Aitor Olabegoya & the Art of Business

In April's A.M. Brainstorm, attendees were treated to the sun-dappled charisma, humor, and thoughts of Aitor Olabegoya, award-winning executive chef at Migas Restaurant and Bar. Discussing his research of local and regional Chinese ingredients, Aitor showed a video of his investigations into sesame oil production. To many here, sesame oil might seem an ingredient of such prevalence and everyday use as to be analogous to the butter of certain Western countries and kitchens: Always the bridesmaid (or for that matter, always the DJ/Spinner of predictable 80s and mid-90s crowd pleasers), never the bride. Yet, Aitor's video and his enthusiastic portrayal of the life cycle of sesame oil metamorphosed this culinary workhorse into a kind of dietary muse worthy of depiction by Homer ("Sing to me of the Olympian seed...") or the Pre-Raphaelites.

(C) Michelle Proksell, 2014

(C) Michelle Proksell, 2014

It is this dedication to local, unpretentious ingredients, combined with a desire to continually experiment with both process and possibility, that make Aitor's particular brand of new Spanish cuisine a very welcome presence in the Beijing dining scene. At one point, in discussing the natural tension between culinary artistry and the need to keep a business in the black, Aitor mentioned McDonalds' offerings to be both tasty and creative, in his opinion. This writer wanted to press him further on this - assuredly, back in the mid-20th Century their assembly-line-ization of food service was probably revelatory, but I personally can't find much novelty or genius on endless riffs on various hues of deep-fryer brown, and the dozens of ways in which one can posture at ushering in health to menus bereft of it with pathetic sprinklings of ill-looking shards of iceberg lettuce, purple cabbage, and/or yellow corn...but I suppose one could argue there is certain genius in successful posturing, no? - but there were many other, equally engaging questions to field.

Plus, at the time I think I was so absorbed in relishing one of pastry chef Pol's (are-your-salivary-glands-ready-for-such-elegant-temptations) cupcakes that formulating any kind of coherent word pattern would have been a fool's errand...Darn you, Pol, for reminding me how incurable and will-crippling my sweet tooth actually is!

Pastry Chef Pol's unbelievably yummy cupcakes (C) Michelle Proksell, 2014

Pastry Chef Pol's unbelievably yummy cupcakes

(C) Michelle Proksell, 2014