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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Spain’s Innovative Vangaurdia Cuisine vs. Traditional Down-Home Cooking, my article on the CIA-Worlds of Flavor website.

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Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes ©2008

In 2003, The Sunday New York Times Magazine cover asked, “Is Spain the New France?” and carried Arthur Lubow’s “A Laboratory of Taste” article about elBulli’s Ferran Adrià, Spain’s ultra-modern cocina de vanguardia maestro. Adrià’s espuma de zanahorias (the Times cover shot of, a glowing red-orange carrot foam served in a crystal vessel); mango raviolis made to look like egg yolks: melon, pear and peach “caviars,” spherified “olives”; and nitrogen-frozen cocktails suddenly grabbed culinary headlines around the globe. Adrià and Spanish modern cuisine were propelled in the gastronomic stratosphere. 

Carrot "air" at El Bulli, October 2003. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2003. Contact for publication rights.

Accompanying Adrià’s rocket ride into another culinary dimension were plenty of skeptics and detractors who did not understand what was going on in Spain, claiming that the Spaniards were selling “flavored air” and that Adrià himself was destroying Spain’s “national cuisine.” But, since Spain’s culinary ascendancy, because of the fame of Ferran Adrià and a sizeable clan of like-minded fellow Spanish chefs, a whole new genre of modern food emerged–including modernized traditional cuisine – attracting a steady stream of international chefs, food writers and food aficionados to Spain, and in its wake an awareness that Spanish traditional cuisine was some of the best food on the planet. 

 Ferran Adrià at El Bulli 2008.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2008. Contact for publication rights.

Since few gastronomic travelers coming to find out what all the fuss was about could actually get into elBulli–which has 2,000,000 annual requests for 8,000 potential reservations–the rest fanned out around the country, experiencing modern Spanish cuisine at Arzak, Akelarre and Martín Berasategui in the Basque Country, at Sergi Arola’s La Broche in Madrid, at Joan Roca’s Can Roca in Girona and at Carme Ruscalleda’s San Pau north of Barcelona. Many ventured on to experience what Raul Aleixandre at Ca Sento (Valencia), Quique Dacosta at El Poblet (Denia, Alicante) and María José San Roman at Monastrell (Alicante) were doing. Professionals also came to conferences such as Madrid Fusión (maybe the world’s top annual culinary summit), the chef-driven Lo Mejor de la Gastrónomía in San Sebastián and Roser Torras’s superb bi-annual BCN Vanguardia in Barcelona. And many young chefs began to choose Spain over France as their first choice to do their stages. In their travels these culinary pilgrims also began eating in Spanish traditional cuisine restaurants. They soon discovered that, while Spanish modern cuisine can be creative beyond belief and is often delicious as well as innovative, it is often the great traditional eating experiences that leave the most indelible imprint in the minds of most travelers. 

Guisantes (peas)--real or spherification, or both?--elBulli, 2008. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact for publication rights.

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About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés.

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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