They knew each other by sight, they are from neighboring towns, barely five kilometers away, but it was at the Basque Culinary Center that they became friends and decided to start a business together. Javier Rivero (Villabona, Gipuzkoa, 32 years old) and Gorka Rico (Asteasu, Gipuzkoa, 27 years old), from the Ama restaurant, in Tolosa, are the revelation chefs of the XXI edition of Madrid Fusión, in which they were also recognized for their cuisine sweet Noelia Tomoshige, 32, pastry chef at MonroeBakes, in Getafe (Madrid).
They couldn’t stop crying, especially Rivero. “It has been a very hard year, we had to make difficult decisions, but this means that they were the right ones,” he explained, as soon as he received the award, which adds to the recognition they received last year when they got their first sun from the Repsol Guide.
They opened the business in 2018, conceived as a small tavern of barely 12 square meters, which immediately began to be talked about. Not only among the residents of Toulouse but also in the gastronomic environment, Rivero was even part of the list of 30 young talents of Spanish gastronomy prepared by the Basque Culinary Center. In 2019, it was chosen as the best pintxo bar by Talento Gastro 2019.
But their idea was moving further and further away from the concept of a Basque tavern, and they believed in the need to bet on a newer concept, a restaurant that extols the products and suppliers of the area. A commitment to the land. “It has been a tough year, but we have seen that people believe in us. We have made a change in format, jumping into the void, and this award represents a boost of energy for us, for the region, for the sector, for the producers whose work we defend, and for the team,” explained Rivero, who is in charge of currently in the room, and where the menu and a tasting menu coexist for 65 euros. “We were born as a tavern, but we thought that as a restaurant we were going to better defend the region, and with the previous model we couldn’t communicate everything we wanted. The decision involved a lot of personal effort and sacrifice”, acknowledges Rico. On the way they have left mostly customers. “It has been the most difficult, because we had a close relationship, and that is not easy in such a small town, but we believe that this award will also excite them,” they say.
The award comes at an important moment for them: they are preparing to move to larger premises in the Berazubi neighborhood, where they will show off an open kitchen, in order to interact with the dining room, which will accommodate 25 diners and They will have a team of five people. The intention is for Ama to remain open with a different formula, close to the parishioners who have adopted it.
The award jury, which votes, according to the organization, in a sealed envelope, fixed on this couple for their “technical, sparkle, elegance and a sixth sense that reaches the management of the winery, and in which they incorporate the history and rural flavors interpreted with a creative spirit”. They go further. Every Wednesday they go to the Ordizia market, visit the Tolosa market and look for produce in the farmhouses. “In our menu we use meat from obsolete animals, such as donkey, horse, as well as sheep or rabbit, products that are not commonly used in gastronomic restaurants, and to which we want to give value,” explains Rivero. Or the leek, another great protagonist of his menu and one of his favorite ingredients. “We like humble vegetables and teach people where each product comes from and how to treat it,” they add. With the prize under their arms, they insist that there are hard decisions that end with a reward. “This is a power shot that supports our work,” says Rico.
Ama Taberna picks up the baton from Pedro Aguilera, from Mesón Sabor Andaluz, who was proclaimed the winner of this award last year, while in 2021 Cañitas Maite took it, with Juanjo Sahuquillo and Javier Sanz at the helm. This distinction has been granted since 2003, and has awarded names such as Rodrigo de la Calle, Ricard Camarena or the now best chef in the world, Dabiz Muñoz.
The other candidates for revelation chef at Madrid Fusión 2023 were Juan Carlos García, from the Vandelvira restaurant, in Baeza (Jaén); Sergio de la Orden, from El Mosqui, in Cabo de Palos, Murcia; Juanjo Mesa León, from Radis, in Jaén; Abraham Ortega and Áser Martin from Tabaiba, in Las Palmas; Pablo Fuente, from Taberna Bacus, in Agua Dulce, Almería; Juan Monteagudo, from Ababol, in Albacete (winners of the contest for the best croquette on Monday); and Alba Esteve Ruiz, from Alba, in Alicante.
In the sweet part it has been the pastry chef Noelia Tomoshige, who revolutionizes from her small pastry shop in the Madrid town of Getafe. Born in Seville, her parents of Japanese origin —he, a guitarist, she, a dancer— moved to Spain after winning a flamenco competition. She studied in the United States and trained in tourism, until she decided that instead of ordering the cakes from a friend, she was going to try making them herself. This is how she started, until on a trip to Japan she took a pastry course taught by a teacher who had trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Tokyo. Upon her return to Madrid, she decided to enroll in the renowned French training school, until she decided to revolutionize sweet cuisine with Monroebakes. She says that the job of a pastry chef is stressful, even though it takes a lot of time, inspiration and peace of mind to conceive a dessert. With her confectionery, she seeks balance, especially in terms of sweetness, following oriental philosophy.