Madrid Fusion 2006 - The Spanish Inhospitality


Looks beautiful, the taste is disgusting.

Fortunately for me, I get to see where the people that visit this blog come from. So to all the people from Spain, which represent about 15% of my visitors, here is something that I want to say about my recent trip to Madrid.

If you have been coming here for the past two days you already know that I was there to attend Madrid Fusion. I registered for the event in late October of last year, and paid for my hotel stay in advance in late November. The web page for the congreso www. Madrifusion.com, offered four hotel choices, three of them displayed 4 stars (Novotel, Sofitel and Melia). The Melia was listed as the less expensive of the three, so my group and I chose that one.

The Melia Avenida de las Americas announces on its website a free shuttle service from Barajas airport to the hotel. Once we passed through immigration and customs, we headed outside to wait for the shuttle. We waited for one hour and it never arrived. So finally, we decided to take a cab. 17 Euros for a 5 minute ride.

Next we arrive at the Melia. It was almost 11 am, after almost 17 hours of travel and jetlag. The hotel I have to say, cannot be categorized as more than a 2 star hotel. One of my travel friends approached the front desk, announced himself and said he wanted to check in, and the girl behind the counter very rudely yelled, that there were no rooms available and that we had to wait.

I sat across the lobby on a shabby sofa observing the situation. Wait?, I asked myself. What does she mean there are no rooms and that we have to wait, we already paid for this damn thing and it´s almost zero degrees Celsius outside and I do not want to go look for another hotel. I waited for 10 minutes, then got up and headed towards the other girl behind the counter. I told her with these exact words: I want to talk to you, not to your colleague who is a very rude person. I continued to explain how we had traveled for over half a day, how we had prepaid everything, and how we wanted to our rooms NOW.

That night, another episode occurred to me. I was in my room around 9pm in my pijamas and working on my computer when suddenly, the door to my hotel room bursts open and a guy comes walking in. I almost had a heart attack. I stood up and cried: ¨what the hell is this?¨ He started arguing with me about how I was not supposed to be in my room and how he was checking that the doors were properly locked. I was so scared and I ended up locking my new Mac in the safe together with my passports and cash.

The next morming I went straight to the front desk and asked them if they knew that guy. They told me he was the new security guy, and I said well, isnt he supposed to knock on the door? The excuse was that he was new and had started on the job only a few days ago. They apologized, and I was paranoid during the rest of the trip. I complained to one of the organizers at the congress and she told me that it was strange that happened because the Melia is a Spanish chain of hotels supposed to be very good.

I have to say that the bad experience with the Spanish did not end at this hotel. If we walked around Madrid and stopped to ask directions, nobody knew where anything was. Everywhere we went we felt a hostility, even at the congress. When the public was trying to take pictures of the chefs or the food, the Spanish journalists where pushing people away and particularly when one of my colleagues was trying to have his picture taken with Ferran Adria, a very rude little man was pushing people and hit my friend, it turned out to be Arzak, the famous 3 starred chef from San Sebastian. If I stood up from my seat (assigned seat for everyone) to go somewhere and came back, there was someone else occupying it and I would gently tell them that was my seat, they would make a face or a rude gesture.

There were no meals served during the day at the congress, considering the program started at 9:30am and ended around 8:00pm. Yes they had a break between 2 pm and 3pm where some hors d’oeuvres were passed or set in tables. We in the western world are not used to having lunch that late and everyone was starving. The waiters assigned to the exhibition area where ¨finger food¨ was served would not allow anyone to touch the food until 2pm. One day, one of the guests chefs from the USA, Homaru Cantu, was being interviewed in that area and he reached for a shot glass containing a green jelly (disgusting) food, and one of the waiters yelled at him from across the room not to touch the food. Homaru Cantu´s face turned white and he told the waiter in Spanish ¨yes I know I am an idiot¨- we thought this was out of line and told the waiters they shouldn´t be rude to people specially the guests chefs that are there as visitors in their country. One of the people travelling in my group lost her patience and told the waiter that we were paying a lot of money and that we wanted our food right away.

During the Spanish chefs presentations the theater was packed, when the American chefs came on stage (except for Keller and Trotter), half of the people left the room. On the other hand, all the American chefs watched all the Spanish chefs´ presentations, they took notes and were respectful, but when the Americans came on stage, almost no Spanish chefs were watching. I thought that was very rude. All the Spanish chefs were featured early in the day and all the rest, specially the Americans, featured at the end. Of course at 7pm everyone is tired and wants to leave.

The Spanish chefs featured in the program, all had an attitude. I would say all except Martin Berasategui who had a wonderful presentation. The Spanish were pretentious and throwing flowers at themselves and their food all the time.

On the other hand, the Americans acted all very modest and humble and had no airs of grandiosity like the Spanish. Except for Homaro Cantu and Wylie Dufresne who I like to think of as the ´Bill Gates´of food technology in America, all the rest of the chefs centered their presentations focusing on the choice of good ingredients and logical combination of ingredients that at the same time looked appealing. The Spanish presentations were all centered on very avant garde techniques that I tend to think more of a as a fad than anything else that will last. These new techniques require very sophisticated equipment and ingredients, that of course are very expensive and prohibitive to most of us mortals.

Homaro Cantu from Chicago did a very interesting presentation on edible printed paper he serves at his restaurant. When he passed a sample for the audience, every single cameraman and photographer (except for a guy from a Peruvian television station) ran to where Adria was sitting to see what his opinion was, leaving Cantu speaking by himself.

I agree that Spanish chefs have revolutionized gastronomy in the last years, I agree that Ferran Adria will be remembered as one of the greatest innovators in history, in fact, he is considered almost as a God in Spain. I agree that Spanish chefs have shaken the French, I agree that this movement has triggered an unprecedented interest in food all over the world, in both young cooks and the eldest, but let´s get down to earth, Spanish did not invent the wheel, and we still have to see where all this is taking us to. But I doubt this will last very long.

Last but not least, on our last day in Madrid there was an article about Thursday´s happenings at the congress published in El Mundo newspaper. The title was: ´Europe innovates, America plays´. The journalist in her article describes Charlie
Trotter´s presentation and says that ´Charlie Trotter was applauded, but the applause was nothing compared to the one received by a Spanish who came on stage the day before, Manuel Tejedor´, who I cannot even recall seeing in the program. How unprofessional and unobjective of this reporter to write a comment such as that.

So my dear friends, I hope you understand that visitors in your country should not be treated as third class citizens. My overall experience was good, but I will think twice about returning to Madrid. (I have been told Barcelona is completely different, maybe they should consider moving this event to that city).

Etiquetas: ,

EL AMOR POR LA COCINA: Madrid Fusion 2006 - The Spanish Inhospitality


1.22.2006

Madrid Fusion 2006 - The Spanish Inhospitality


Looks beautiful, the taste is disgusting.

Fortunately for me, I get to see where the people that visit this blog come from. So to all the people from Spain, which represent about 15% of my visitors, here is something that I want to say about my recent trip to Madrid.

If you have been coming here for the past two days you already know that I was there to attend Madrid Fusion. I registered for the event in late October of last year, and paid for my hotel stay in advance in late November. The web page for the congreso www. Madrifusion.com, offered four hotel choices, three of them displayed 4 stars (Novotel, Sofitel and Melia). The Melia was listed as the less expensive of the three, so my group and I chose that one.

The Melia Avenida de las Americas announces on its website a free shuttle service from Barajas airport to the hotel. Once we passed through immigration and customs, we headed outside to wait for the shuttle. We waited for one hour and it never arrived. So finally, we decided to take a cab. 17 Euros for a 5 minute ride.

Next we arrive at the Melia. It was almost 11 am, after almost 17 hours of travel and jetlag. The hotel I have to say, cannot be categorized as more than a 2 star hotel. One of my travel friends approached the front desk, announced himself and said he wanted to check in, and the girl behind the counter very rudely yelled, that there were no rooms available and that we had to wait.

I sat across the lobby on a shabby sofa observing the situation. Wait?, I asked myself. What does she mean there are no rooms and that we have to wait, we already paid for this damn thing and it´s almost zero degrees Celsius outside and I do not want to go look for another hotel. I waited for 10 minutes, then got up and headed towards the other girl behind the counter. I told her with these exact words: I want to talk to you, not to your colleague who is a very rude person. I continued to explain how we had traveled for over half a day, how we had prepaid everything, and how we wanted to our rooms NOW.

That night, another episode occurred to me. I was in my room around 9pm in my pijamas and working on my computer when suddenly, the door to my hotel room bursts open and a guy comes walking in. I almost had a heart attack. I stood up and cried: ¨what the hell is this?¨ He started arguing with me about how I was not supposed to be in my room and how he was checking that the doors were properly locked. I was so scared and I ended up locking my new Mac in the safe together with my passports and cash.

The next morming I went straight to the front desk and asked them if they knew that guy. They told me he was the new security guy, and I said well, isnt he supposed to knock on the door? The excuse was that he was new and had started on the job only a few days ago. They apologized, and I was paranoid during the rest of the trip. I complained to one of the organizers at the congress and she told me that it was strange that happened because the Melia is a Spanish chain of hotels supposed to be very good.

I have to say that the bad experience with the Spanish did not end at this hotel. If we walked around Madrid and stopped to ask directions, nobody knew where anything was. Everywhere we went we felt a hostility, even at the congress. When the public was trying to take pictures of the chefs or the food, the Spanish journalists where pushing people away and particularly when one of my colleagues was trying to have his picture taken with Ferran Adria, a very rude little man was pushing people and hit my friend, it turned out to be Arzak, the famous 3 starred chef from San Sebastian. If I stood up from my seat (assigned seat for everyone) to go somewhere and came back, there was someone else occupying it and I would gently tell them that was my seat, they would make a face or a rude gesture.

There were no meals served during the day at the congress, considering the program started at 9:30am and ended around 8:00pm. Yes they had a break between 2 pm and 3pm where some hors d’oeuvres were passed or set in tables. We in the western world are not used to having lunch that late and everyone was starving. The waiters assigned to the exhibition area where ¨finger food¨ was served would not allow anyone to touch the food until 2pm. One day, one of the guests chefs from the USA, Homaru Cantu, was being interviewed in that area and he reached for a shot glass containing a green jelly (disgusting) food, and one of the waiters yelled at him from across the room not to touch the food. Homaru Cantu´s face turned white and he told the waiter in Spanish ¨yes I know I am an idiot¨- we thought this was out of line and told the waiters they shouldn´t be rude to people specially the guests chefs that are there as visitors in their country. One of the people travelling in my group lost her patience and told the waiter that we were paying a lot of money and that we wanted our food right away.

During the Spanish chefs presentations the theater was packed, when the American chefs came on stage (except for Keller and Trotter), half of the people left the room. On the other hand, all the American chefs watched all the Spanish chefs´ presentations, they took notes and were respectful, but when the Americans came on stage, almost no Spanish chefs were watching. I thought that was very rude. All the Spanish chefs were featured early in the day and all the rest, specially the Americans, featured at the end. Of course at 7pm everyone is tired and wants to leave.

The Spanish chefs featured in the program, all had an attitude. I would say all except Martin Berasategui who had a wonderful presentation. The Spanish were pretentious and throwing flowers at themselves and their food all the time.

On the other hand, the Americans acted all very modest and humble and had no airs of grandiosity like the Spanish. Except for Homaro Cantu and Wylie Dufresne who I like to think of as the ´Bill Gates´of food technology in America, all the rest of the chefs centered their presentations focusing on the choice of good ingredients and logical combination of ingredients that at the same time looked appealing. The Spanish presentations were all centered on very avant garde techniques that I tend to think more of a as a fad than anything else that will last. These new techniques require very sophisticated equipment and ingredients, that of course are very expensive and prohibitive to most of us mortals.

Homaro Cantu from Chicago did a very interesting presentation on edible printed paper he serves at his restaurant. When he passed a sample for the audience, every single cameraman and photographer (except for a guy from a Peruvian television station) ran to where Adria was sitting to see what his opinion was, leaving Cantu speaking by himself.

I agree that Spanish chefs have revolutionized gastronomy in the last years, I agree that Ferran Adria will be remembered as one of the greatest innovators in history, in fact, he is considered almost as a God in Spain. I agree that Spanish chefs have shaken the French, I agree that this movement has triggered an unprecedented interest in food all over the world, in both young cooks and the eldest, but let´s get down to earth, Spanish did not invent the wheel, and we still have to see where all this is taking us to. But I doubt this will last very long.

Last but not least, on our last day in Madrid there was an article about Thursday´s happenings at the congress published in El Mundo newspaper. The title was: ´Europe innovates, America plays´. The journalist in her article describes Charlie
Trotter´s presentation and says that ´Charlie Trotter was applauded, but the applause was nothing compared to the one received by a Spanish who came on stage the day before, Manuel Tejedor´, who I cannot even recall seeing in the program. How unprofessional and unobjective of this reporter to write a comment such as that.

So my dear friends, I hope you understand that visitors in your country should not be treated as third class citizens. My overall experience was good, but I will think twice about returning to Madrid. (I have been told Barcelona is completely different, maybe they should consider moving this event to that city).

Etiquetas: ,

6 Comments:

Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

Elena, it doesn't surprise me at all what happened to you at the hotel. I worked in Cancun, México for a few years and learned about ho rude Spanish hotel chains could be. Their hotels were most of the time over sold and they were famous for sending people to other hotels, most of the time those were less quality hotels.

Anyhow, I was not expecting this treatment from a high class type of event. Now I am shocked.

Hugs,
M

3:47 p. m., enero 24, 2006  
Blogger Paz said...

Hmmm... I'm sorry you had this experience. When I saw your photos and initial description below, I thought that you had a perfect experience in Madrid with the event. Clearly not. I'm sure there are some nicer, hospitable Spaniards around. Unfortunately, you just did not meet them. I've been to Madrid once, a long time ago. I guess I was lucky that my experience wasn't bad. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Best,
Paz

6:13 p. m., enero 24, 2006  
Blogger mutantin said...

next time you better head to italy.
the 2006 salone del gusto is the place to be!
http://www.salonedelgusto.com
and italian are friendly and willig to give you something to eat 24hours a day.

7:59 a. m., febrero 11, 2006  
Blogger Elena Hernandez said...

Paz, thanks for stopping by! And Mutantin, yes! I want to go to Salone del Gusto someday, it looks like a fantastic event.
best,
E

11:49 p. m., febrero 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anónimo said...

Este blog ha sido eliminado por un administrador de blog.

10:07 p. m., febrero 23, 2006  
Blogger MM said...

Wow, what a horrible experience. Perhaps the overzealous patriotism was what caused the audience to show such little respect to the Americans. I don't know. I see that happening a fair bit in Asia too. Anyway, thanks for the write-up. I was very curious to see how a "lay person" perceived Madris Fusion 2006 as opposed to all the industry peeps.

11:51 p. m., marzo 06, 2006  

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