Star chefs from around the globe come together for serious feasts
This July, 17 of the world’s most creative chefs huddled over pots and pans in the kitchens of a luxe Tuscan villa, riffing off each other and the region’s traditional fare. Guests sat like monks at long wooden tables in the darkened dining room. As somber music filled the halls, out came the first course, a sweet-savory soup of pig’s blood and chocolate from Italy’s Agata Felluga. Next, three Latin American chefs—Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco, Peru’s Virgilio Martínez and Chile’s Rodolfo Guzmán—sent out a plate of seven varieties of potato, which they had smuggled across international borders. Swede Petter Nilsson and the French-Basque Inaki Aizpitarte followed up with tripe and wild mushrooms, and everyone pitched in on the crispy pig’s head that Belgium’s Kobe Desramaults unveiled toward the end of the night—a last minute addition after a suitcase full of ingredients failed to arrive.
These days, chefs have more opportunities to join forces than ever before, sharing food-festival stages, restaurant kitchens and TV sets. No single enterprise, however, has pushed the collaborative spirit quite as far as Gelinaz!, a confederacy of culinary experimenters. The group, a sort of gastronomic jam band, meets a few times a year to blow the roof off conventional cooking, hosting ribald evenings of experimental cooking and free-flowing drink, like the four-hour, 13-course Tuscan feast described above.
Andrea Petrini, the Italian food writer who launched the group with chef Fulvio Pierangelini, considers it a performance troupe. “We want to break the boundaries between food and art,” he says. The name, for example, is a jokey homage to the virtual rock band Gorillaz, whose members all come from disparate musical styles.
Gelinaz! started small in 2005, with five chefs from Western Europe each offering a version of the same dish at San Sebastian’s Gastronomika food conference. The performance raised questions about creative ownership and a chef’s role in the spotlight—revolutionary thinking for such an ego-driven industry. Last year, after a long hiatus, the group grew its ranks to 25 chefs and reconvened for a 10-hour dinner during a Belgian food festival, with each chef serving a take on a 19th-century chicken dish—a test of stamina and palate fatigue. “How many variations on the same dish can you eat?” wondered Petrini. The event featured Japanese dance, a violinist playing an Iron Maiden song and topless women in Eyes Wide Shut masks. Octopus was the star last fall at a feast in Peru, which this time included shirtless young men and a performer in a Predator costume.
The recent Tuscan event was billed as a “spiritual retreat.” The feast closed out a hedonistic weekend at the Acqua Panna company’s 450-year-old Villa Panna estate, and participants mapped out future endeavors in the on-site chapel. “We’ll be building more bridges between cuisine and other means of expression,” says Petrini, whose next spectacle will take place in a still-secret location in the spring.
Why not nourish your body while getting a buzz on? Inspired by the green juice craze, mixologists have begun adding kale, beet, cucumber and carrot juices to their concoctions. And while these ingredients indeed add a boost of vitamins and antioxidants, don’t think of them as purely restorative or, worse yet, medicinal. These crisper-drawer finds pack an earthy punch that just can’t be achieved with the more popular—and more aggressive—fruit juices that usually show up incocktails. At Denver’s Mizuna, Austin Carson muddles watercress, grown hydroponically in-house, with fresh lime and simple syrup for the gin-based Prudence and Hammersmith. With its notes of pine and juniper and its bright, herbaceous quality, gin pairs especially well with veggies. At LA hotspot Willie Jane, Derrick Bass freezes English peas to accentuate their vibrant green
color before puréeing them and shaking them up with gin for the Princess and the Pea. And Chicago’s Mercadito combines kale and cilantro with lime, grated ginger and pineapple to make a tasty blend worthy of any juice bar. It all sounds super healthful—until you add the tequila.
Prudence and Hammersmith (Created by Austin Carson of Mizuna)
• Handful fresh watercress
• 3/8 oz. simple syrup
• 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
• 2 oz. Sipsmith London Dry Gin
• Splash of ginger beer, preferably Barritt’s
Muddle watercress, simple syrup and lime juice. Top with gin, a splash of ginger beer and ice. Shake. Serve straight up in a dessert wine or tequila glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
When Edward and Morgan Westbrook launched South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co. in 2010, Morgan’s 101-year-old grandmother had one question: “Are you going to brew a gose?” The couple had never heard of the style, a uniquely salty German sour wheat beer, pronounced Go-zuh.
“We felt the kind of shame only a German grandmother can make you feel,”jokes Morgan. “So we took the leap!” Four years later, they sell out 800 cases of gose a week, and they’re not alone: The once-extinct beer is exploding across the country, prompting experts to declare that this uniquely refreshing brew just might be the style to win over hop-weary American palates.
Born in the mining town of Goslar, the style takes its name and brininess from the mineral-rich Gose River. In
1900, at the height of its popularity, nearby Leipzig boasted 80 gose-specific taverns, or Gosenschenken. But a lager craze, World War II bombings and Cold War–era economic collapse brought about its demise.
Gose was forgotten for years, and when it returned to Leipzig in 1986—brewed on a contract basis and sold in one pub—the recipe had to be improvised based on locals’ memories of it.
Today, three gose breweries are open in Germany, and American brewers are reinventing the style with additions like watermelon at Colorado’s Verboten Brewing, truffles at Upright Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon, and gooseberries at Fitzger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, Minnesota.
A bagel war has been raging across the U.S.-Canada border for decades. Much like Chicago’s deep dish pizza adherents, Montrealers burst with pride for their local take on a classic New York treat: Hand-rolled into oblong hoops, French Canadian bagels are boiled in honey-water and then baked in a wood-burning oven, resulting in a subtle sweetness and a charred, glossy exterior.
Mercifully, an effort at a bagel détente is underway in Lower Manhattan. This spring, New Yorker Matt Kliegman, of downtown cafe The Smile, and Montrealer Noah Bernamoff, of Brooklyn’s hip Canadian-Jewish Mile End Delicatessen, teamed to open Black Seed, a Nolita shop that peddles, to great success, something of a hybrid. Crispy but not dense, the bagels pair Montreal’s honey with New York’s salt and are baked over a wood fire instead of inside a gas oven. It’s labor-intensive and time-consuming—and, based on the lines outside, worth the effort.
“We’ve changed the narrative a little bit,” says Bernamoff. “It’s not about achieving something that’s classically Montreal or classically New York. Both traditions came from the same place: Europe. That thing that we feel is so Montreal or so New York is actually so Bialystok.”
The bagels may be throwbacks, but the quality cream cheese and toppings, like tobiko caviar, watermelon radish and beet-cured salmon, are very much of this time. “You’re never going to be authentic enough,” says Bernamoff. “There’s nothing you can do to replicate someone’s memory, their experiences. So we’re shooting for quality. Is it good?
Is it really good? That’s the only question I want people to ask themselves.”