December, 2017


Last year, Forbes Magazine named the congress the most imporant event of its type in the world. Judging from my experience reporting from here in recent years, that’s hard to dispute. For three and a half days, the programme is packed solid morning to evening. Quite frankly, anyone who comes for the annual October event sees little of sand and sea glistening under the Spanish sun.

Already long lines of registrants were waiting at the entrance. Others had already given into temptation, lingering outside, salivating over the smoky aromas of the Basque Country’s signature beef barbecue being fired by firewood. Others were already stuffing their mouths with spoonfuls of the streetfood served up at a kiosk featuring, as in other years, the tastes of the featured country of each editon: this year, India.

Inside the Kursaal’s glass doors, the lobby was jammed but inspite of the electric buzz and noisy chatter, my mind rolled, virtually instantly, backwards.

Five years had passed since France and its La Grande Cuisine Classique had been honoured in homage to befit a culinary culture that for two centuries has defined the pinnacle of international gastronomy on every continent.

It was here that I sat with Alain Senderens, one of the legendary master French chefs of the last half century. Over our dish of Joselito jamon iberico – one of the most prized labels in Spain - and ballons of good red Rioja, he answered my interview questions. It lasted barely thirty minutes – time for a few photos included. It was a half hour within my decades writing on gastronomy that will remain among the most precious.

Alain Senderens and Gerry Shikatani

Front: Alain Senderens with Gerry Shikatani Back: Unidentified associate of M. Senderens

M. Senderens, was one of that group of chefs who led the pivotal changes to high cookery from the late 1960’s. In 1976, the movement fully emerged and spread around the world under the pens of dynamic-duo critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau. They coined the name and codified: Nouvelle Cuisine.

Earlier this year, I’d learned of the passing of M. Senderens. It came on an appropriately respectful social media note from the very fine chef close to home, Martin Kouprie.

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