Chef thrills at Diamond Hotel’s Spanish festival

Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2016 - 10:00am

If you think last year’s Spanish food festival at Diamond Hotel to celebrate Madrid Fusion Manila was hot, expect something even hotter as award-winning Spanish chef Edgar Sanuy Barahona, only in his 30s, returns to thrill taste buds even more. Hola! Welcome back, chef Edgar!

“Yes, I’m back,” says chef Edgar, with no trace of uncertainty in his voice during a Skype interview with The Philippine STAR. “This year, we’re really happy because we know we’re going to be in a very nice hotel, the food is amazing, and we’re pushing ourselves to do more recipes, more modern Spanish cuisine.”

He confesses, “Last year was very good, although we were not sure where we were going. This year will be even better for sure. We’ll keep it quite traditional, too, for the buffet because it’s what people are expecting. We’ll have, for instance, traditional favorites paella and suckling pig (cochinillo), really representative dishes of classic Spanish cuisine. But then, for the wine dinner menu, we’re going to have modern Spanish food.”

So, how’s chef Edgar’s paella? Last year’s guests swear it was muy delicioso! “I do my paella the Catalan way,” he describes. “Spanish food is really regional. The paella in Madrid will be different from the one in Barcelona or Valencia. In Valencia, they add first the stock and the last thing they add is the rice. In Barcelona, the first thing we add is the rice and we fry it a little bit first, so there’s a different texture to our paella from the Valencia paella.”

Rice, rice, baby!

Mention Spanish food and probably the first thing that comes to mind is paella, the time-cherished rice dish. “Although it’s the most famous, paella is just one of 100 types of rice in Spain,” chef Edgar shares. “If you ask me to make my favorite rice, it won’t be the paella; it will be a little more wet, with a little bit more stock.”

For this year’s fest, guests can also guiltlessly indulge in chef Edgar’s cochinillo. “We marinate it in a little bit of rosemary, garlic, and olive oil so it’s very tender inside but very crunchy on the outside,” says chef Edgar, giving us a peek at his Spanish cooking.

Returning to assist chef Edgar in the kitchen is chef Victor Burgos. The dream duo will lead a team of Filipino cooks as they prepare a sumptuous lineup of well-loved Spanish dishes from April 4 to 10 for Diamond Hotel’s Corniche lunch and dinner buffet at P2,580 net per person. Your food trip starts with a bowlful of pork ribs stew with potato and paprika, followed by the appetizing eggplant escalivada (smoky, roasted eggplant) with pine nuts or Arbequina olives marinated in thyme and orange. Or you can have some salad, such as the Spanish cojodongo salad (cold tomato bread salad) or the salty cod esqueixada (Catalan salad of shredded salt cod with tomatoes, onions, vinegar, olive oil, etc.). Move on to the main courses, which include marinated lamb skewers, T-bone with mojo picon (spicy sauce with varying spiciness that comes from the Canary Islands of Spain, where people are most passionate about their sauces), and strip loin. Si, there’s plenty of mojo rojo (smoky, fiery, chili sauce) and mojo verde (green, tarty, herb-flavored sauce) to go around.

You may want to treat yourself to an exclusive six-course degustation menu with wine pairing, set for dinner on April 6 at the Diamond Ballroom at P4,500 net per person. (Limited seats are available so confirmed bookings are recommended.)

For this year’s seven-day food festival, chef Edgar and his team are preparing 60 to 70 dishes. “There will be different offerings for each day, like different starters, different salads, but the favorite staples will always be there.” 

Chef attraction

As we rekindle our love affair with Spanish cuisine, we get to meet up close and rather personal this festival’s chef attraction: chef Edgar Sanuy Barahona, who comes from a family of respected chefs in Spain. “I started learning how to cook at home,” he traces his culinary roots. “My grandmother was quite a reputable cook. My mother is a doctor, but she works a lot related to food. My uncle is a chef (Michelin-star chef Josep Barahona). My aunt, who is also a doctor, also specializes in food. So, ever since I was very young, I was always surrounded by food, by chefs and by ingredients.”

At 13, Edgar was already cooking pasta (pasta perfect, too) for himself. “It was quite easy to do and I liked pasta when I was young,” he discloses.

His fondest childhood memory was that of his grandmother’s house with a living room that was always empty, with not a light on, because everybody was in the kitchen watching his grandmother cook and having a taste of whatever she would lovingly put on the table. To this day, at the ripe old age of 80, she practically lives in the kitchen, constantly creating dishes that fill the tummy and warm the heart.

“She would buy the tomatoes somewhere far from home and then the fish also very far from home just because she could find better ingredients there,” says chef Edgar, revealing the secret to his grandmother’s cooking. “Sometimes, we could just go to the supermarket and buy everything there, but I believe if you go to the supplier to buy, it may take longer but in the end, you get much nicer products.”

Basque-ing in the right ingredients

He goes on to relate, “The secret lies in the right ingredients to create only impeccable dishes. I remember last year, when I arrived at Diamond Hotel, I was insisting on finding the right products, I was looking for the right tomato when one of the chefs told me, ‘You remind me of another Spanish chef working in the Philippines, the guy from Basque.’ And I said, ‘This is because we’re Spanish and in Spain, the most important thing is finding the right product.’”

He hastens to add, “I’m sure we’ll find the right products here in the Philippines, just as we found them last year. The Philippines is good, it has very nice vegetables, fish. Last year, we got a good garoupa fish from the market. Sometimes, you don’t realize how rich your country is in terms of being an island and having all that variety of fish. Of course, we can always adjust our requirements to what you have.”

Having graduated from Escuela de Hosteleria Hofmann de Barcelona, the only culinary school in Europe with a Michelin-star restaurant, Edgar was invited to be the head chef of the Hong Kong Spanish Bar and Restaurant in 2012.  The following year, he joined the team of Maximal Concepts as the corporate chef. He has since collaborated with culinary director Malcolm Wood on creating ingredient-focused menus and opening many projects. Chef Edgar likes to tweak traditional dishes and give them a contemporary twist.

Named Chef of the Year 2013, he will be leading the kitchen team of the newly opened Mercedes Me by Mercedes Benz and Maximal Concepts. This all-day dining concept brings together a team of seasoned talents. It combines a raw bar that fuses Latin American techniques with exotic Asian flavors.

Now, we can only wait for chef Edgar to dazzle our palates once more — con mucho gusto!



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Fiesta de Sabores de Española, in partnership with Maximal Concepts Ltd., runs from April 4 to 10 for lunch and dinner at Corniche, with a one-night wine dinner on April 6 at the Diamond Ballroom. Diamond Hotel is at Roxas Boulevard corner Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila. For reservations, call 528-3000 local 1121.

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