The Men and the Menus - the world's new masterchefs
- Monday 2 August 2010
When Copenhagen’s Noma was voted best restaurant in the world at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in April, it marked the end of an era dominated by the man whose restaurant had held the top slot for the past four years: Ferran Adrià.
The Spaniard held court at El Bulli, the restaurant that became a pilgrimage. A decade ago it was unimaginable that the world would troop to an obscure hamlet outside Barcelona to eat 36 courses of food that was more art than fine dining. Deep-fried rabbit’s ears, carrot foam, a cherry enrobed in ham fat, a frozen block of foie gras… It was brilliant – but was it a meal?
Of course, the food world is always in evolution. In the 1980s the top restaurants – almost all French – were hushed temples of gastronomy, with lavish decor more suited to a stately home. Places where you felt (if you were young) that you didn’t quite fit, and where the staff looked at you as if you couldn’t pay the bill. Even in the ’90s, French chefs still dominated: the kitsch Marc Veyrat, iconoclast Pierre Gagnaire, artistic Michel Bras – their restaurants perhaps closest to Noma, under Adrià’s annointed successor, chef René Redzepi, in their connection with their region and minimalist feel.
This new generation may have been influenced by Adrià but they are turning their backs on molecular gastronomy. As is Adrià, having announced he will close El Bulli at the end 2011. So who else is queuing up to take up his mantle? Many, like Iñaki Aizpitarte’s Le Châteaubriand (see p97) are more bistros than restaurants, with few seats and no published menus. It’s an article of faith among this new wave of chefs that their cooking should be both accessible and affordable.
Instead of getting together to cook for the rich and famous, as Thomas Keller (California), Tetsuya Wakuda (Sydney), Daniel Boulud (global) and Heston Blumenthal (Bray) did a few years ago at Charlie Trotter’s 20th anniversary celebrations, they run workshops and exchange ideas at avant-garde conferences and events. Does that make them the world’s best chefs, their venues the world’s best restaurants? Many would argue not – that the old-fashioned virtues of formal service and food that looks vaguely familiar are still more appealing to most diners. But as a new generation emerges, looking for greater gastronomic thrills and a more relaxed fine-dining experience, the following are the names to be reckoned with…
Officially the world’s premier chef, 32-year-old Redzepi has been the most influential pioneer of new Nordic cuisine, eschewing luxury French ingredients such as foie gras in favour of the indigenous produce of Scandinavia and the arctic circle. His style and dishes are widely copied by the growing band of disciples who have passed through his kitchen. If anyone deserves to be the new Ferran Adrià, it’s Redzepi.
Expect to eat: Vintage potato and whey, lovage and prästost.
Osteria Francescana, Modena
At 48, he’s older than the other young Turks, but revered almost as much as Ferran Adrià. Bottura’s restaurant is the joint best in Italy according to Guida L’Espresso. He’s seen as a pioneer of nuova cucina Italiana but his cooking is rooted in the ingredients of his native Emilia Romagna. He’s also a founding member of the Cavalieri della Cucina Italiana, a group of avant-garde Italian chefs.
Expect to eat: A cheese course of Parmesan served five ways: as a soufflé, galette, air, foam and sauce.
Portuguese-born Nuno Mendes is a fast-rising star who’s found his feet at the recently opened Viajante – which bases its wine list on trendy organic and biodynamic wines and where Mendes serves guests personally. He also runs a private supper club called The Loft which hosts up-and-coming chefs from round the world.
Expect to eat: Vegetable ashes, aged beef, cauliflower and burnt bread jus.
Bo Innovation, Hong Kong
Creator of X-treme Chinese and the culinary equivalent of a shock-jock, London-born Leung marries traditional Chinese recipes with modern ingredients and techniques. Along with the UK’s Heston Blumenthal and Raymond Blanc, he’s one of the only self-taught chefs to be awarded two Michelin stars.
Expect to eat: Yak and Mac – cheong fun and yak cheese.
It’s still nigh on impossible to get into L’Astrance, regarded as the coolest place to eat in Paris for the past few years – not least because it has only 25 seats. Given its size and lack of a menu, it’s surprising that Barbot’s cooking (he trained with Alain Passard at the three Michelin-starred L’Arpège) has been rewarded with three stars too, but his Asian-influenced dishes have consistently impressed critics.
Expect to eat: Who knows? Maybe portobello mushroom galette and verjus-marinated foie gras with hazelnut oil and lemon confit. Or maybe not.
+ 33 (0)1 40 50 93 82
Momofuku, New York
Chang’s burgeoning empire, including Ssam, Milk Bar, Ma Pêche and the impossible-to-get-into Ko, shows that being a successful restaurateur doesn’t blunt your creativity. This is fast food, but not as we know it – Asian and US fusion home-style cooking and ingredients with five-star technique.
Expect to eat: Beef seven ways (at Ma Pêche, if ordered ahead), Chang’s take on a Vietnamese celebratory feast, comprising seven courses of beef.
Achatz is one of the hottest names in the US – a huge achievement for a young chef who battled with cancer, depriving him for a while of his sense of taste. On my last visit the meal ended with a pastry-crusted cube of pumpkin impaled with a flaming sprig of maple. His new restaurant, Next, will have a new menu every three months, capturing a period in history. Customers will need to buy tickets, which will be cheaper in off-peak hours.
Expect to eat: Sturgeon, potato, leek and smoke.
Coi, San Francisco
Patterson is doing for Californian cuisine what Noma’s Redzepi has done for Nordic: unique dishes based on local produce. Named by Zagat as one of the 10 best restaurants of the decade and one of the 10 best outside New York by former New York Times critic Frank Bruni, his Coi eatery is a rising star in the US.
Expect to eat: Carrots roasted in hay, sprouts, radish powder, shaved pecorino.
Les Créations de Narisawa, Tokyo
Although the restaurant sounds French and Narisawa has worked for Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon, he’s very much at the forefront of the culinary revolution now sweeping the globe. His ability to depict the seasons through his presentation and ingredients, however, is typically Japanese.
Expect to eat: Boiled mountain vegetables with abalone in jamón ibérico jelly.
La Grenouillère, Montreuil-sur-mer
A real talent among the band of French chefs who hang out at culinary events like Identita, Gauthier (not to be confused with Alexis Gauthier of London’s Gauthier Soho, see box right) took over the family restaurant in this northern French town. ‘Among the greats’, says Omnivore, bible of the new gastronomy.
Expect to eat: Lobster cooked in juniper twigs. Eat with your hands.
Bosi’s food has been going from strength to strength since he moved his restaurant from Ludlow to London in 2007. Like Barbot (see left), he worked for Alain Passard, which explains the inventive, strongly seasonal vegetarian menu (though the restaurant itself is not veggie). A French chef who bucks the trend against French chefs.
Expect to eat: Cornish black bream stuffed with morels and kaffir lime, broad beans and coffee.
DOM, São Paolo
Former DJ Atala has put Brazilian cuisine firmly on the map and brought an understanding of a new range of ingredients to the global party. Like Redzepi of Noma, he has jettisoned foie gras and truffles in favour of indigenous Latin American ingredients such as manioc flour and priprioca. He also has a more traditional restaurant, Dalva e Dito, serving local dishes.
Expect to eat: Chilled beetroot cream, mandarin, priprioca, squid.
Le Châteaubriand, Paris
In one of the most controversial ratings of the World’s 50 Best, former oenology student Aizpitarte was ranked at 11, above Pierre Gagnaire, Paul Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. Detractors say his restaurant is ‘just a bistro’ where much of the food is served raw or cold, whereas others praise his affordable haute cuisine or ‘bistronomy’ as he describes it.
Expect to eat: Whatever is Inaki’s whim – maybe beef with charred aubergine.
+33 (0)1 43 57 45 95
For more information about what the world’s most influential chefs are doing, visit
www.theworlds50best.com or check the Omnivore guide (www.omnivore.fr). To try your hand at some of their dishes, try Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs (Phaidon)