move and operate with grace on the line. Like classical Chinese philosophy, not one movement or breath is wasted. Such is the way.
So to be accurate and honest, not everything went entirely smoothly. I think we had the most difficult dish to plate not only because we had to plate protein but also due to multiple time and temperature-sensitive components that accompanied the pichon. With every great chef, every great restaurant, every great pichon, there is bound to be a blunder or bump somewhere along the way, no? There was a bout of shouting due to operational inefficiencies associated with ‘too many chiefs and not enough indians’ but no worries, al final, we delivered successfully. We’re just Basque and like to be dramatic 😉
I’m very thankful to have had such a wonderful experience. Such is the life of a lucky stage in País Vasco, no? I can’t wait until the next event. I have so many more fotos to take and so many more [culinary] minds to probe. Eee!