Fu­ture food

The world’s best chefs dish up their gas­tro­nomic pre­dic­tions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - KENDALL HILL

IN food, as in fash­ion, mass­mar­ket trends take their cues from the top. From haute cui­sine or haute cou­ture come the orig­i­nal, out­landish ideas that fil­ter down to the high street. We’ve seen what hap­pened with molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy: you can’t poke a fork at a plate these days with­out hit­ting foam or soil or gel.

To find out what to ex­pect on the menu in the near fu­ture, T&I sur­veyed some of the world’s lead­ing chefs at the re­cent S. Pel­le­grino World’s 50 Best Restau­rants awards in Lon­don. Who bet­ter to ex­plain the next big trends than the peo­ple who cre­ate them?

Rene Redzepi of Copen­hagen’s Noma is, ac­cord­ing to awards or­gan­iser Restau­rant mag­a­zine, the best chef in the world. When he talks about his cook­ing, Redzepi refers to ‘‘writ­ing a lan­guage’’, so I ask him how he thinks that lan­guage is likely to evolve. How and what are we likely to be eat­ing in com­ing years? Where is food head­ing?

‘ ‘ In our re­gion it’s head­ing to­wards more thor­ough ex­plo­ration of our­selves,’’ he says. ‘‘Of our soil, of our waters, of our gas­tro­nom­i­cal her­itage. A deeper un­der­stand­ing of why it is we eat the way we do; that cook­ing is a way to ex­plore the world; that food is some­thing that should be in­te­gral, not like some weird al­ter ego next to you that you feel awk­ward about.’’

Chefs are help­ing drive this deeper un­der­stand­ing of food and its prove­nance, Redzepi says. ‘ ‘ Look at peo­ple such as Jamie Oliver, who gets £4 bil­lion or what­ever to change school menus. He is a chef. Con­sider this, 10 years ago, that a chef would change peo­ple’s way of eat­ing on a school level: I think most peo­ple would have said, ‘ No way, these guys are drunks that breathe in toxic fumes all day and die young.’ ’’

Redzepi hopes the Nordic cui­sine he has helped pi­o­neer will con­tinue to evolve and even­tu­ally be­come a gas­tro­nomic term, as op­posed to a buzz­word, along­side Ja­panese or Mediter­ranean cui­sine.

‘‘It’s gonna take years. But for now there is a mo­men­tum, a will and a de­ter­mi­na­tion, and peo­ple want to ex­plore the world through their gas­tron­omy,’’ he says.

‘‘That’s some­thing that I feel quite strongly right now. I feel pos­i­tive about it.’’

Ex­pat Aus­tralian Brett Graham, the New­cas­tle boy now wield­ing two Miche­lin stars and a world rank­ing of 34 at The Led­bury in Lon­don’s Not­ting Hill, sees a move­ment to­wards more lo­cally sourced pro­duce and ‘‘a real shift to­wards tast­ing menus and smaller menus with much less choice’’.

Graham can re­mem­ber when ev­ery restau­rant worth its stars had eight starters and eight mains, ‘‘and now we are see­ing [far fewer] dishes, which I think is a good thing in terms of wastage’’.

It’s part of a swing to­wards less for­mal­ity in top-level din­ing and more friendly, cus­tomer-ori­ented staff. Graham is at the fore­front of this more re­laxed, ac­ces­si­ble ap­proach; de­spite its ex­alted stand­ing in the gas­tro­nomic world, The Led­bury of­fers a two-course week­day lunch for a measly £27.50 ($42). ‘‘It was the re­ces­sion that changed the way we op­er­ate,’’ he says. ‘‘In these hard times peo­ple go with their hearts, not their wal­lets.’’

Peter Gil­more, the ground­break­ing chef be­hind Syd­ney’s Quay, says Noma’s No 1 rank­ing these past two years has switched the fo­cus from molec­u­lar cui­sine (El Bulli, The Fat Duck) to more nat­u­ral cook­ing.

‘‘It’s some­thing I have been cham­pi­oning for the last few years as well, and it’s en­cour­ag­ing to see that a lot of the top restau­rants are re­ally get­ting into lo­cal cui­sine — what’s around them, lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, for­ag­ing,’’ Gil­more says. ‘‘But more than that, it’s about redis­cov­er­ing the true flavours of food and great in­gre­di­ents.

‘ ‘ I think that’s be­come the big thing that’s hap­pened in the last cou­ple of years.’’

But molec­u­lar cui­sine is not en­tirely dead, he says. Mod­ern gas­tron­omy has cherry-picked the clever­est con­cepts from the molec­u­lar move­ment and is us­ing those tech­niques — sous-vide cook­ing, flavoured foams and smokes — to work with food in a much more nat­u­ral way. ‘‘What is more and more ap­par­ent is that peo­ple are look­ing to na­ture and to the roots of the in­gre­di­ents, and also the roots of their culi­nary his­tory, for inspiration. And they’re also look­ing at tra­di­tional cook­ing tech­niques, like smok­ing and slow­brais­ing, cook­ing on char­coal: all of those sorts of things are com­ing back to the fore,’’ Gil­more says.

Elena Arzak, who cooks along­side her fa­ther, Juan Mari, at the three-star Arzak restau­rant in Spain’s Basque coun­try, says she thinks the ex­pe­ri­ence of din­ing out will, in essence, re­main much the same.

‘‘Ev­ery­body will al­ways like to eat well,’’ she says. ‘‘I think it will be the same in 50 years . . . but it might be fine din­ing [ at] not ex­tremely lux­u­ri­ous restau­rants, but with lux­u­ri­ous in­gre­di­ents.

‘‘For me, the fu­ture of the cook­ing is go­ing to be — like al­ways — about very good prod­ucts. More veg­eta­bles, and it’s go­ing to be [ sim­pler] food . . . not so many in­gre­di­ents on a plate.’’

One of only three African chefs to get a gong in this year’s top 100, Dutch-born Mar­got Janse, of South Africa’s Le Quartier Fran­cais, is a cham­pion of her adopted con­ti­nent’s cui­sine, from baobab nuts to the rata­touille-like chakalaka. She sees her ob­ses­sion with lo­cal, au­then­tic pro­duce as an echo of a broader trend.

‘ ‘ Peo­ple are look­ing more closely at where they are, what they are,’’ Janse says. ‘‘When I ar­rived here about 20 years ago, ev­ery­thing that was not South African was viewed [as] bet­ter. ‘It must be bet­ter be­cause it’s from Europe.’ It’s taken a long time to get over that.

‘‘Maybe it’s be­cause I am not from South Africa that I some­times feel more proudly South African than home-grown chefs.’’

Molec­u­lar buff Wylie Dufresne of New York’s wd~50 finds Ja­panese cui­sine in­spir­ing and thinks it will have an in­creas­ing in­flu­ence on West­ern chefs now that there is greater com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two cul­tures.

‘‘It’s be­gin­ning to in­flu­ence a lot of us on a num­ber of lev­els be­cause [Ja­panese chefs] have, for what­ever rea­son, fi­nally de­cided to let us in,’’ Dufresne says. ‘‘I think what Ja­panese chefs are do­ing now is find­ing in­roads not just in pre­sen­ta­tion but tech­nique.’’

The fad for nat­u­ral­ism in cook­ing prob­a­bly has its roots in Ja­panese cui­sine, he says, but there are many other in­spired ideas to be ex­plored. ‘‘For me, I find a lot of inspiration in the Ja­panese aes­thetic and ap­proach. I am cu­ri­ous to learn ev­ery­thing, from howthey butcher fish to how they cook food.’’

South of the bor­der, En­rique Olvera, of Mex­ico City’s Pu­jol, sees a new gen­er­a­tion of cooks bring­ing more youth­ful per­spec­tives to the world’s top ta­bles.

‘‘Most of the peo­ple who are on the [S. Pel­le­grino] list are be­low 50 years old, and I think it’s more about cook­ing and less about the show; less about the restau­rant sur­rounds and more about what’s on the plate,’’ Olvera says. ‘‘I see lo­cal. That’s what I love the most about Rene be­ing in first place, be­cause he cel­e­brates his own re­gion. So now if I go to Copen­hagen I can have Dan­ish food. And if I go to Spain I have Span­ish food. Same in Mex­ico or Aus­tralia. And I think that’s the best that can hap­pen to the world, be­cause it won’t be the same ev­ery­where.

‘‘Ten years ago ev­ery­body was do­ing foie gras and lamb and scal­lops, and you didn’t know where you were. And now, all of a sud­den, you know where you are. And that to me is so great.’’ the­world­s50best.com noma.dk the led­bury.com quay.com.au arzak.info lequartier.co.za wd-50.com pu­jol.com.mx


Peter Gil­more of Syd­ney’s Quay restau­rant feels vin­di­cated by the trend to­wards nat­u­ral cook­ing


Wylie Dufresne

Elena Arzak and Juan Mari


En­rique Olvera

Rene Redzepi

Mar­got Janse

Brett Graham

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