A love of experimentation, old virtues, exchange of knowledge and an educational mission: To celebrate the 15th anniversary of ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’, five star chefs take a peek at the future of cooking.
Being crowned ‘best restaurant in the world’ is both a blessing and a curse: Is there anywhere left to go when you’ve already reached the top? ‘Business as usual’ wasn’t an option for Ferran Adrià, René Redzepi, Joan Roca, Massimo Bottura and Daniel Humm. And because star chefs aren’t content to take baby steps, these five decided to serve up a hearty portion of grandeur for their #50BestTalks ‘Food Forward’ audience.
Chefs for university!
For Ferran Adrià, the world is on the brink of revolution – a revolution in which creativity and cultural exchange will completely change the way we perceive and process food. However, in order for this to happen, he believes that we need to elevate cuisine to an academic subject. Leading by example, the chef – an advocate of molecular-inspired avant-garde cuisine – decided to close his award-winning restaurant El Bulli a few years ago and transform it into a culinary research centre and ‘think tank for creative gastronomy’. It is here, at an old cotton factory in Barcelona measuring 3000 m2, that Adrià plans to work together with young talents from various disciplines to develop new gastronomic forms and concepts.
Massimo Bottura, head chef at the Osteria Francescana restaurant, agrees that exchanging knowledge between chefs and other food-related professions is the best way forward. The Italian attaches particular importance to a healthy relationship between chefs and farmers. He believes that, in future, farmers will need to learn more about their produce’s chemical make-up and flavouring, whilst chefs will need to be more aware of the soil from which their ingredients originate.
Back to basics: hunter-gatherers wanted!
René Redzepi has taken a similarly down to earth route – though he also has a high opinion of exchanging and passing on knowledge. Having once spent seven weeks scouring the Scandinavian wilderness for long-forgotten local ingredients and unusual flavours, Redzepi is now a great advocate of returning to the roots of cooking. Everyone should know where and how to find something to eat out in nature.
The head chef of the Copenhagen-based Noma restaurant hopes to put his ideas into practice to reintroduce this knowledge, which has all but disappeared from our civilisation, into a society in which children believe that brown cows produce chocolate milk. “Having a good basic knowledge of the flora and fauna around us is just as important as learning to read, write, and do our sums,” says Redzepi, who firmly believes that this knowledge should be taught as a separate subject in school. Redzepi also wants to use wildlife workshops and an app called ‘vild mad’ to rekindle people’s sense of adventure, hoping that a greater appreciation of our environment will curb the spectacular rate at which food is wasted in wealthy industrialised nations.
Long live the customer!
Daniel Humm is another fan of the back to basics mentality, though his focus lies in reviving the old virtues pertaining to the tradition of fine cuisine. The tendency of members of the fine dining scene to be slightly arrogant and aloof has given the Swiss-born star chef and co-owner of New York’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant food for thought. What is a dish worth if the chef refuses to adapt it to cater for various allergies? What happens if restaurants are so driven by innovations in avant-garde cuisine that the food isn’t actually supposed to taste good any more? Such culinary ‘temples’ should return to their original purpose as a place where guests feel welcome and can enjoy a pleasant meal of their choice.
Humane working conditions!
Workload is another aspect that should be given some serious thought in future. El Cellar de Can Roca’s Joan Roca is even calling for the ‘humanisation of gastronomy’. Many young, creative people are put off becoming a chef by the current standard practice of 16-hour days and the resultant exclusion from a social life. Roca emphasises that, though working in the kitchen is hard, it shouldn’t mean sacrificing a healthy work-life balance. But is doubling up in the kitchen even economically feasible?
Only one thing is certain: Nothing is impossible. “In the last 15 years alone, we have experienced an incredible shift in the way cooking is perceived,” says Ferran Adrià – a nod to the heightened awareness of quality and sense of adventure seen in the new generations of chefs. “Today’s 20-year-olds are already better than all of us combined…” And once again the five star chefs agree: The future of gastronomy has only just begun…