The city of Valladoid, located a few hours from Madrid, in the very center of Castille-Leon, is best known for its imposing monuments, graceful catherdral, majestic Plaza Mayor and its status as the 15th century capital of Spain. But for one week each fall, this town is all about the tapas.
Each November the National Pinchos and Tapas Competition gathers chefs from around the country to compete to see who can create the best small bites. But before the Spanish chefs began their battle, there is another: 15 culinary students from around the world — the United States, Mexico, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Israel, Turkey, Portugal, Canada, Sweden and Great Britain — made the cut to compete at the 3rd International Tapas Competition on 7 November at the Fernando Pérez International Cookery School.
The Culinary Institute of America sent me along with student Brooke Maynard. Like her fellow competitors, Brooke was charged with creating a bite-sized dish in accordance with the general standards and rules of what makes a pincho or tapa: most urgently, the ability to be prepared quickly in a bar or restaurant setting and the capability of being eaten with one hand in just a few bites.
While tapa and pincho are everyday aspects of Spanish eating and traditionally include dishes such as croquetas, boquerones, jamon and tortilla Espanola, some chefs use the small bites to create elaborate and inventive mini-masterpieces. The dishes in the competition ranged from traditional to gimmicky and fell into several categories: Cazeulas, so named for the clay pots they are created in, tapas, pinchos and small plates, which were miniaturized versions of entrees. Jamon Iberico, the silky ham made from acorn-fed black-footed pigs, was a recurring theme throughout many of the dishes.
Brooke took home third place for Pata de cangrejo con granada — Crab leg with pomegranate.
To see more dishes from the competition, check out the video below + see more on the competition's site
Some extra shots from the competition below: