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Spain – it´s a country where a simple fresh sardine and tomato salad can leave you speechless.


The sardine, freshly caught in summer, is at its fattest and tastiest. The tomato has been hand-picked off the vine only once it turned ruby-red and the olive oil is cold-pressed and speaks of sun, hot baked soil and hundreds of years of tradition.


Real food is the next global culinary revolution and the Spanish who have been doing it for centuries and doing it well are leading the way.


Only now, they´re taking their long-standing love affair with authentic ingredients and passionate unpretentious wines and going East. Asia is the new Spanish gastronomic frontier…


Spain is already a food and beverage world leader. It currently exports more food and wine than cars and is the biggest producer and exporter of olive oil in the world.


Food and beverage exports from Spain reached a staggering 44,000 million euros in 2015, a 30% rise from 2011. It is the seventh biggest food and beverage exporter in the world and the fourth biggest in Europe– a third of the olive oil consumed in the world is Spanish.


Asia offers a new challenge and is yet largely untapped. “There is a great deal of interest and curiosity about Spanish food and wine in countries like India, South Korea, Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia,” says Michelin-starred Spanish chef Rafael Centeno.


“When something is authentic you instinctively know it in the first bite or sip and that is a really powerful experience,” he adds. “It transcends cultural barriers.”


Rafael, along with five award-winning Spanish chefs and two sommeliers, travel the world promoting Spain with the Spanish Extravaganza festival.


The four-day festival, supported by the Spanish Government, is held in 5-star hotels in major cities like Seoul, Shanghai and Mumbai. Boasting nightly tapas festivals, Michelin-star fine dining, paella fiestas and professional wine tastings and masterclasses, it offers a whistle-stop culinary tour of Spain with real food and select wines as the stars of the show.


As well as Rafael the chef team is made up of Michelin star chef Iván Dominguez, two tapas masters Benigno Couso and Hectór López and paella expert Santi Almuiña.


Father and son sommeliers Luis and Alejandro Paadín, whose latest wine guide has been voted one of the top ten in the world by Gourmand 2017, organise the wine.


The latest Spanish Extravaganza festival was held at the five-star Pudong Shangri-La hotel in Shanghai this June and was a huge success.


“The Chinese were fascinated by the concept of tapas,” says Benigno, from Galicia, Northwest Spain – the country’s culinary heartland.


“Many imagined a dry piece of bread with a lonely slice of cheese on the top. They were amazed when they saw what a tapa could really be.”


Cold citrus-cooked carabineros, grilled octopus with onion toffee. piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao and chestnuts in a pil pil sauce… the list was endless, authentic and mouth-watering.


Next stop for the Spanish Extravaganza festival is the Four Seasons hotel in Seoul, South Korea, October 25th – 28th, 2017.


“We are really looking forward to it,” says Ivan, who’s busy planning a Michelin star fusion menu with Rafael and top South Korean chefs.


Iván, who began his career as a chef in the Spanish Navy during the 2003 Iraq war, is one of this new breed of Spanish chefs. Adventurous and modern and yet respectful of each seasonal ingredient and tradition, he is committed to bringing out the natural flavour of each dish.


“We always use fresh, quality products from the sea and local farms,” he explains. “We want to rely on technique but not solely on that in designing a dish. Above all, the most fundamental thing is that it needs to taste amazing.”


A few months later, the Spanish Extravaganza festival heads to the Taj Majal Palace & Tower hotel in Mumbai, November 30th – 3rd December, 2017.


Then in 2018, the festival, which has already been held in London, Brussels, Berlin, Zurich and Vienna, showcases at the luxury Capella Singapore Hotel.


“For us, this is just the beginning,” says Rafael. Perhaps for Asia it is too…







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