Foodies from Portland, Oregon were treated recently to an evening of live cooking demonstration and lecture by four-time Michelin winning chef, Spain’s Chef Albert Adrià. The MeetheChef evening also included art, live music, film, and a food walkabout.
These days, we food aficionados can get our gastronomic fix by enjoying fabulous meals out just about anywhere, and learn about food and cooking in a myriad of ways. Gastronomes and amateur chefs can take cooking classes, shop their hearts out (and ring up their credit cards) buying cookware and gadgets. We can attend chef dinners, wine dinners, sit at the chef’s tables, take food walking tours, attend food and beverage festivals, conventions. We’re able to binge on cooking shows, competitions and shows about celebrity chefs. We can learn from friends and family and from magazines, books, and ogling and chatting on social media. (The Instagram hashtag #foodporn has been used in 185,000,000+ posts as of this writing.) You name it, it’s out there.
The event, a chance to “meet the chef,” is a welcome addition to the food scene.
To Set the Scene and Whet the Appetite
Held at Catlin Gable School, tickets to the event included a social hour where local chefs, purveyors and importers shared appetizers, beverages and food products to highlight Spanish ingredients and Spanish-inspired dishes.
Chef and owner of Portland’s Ataula, Jose Chesa, was on hand; Chesa also hosted a ticketed dinner during Adria’s visit. Javier Cantera, chef and owner of Urdaneta, and chefs from Portland hotspots including Bar Casa Vale, Bar Vivant, Tournant’s Oyster Social, Magna Kusina, and Perlot also shared delicacies.
Ibérico ham Master Carver, Manuel Antonio Recio, carved from a leg of the savory, melt-in-your-mouth jamón.
Importers of Mediterranean products, Culinary Collective, provided an olive oil tasting and tapas, including one of piparra peppers, fresh anchovies and green olives.
PixPatisserie’s Cheryl Wakerhauser, Yen for Chocolate’s Christina Yen, and J. Molina’s Pastry Chef Luis Moyana Molina brought dessert.
Sips of cava, wine, sherry and sangria amped up the festivities, and Christina Yen brought some of her luscious artisan chocolates, and coffee flowed from Water Avenue Coffee Company.
The Spanish Penchant for Food, Parties, Talk and Friends
Chef Albert Adrià got his culinary start at 15-year-old, joining his brother Ferran at elBulli. With time, Albert Adrià became one of the Spain’s most renowned pastry chefs. Adrià’s interests moved to molecular cuisine where he became a top innovator. elBulli won international kudos, including being rated the top restaurant in the world.
Chef Adrià’s portfolio now includes Barcelona’s elBarri, an “amusement park” of dining that includes six different conceptual restaurants, as well as his own stand-alone restaurants, Heart, Cakes and Bubbles and Little Spain. Another, Heart, will open in May of 2019.
MeetheChef is the brainchild of Tania Cidoncha. A native of Spain, Cidoncha has been in part of Portland’s gastronomic community throughout the eight years she’s lived in in the city. Her company, Tankroom, organizes events that share Spain’s vibrant food and culture with Portland and supports what’s become an active community of Spanish chefs and other Spanish expats in the city.
Cidoncha said, “We Spaniards like our food. We like to party, we like to talk, and we love our friends.”
And with that, she introduced Chef Albert Adrià.
Food is Art, Music, Story Telling, Community
The evening was very much food-centric theater; food and entertaining is theater, after all. There was Spanish music and a film.
Stage Right, while Chef Adrià cooked and talked at his podium-kitchen, esteemed Spanish painter Pepe Carretero stood at his easel and worked on a painting inspired by his Portland visit.
Two cameramen parlayed from Chef to Carretero and projected it all on the screen above. An interpreter was on hand Stage Left to translate when Chef Adrià used Spanish rather than English to best communicate what he wanted to share. The result was a fast-moving, jovial evening.
MeetheChef, Chef Albert Adrià
Chef Adrià’s onstage presence is at once personal, relatable, professional and humorous. Confident, but without swagger. No dry treatise on gastronomic philosophy here.
When talking about his restaurants, he spoke of how his menus revolve around available ingredients. Throughout, he advised to keep it simple, use fresh ingredients, truly know your ingredients, experiment, and, “Taste, taste, taste.” Adrià carried us through a host of recipes, each serving to make these points.
“Let’s Get Cooking”
Adrià began with a simple, correctly cooked shrimp on a bed of salt.
A rolled nori dish can be difficult or easy, but attention to detail can make all the difference.
With oysters escabeche, he poured oil over drained oysters, using “rapid cooking” that created a dish where the oyster is, “cooked but not.” Onion, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, and a touch of vinegar completed the dish.
Shelled sea urchin “tongues” may not be a staple in your refrigerator, but with the increased availability of good prepared products out there, a home cook’s repertoire can grow. He made a guacamole with avocado, coriander, tomatillo, pepper, olive oil and lime zest. A sauce of mashed sea urchins followed. The dishes, plated and topped with sea urchin truly is something the home cook could accomplish, if they want to up their game with a true Spanish treat.
To make a zucchini consommé, Adrià grilled and squeezed out the juice of the zucchini. He grilled the zucchini at a very high heat, for a short amount of time. “It’s important to understand,” Adrià said, “you can’t treat every product the same.” The dish used orange juice as well, which led to a discussion of the many types of oranges world-wide and how very different they are. Again, understanding your ingredients is key. “A mistake we also make is not using our nose.”
The mashed sea urchin made another appearance in a Wagyu beef dish. Catalonia, Adrià said, often combines meat and seafood in a dish.
“How do I know sea urchin is a good combination for the beef? Because I have this information in my brain about the ingredients, the flavors. With experience, I learn that I can use fermented beets instead of salt, for example. Technique alone is not cooking. It’s taste. Experience.”
Finally, a beautifully cut mango creates the perfect dessert. Again, simple ingredients, knowing the product, attention to detail.
Making It Personal
I sat listening to Adrià in the darkened theater and couldn’t help but consider my own development as a cook. I’ve always like to eat and come from a family of a good cooks and good party hosts. I started cooking when I landed in my own apartment at 18 and (bravely or stupidly) started hosting dinner parties soon thereafter. Once I had children, there were a lot of 20-minute meals, but my kids grew up well-versed in international ingredients and cuisines and foods from the garden. Habits changed again as time grew shorter once again once both kids were out of the house.
I still entertain and have the kids over, but today, I’m back to cooking primarily for myself. Sitting in that darkened theater focusing on Chef Adrià allowed me to consider what I want to explore next in dining, cooking and in entertaining.
I took these words from Chef Adrià to heart: “Go home and reflect on what we did. Create. Ask questions. The worse thing is to be indifferent.”
Craving More from MeetheChef
The event was obviously something the foodie town of Portland craves. Look for more meethechef.com events soon. And plan a trip to Spain and a visit to one of Chef Albert Adrià’s restaurants in Barcelona, and beyond.
¡Salud y buen provecho!
- Meethechef, https://www.meethechef.com/
- Tankroom, https://www.tancidoncha.com/
- elBarri Restaurant Group, https://www.elbarri.com/
- Spanish Tourism Board, info
- Spain Arts and Culture, https://www.spainculture.us/city/portland/meethechef-with-albert-adria/
- Travel Portland, https://www.travelportland.com/
- Ataula, https://www.ataulapdx.com/
- Manuel Antonio Recio, https://www.ibericocarver.com
- Urdaneta, https://www.urdanetapdx.com/
- Pix Patisserie, https://www.pixpatisserie.com/
- Bar Casa Vale, https://www.barcasavale.com/
- Perlot, https://www.perlotpdx.com
- Tournant, https://www.tournantpdx.com/
- Culinary Collective, https://www.culinarycollective.com/
- Portland Sangria, https://www.portlandsangria.com/
- Yen Chocolates, https://www.ayenforchocolate.com/
- Pepe Carretero, https://www.pepecarretero.com/