JOSÉ Luis “Chele” Gonzalez took the stage at Madrid Fusión this week not to talk about a traditional Filipino dish, like what Margarita Forés and Myrna Segismundo did around this time last year, but to profess his undeniable love for his country – not Spain but the Philippines, which he considers his home.
Gonzalez, who is the chef behind Vask, Gallery Vask and Arrozeria, gave a presentation titled “Spanish Creativity, Filipino Inspiration” to an international group of foodies at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos in Madrid.
He told how he found himself in the country following a burnout in professional kitchens abroad. “I was tired and exhausted. And had no social life or Sundays off. It was then that he found solace and solace in the Philippines. the more he immersed himself in the lifestyle and culture local, the more difficult it became to leave.
He admitted, however, that it was not love at first sight. “My first impression of Filipino food was that it wasn’t at its best, so I wasn’t very interested that first year,” he told this writer.
But now he’s definitely smitten. “I find it very fascinating, especially how it is historically linked to Spain. This is now my biggest inspiration. And after five years, I created a new language in the kitchen because of my curiosity for my new home, the Philippines, as well as my values as a chef and as an individual.
Gonzalez prepared some of the dishes sold at the Vask Gallery on stage. “The restaurant is unique because of its anthropological cuisine where we try to discover ingredients deeply rooted in Filipino culture, history and people. We meet farmers and learn centuries-old recipes, which we have obtained from all over the country.
Sour ribs, stewed beef with roasted garlic paste and smoked onion have a flavor of toyomansi. Tiradito reinterprets the kinilaw using a raw tuna loin covered in a gel made from coconut milk, calamansi and tabon-tabon, an acidifying ingredient, introduced last year at Madrid Fusión by Segismundo and Forés.
Gonzalez cited her local travels as a good source of education and inspiration for her food. It uses fish caught in our own seas to promote sustainability and local aromatic and medicinal herbs so there is no need to import microgreens from Europe.
One of his recent experiences that had a major impact on his cooking was his encounter with the Aetas. More than learning their indigenous cooking techniques, he said he was “spiritually transformed”, emerging with a deeper appreciation for the country’s ethnicity, anthropology and rich history.
He ended his presentation by sharing the flavors he discovered in Mindanao.
Like last year, the Madrid Fusión room was filled with Filipino pride perhaps because we saw ourselves in Gonzalez who personifies the Filipino and Spanish connection, a man who appreciates each other the more he learns about his roots.