This week, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was the scene of inspiring conversation and thought around the culinary genius of Ferran Adriá, the famed chef of Spain’s El Bulli restaurant.
Adriá, whose creativity is the subject of an exhibit at the Nelson, challenged the audience to contemplate food far beyond thinking of it as basic sustenance. He prodded with questions about man’s relationship to gastronomy — from the changes that the advent of pottery brought to food preparation to the migration of ingredients as we began to explore the globe.
Later this month, the Nelson will host another culinary gathering. This one, too, will be a homage to the communal nature of food and its many meanings and impacts. Many of the same local chefs who worked with Adriá during his stay in Kansas City will regroup, preparing dishes for this fundraiser.
Comida: A World Tour of Latin Flavors on April 16 will benefit the nonprofit arm of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. Nine chefs, seven Latino-themed restaurants and eight mixologists are included. Beside serving a good cause, the night will be for savoring food as an experience.
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In 2012, local interior designer Eric Negrete envisioned the fundraiser to showcase the talents of the metropolitan area’s most accomplished chefs and their takes on Latin-inspired dishes, far beyond the fare of Tex-Mex.
There will be tastings of dishes from Colombia, Honduras, Cuba, Spain, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
The Comida idea emerged after Negrete attended KC BizFest and was moved by what he saw. Latino families proudly watched their children’s accomplishments through the program, which inspires entrepreneurialism in youths.
Food has always been about camaraderie for Negrete, who grew up in Topeka, especially the fare from his grandmother’s table. She was from a large family from Leon in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.
“When my grandmother would call for dinner, it was whoever was in her yard at the time,” he said. “She fed the neighborhood.”
Negrete wants more of Kansas City to discover the vast range of Latin cuisine and, as Adriá emphasized, to grasp the idea that culinary roots must be understood to make the most of the present.
“It’s true that in order to understand where you are going or where you are,” Negrete said, “you really do need to know where you came from.”