Awards, luxury openings and new bets: 2021, a great year for gastronomy, despite everything | People

After the business closures caused by the tsunami of the pandemic, the balance of the gastronomic year is settled with restaurant and hotel premieres, and a profusion of congresses and events. With the clientele vaccinated, the hospitality industry has been removing its mask, but if 2021 began and passed hopefully, it ends with the restrictions of the sixth wave and the Covid passport to enter the restaurant.

“It has been a fundamentally atypical year. Painful for the loss of so many jobs and so many businesses in the world of restoration that have had to close due to the pandemic, but also exciting, due to the enormous resilience of the sector. Although we are once again in a rut, I have full confidence in the strength of Spanish gastronomy, which is experiencing a period of splendor. It is admirable to see how the vast majority of producers, ranchers, fishmongers, farmers, horticulturists … have updated and adapted to the new circumstances, and to see how cooks have developed new businesses, many of them of the highest range “, says Lourdes Plana , president of the Royal Spanish Academy of Gastronomy.

The president of Euro-Toques Spain and chef of Mugaritz Andoni Luis Aduriz is just as optimistic: “2021 is the year in which we understand that we are coming out of Covid and now we are again with everything on our heads. Although life goes on. Many restaurants have been swept away by the pandemic, but we have also experienced moments of openings, expansion and new projects ”.

Effervescence in Madrid. Indeed, the desire to undertake gastronomic adventures has not ceased and Madrid has experienced a hospitality effervescence this year. Under the umbrella of luxury hotels, figures such as Quique Dacosta, with his Mediterranean universe, have sat in the brand-new and resurrected Ritz (now Mandarin Oriental); Jesús Sánchez with the taste of Cantabria at Amós, in the also renovated Villa Magna (Rosewood), and Dani García from Marbella at the Four Seasons and the Hyatt Regency Hesperia. Other resurrections in Madrid have been the veterans Zalacaín and Lhardy (rescued by the Pescaderías Coruñesas empire). And in the Anglo-Saxon style of the food hall, has burst into Sol with 13 Canalejas Gallery restaurants.

View of one of the rooms of the new Zalacaín.
View of one of the rooms of the new Zalacaín.

The year of DabidXo. Dabiz Muñoz, from Madrid, whose DiverXo sports three stars at the NH hotel, has made a great international leap this year. He entered the 20th in the list of The World’s 50 Best and has been voted by his colleagues Best Chef in the World (The Best Chef Awards) and has also triumphed in La Liste for his innovation. His genius as a cook is shared as an entrepreneur and his food delivery business and food trucks GoXo has jumped as a restaurant to Barcelona. “We already knew that he is a boy with a lot of talent and energy, but outside of Spain they are already beginning to recognize him and he is very positive for our gastronomy”, the president of Euro-Toques rejoices.

The science of the chef of the sea. Another chef who has crossed borders, culinary and scientific, is Ángel León. The chef of the sea, awarded the Medal of Fine Arts, has unveiled innovative products for global nutrition, such as seagrass, a gluten-free cereal with omega 3. An oceanic investigation that has filled pages in the magazine Time and possibly it will be extraterrestrial within the space experiments of NASA.

Appearance of the seagrass.
Appearance of the seagrass.Angel Leon

Sustainability and green cuisine. The images of chefs smelling lettuce or tomatoes and with their hands on the ground have proliferated lately on social networks. But there are trajectories of sustainability without posture, such as that of Celler de Can Roca. The three Catalan brothers have been recycling glass and plastics for years in the Roca Recicla project and this year they have encouraged their recovery of ancestral seeds and ingredients, “sowing the future.” Sustainable practices have been encouraged by organizations such as The World’s 50 Best, Michelin (awarding more Green Stars) or Repsol (creating solar communities in rural restaurants, such as Cenador de Amós).

And a surprise of 2021 has been the famous meatless restaurants. Daniel Humm was the first to announce the switch to an all-vegetable kitchen at his Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York last June and months later, just after being named second best restaurant in the world on the 50 Best list, the Danish Rasmus Kofoed announced that his Geranium in Copenhagen was turning to green kitchen. Dominique Crenn also does not serve meat in his establishments in San Francisco and in the Spanish sphere, Rodrigo de la Calle and Xabier Pellicer are successfully active in vegetable cuisine.

Award figures. The efforts of the gastronomic sector to maintain the kitchen as a source of economic and social wealth in the face of adversity have had their great example in the figure of the Asturian-American José Andrés, Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2021 for his work from World Central Kitchen . The fight for healthy eating and food pedagogy in schools carried out by Huelva chef Xanty Elías has earned him the International Basque Culinary Award (BCWP). The kitchen in female hands has been promoted with the awards to the chef and activist Dominique Crenn and the Peruvian innovator Pía León in 50 Best 2021, who has crowned the world leadership of the restaurant Noma by the Danish René Redzepi for the fifth time. And the Asturian Nacho Manzano, extraordinary example of the new landscape cuisine at Casa Marcial, has received the National Gastronomy Award.

Peruvian chef Pía León poses for a portrait inside the Kjolle restaurant on August 7, 2021 in Lima, Peru.
Peruvian chef Pía León poses for a portrait inside the Kjolle restaurant on August 7, 2021 in Lima, Peru. Leslie Searles

This year an award, 50 Next, has been created for promising young people, entrepreneurial boys and girls who work for a better future of food. It has been promoted by the Basque Culinary Center, the gastronomic university that has precisely completed 10 years of building knowledge. And the young talents of the Spanish regional cuisine have seen their passion rewarded with 27 stars, in the once again little shower of glitters from Michelin, without new tri-stars and only four restaurants with two.

Reunions and reinventions. After the summer, gastronomy professionals have experienced an intense return to school with meetings, forums and congresses, finally face-to-face, although digital dissemination has been maintained, encouraging a global camaraderie. Relationships between chefs and hospitality associations have been consolidated. “This stressful situation like the one we have experienced, times with such great uncertainty and in which leadership was needed, have made us unite more”, underlines Andoni Luis Aduriz, who laments the disappearance of masters of Basque cuisine, and national, like Luis Irízar and Juan José Castillo.

Old rivalries have also been broken. They are no longer intimate enemies of French and Spanish cuisine, as reflected by ADMO, the union in Paris of Albert Adrià and Alain Ducasse. Both chefs, with their restaurants closed (the disappearance of elBarri has been a blow to the Barcelona scene), have undertaken a reinvention that will foreseeably transcend an ephemeral restaurant.

From left to right, on the roof of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, Romain Meder, Alain Ducasse Vincent Chaperon and Albert Adrià.
From left to right, on the roof of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, Romain Meder, Alain Ducasse Vincent Chaperon and Albert Adrià.Lea Crespi

Reinventions that arose with the bolt of the pandemic, such as the food delivery, the restaurant served in a box and informal and cheap business formats are here to stay. And the spontaneous display of recipes on the Web by well-known chefs has been professionalized in online cooking schools, such as Scoolinary or Acadèmia TV.

Gastronomic dissemination has also continued on paper, with books to eat such as the volumes of the Bullipedia, the great reference book by Enjoy, the posthumous book by Anthony Bourdain, the Reasoned Gluttony of Frederic Bau or the seductive compendium of Latin American cuisine by Virgilio Martínez when we have the information.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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