Before they met, chef Daniel Redondo, of Maní in São Paulo, Brazil, and Gustavo Sáez, a dessert chef at 99 Restaurante in Santiago, Chile, had cultivated a mutual admiration. At the invitation of Vamos/LATAM, they joined their respective techniques and ingredients on a culinary adventure
The goal: to combine sweet, salty, sour, and smoky flavors. They decide on blown-sugar mushrooms filled with pine-nut foam, over a base of cheese curds and burned chocolate, accompanied by a smoked mushroom ice cream, pisco gelatin, and nasturtium leaves.
BLOWN SUGAR TECHNIQUE Sáez begins to shape the candy mushrooms like an artist. He works with pulled sugar, an elastic mixture of sugar and water, on a lighted platform. “The heat from the light keeps the sugar from hardening,” he explains as he makes little balls. Delicately, he shapes the mushrooms, blowing air into each sugar ball with a squeeze bulb. It’s as if he were making a glass sculpture.
SMOKED MUSHROOM ICE CREAM Meanwhile, Redondo makes the filling by cooking the pine nuts with cream, beating the mixture together, and placing it in a siphon with liquid nitrogen, which turns it into foam. For the ice cream, he smokes mushrooms in a wood-burning oven and then boils them in cream, which he whips and places in an ice-cream maker.
PATCHOULI AND DRY ICE BASE Sáez also prepares the gelatin using pisco and makes burnt chocolate that looks like rich earth. After a super-quick assembly on a base of patchouli and dry ice, we have before us an edible version of a forest in the morning, filled with fog.
MORNING FOG Spoons in hand, the chefs attack the dish, then give a wordless verdict. The taste is hard to describe. With all the components, the flavors come and go in the mouth, and they seem to complement one another. The palate is confused by the incredible salty ice cream, but then comes the sweet candy shell, the chocolate, the tartness of the curd, the pisco. What a combination! Before parting, they baptize their creation: the dessert will be called Cerração, which means “morning fog.”
After 13 years working at El Celler de Can Roca, one of the world’s best restaurants, the Catalan came to Brazil to open his first restaurant with Helena Rizzo in 2006. In 2016, Maní was ranked 51st on Restaurant magazine’s list of the best restaurants in the world. Redondo and Rizzo have three other places in São Paulo: Manioca, the events venue Casa Manioca and Padoca do Maní.
The pastry chef honed his skills in several famous kitchens, including Boragó (Santiago), D.O.M. (São Paulo), and El Celler de Can Roca. Back in the Chilean capital making desserts at 99, chef Kurt Schmidt’s restaurant which placed 46th on Restaurant magazine’s 2015 list of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants.