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Witness to the triumphant debut by Fuentes at Salón Gourmets

- Gastronomy

A logbook by Sensei Hiroshi Umi.

I love the big trade fairs. Especially in the culinary field. They are the perfect chance to install an app on your mobile and count your steps. One, two, three, four strolls this way, four back that way… My globe-trotting Japanese feet tore up no less than 10 kilometres, tracked all the way by my smartphone So, you have guzzled your way through your different stops, thanks to lack of willpower or pure gluttony? Well, you can walk all those calories off through the soles of a comfortable pair of shoes. Crimson carpet, canapés wherever you look, enticing novelties, product launches, sourdough breads and chefs who are brothers… What better reason than the post-pandemic Salón Gourmets to head over to my beloved Madrid, to poke my nose, as well as my spoon and fork, into such a tempting hotpot.

Hospitality for customers and visitors

Framed in red velvet, a debut, a première, a coming of age that had been awaited for so long. Fuentes Bluefin Tuna’s chance to shine in such a demanding and critical setting as Madrid. The stand served as both container and letter of introduction. Painstaking, geometrical, spacious. With no unnecessary flourishes or needless architectural pirouettes. Positioned at a perfect vantage point: in Pavilion 8 on row F, a thoroughfare almost connected to Pavilion 6, providing a prominent location at a crossroads without excessive crowds or queues. “We are really happy with the place. People congratulated us on a stand which was full of hospitality for customers and visitors,” I was told by Isaac Hermo, who was there working the crowd and steering the Fuentes brand’s most important commitments.

What a delight to see so many familiar faces together in a cubicle dedicated to the titan of the seas. As Cristina Fuentes rightly said, “this stand is our welcome to the great bluefin tuna family here in such an important city as Madrid“. Perched comfortably on their stools we saw José Miguel Serrano, from Cominport, with a number of his suppliers and colleagues; across the way, beneath the black and white photos of the hard work of fishing, Antonio Luengo Zapata, Regional Minister of Water, Agriculture and Fisheries in Murcia, was chatting to members of the Fuentes family, while chef Julián Mármol, helmsman of Madrid’s outstanding Japanese venue Yugo The Bunker, took advantage of this fleeting opportunity to meet and greet all and sundry. A spectacularly framed image of loin with marrow, a recipe furnished by the fertile imagination of Julián Mármol himself, was enough to justify the chef’s presence here.

Live showcooking

And in front of this incredible ripening chamber, members of the public thronged before an anatomical vision of the long backbone, the smooth loins and fatty belly awaiting the knife. There were tastings, samplings and delectations. Both quantity and variety. At the open bar there was a showcooking event free of trickery or cardboard sets, with the produce centre stage, while chefs Ángel Camacho and Nico Calvo captivated the gaze of visitors so eager to see this very finest of ingredients. Between the two of them they transformed almost half a ton of tuna, in other words two perfectly fresh fish plucked straight from the sea in Cartagena.

The trays of nigiri, maki and sushi (and even salted fish) flowed to and fro, revealing the passion for bluefin tuna before the eyes of those in attendance. Because even the great Mundi Ynglada, the tenor of the Arahy restaurant where Rajoy digested his vote of no-confidence, served up trays of tuna glistening in its (next to) last vessel, which he has seen fit to dub the Magic Project. I found myself coming across images framed and saturated with colour and filters (reflecting the strips and cubes of fish and top-secret wasabi sauce) around the labyrinthine corners of Instagram throughout a culinary event that flooded stories with content. As a finale, the esteemed and gratifying visit of Japan’s ambassador to Spain himself, Kenji Hiramatsu, resplendent as ever with his matchless manner and proverbially exquisite courtesy.

96 hours during which I had to dodge national and regional TV broadcasters of all colours, whose cameras covered every inch of the stand to film the very last detail, down to the back cheek itself… At the end of the day, when your feet are numb and the staff come to pack the carpet away, all the actors at this performance were replete with the sense of a job well done. The cork is popped on a Spanish cava to round things off. There are toasts. Hugs. All the first-night stress, the butterflies in the belly, lie in the past. And in the future, many more years for Fuentes to meet up with the great bluefin tuna following in, of course, Madrid.