The innovation virus propagates at the speed of light. And even sweeps away chefs in countries bereft of gastronomic traditions
The virus of designer cuisine is amongst us and there is no getting away. The pandemic inflamed the Internet a few decades ago, when it started to weave its spider's web over the four corners of the world.
The main symptom, an irresistible desire to rewrite the ingredients and grammar of local cuisine, perhaps employing techniques inspired by the antipodes. A movement that has no precedent in the history of mankind. An infection that is so fast moving that reporters fail to keep track of it: as soon as a chef certifies certain rules, there is someone ready to demolish the principles and start again.
The symptomatology changes so suddenly that there have been more schools of thought in the last twenty years than over the last two centuries: for forty years there was only Nouvelle Cuisine, in the last fifteen we have witnessed the techno-emotional avant-garde of Ferran Adrià, the New Nordic Cuisine, the Post-Nordic Cuisine, veganism and an infinite series of other "isms". Only a few springs ago everyone rushed on mass to Spain, then they suddenly shifted their gaze towards the North. Now everyone's in Latin America, perhaps waiting to hold forth on the superiority of Asian cuisine.
And the onslaught continues. It sweeps over poor and rich countries alike. Men and women.
Seasoned chefs and novice pot-burners. Countries with a great tradition such as France, Japan and Italy and areas or nations that have never been considered leaders for what they put on their plates.
This last is the most interesting aspect of the pandemic. Because the most brilliant ideas (and also the most ingenuous) almost always blossom on virgin soil, in countries never cut through by formalised recipes and codifications that do nothing more than impede development in the long term. This is the land of chefs who are free to write new codes, dictated by the healthiest virus alive. Ten heroes of designer cuisine.
Jock Zonfrillo Orana, restaurantorana.com, Adelaide Australia In the old millennium, no one would have ever dreamed of stewing themselves for 18 hours in the air just to sample the delights of the big names of Australian cooking. In the new millennium this happens and with increasing frequency. A lot of the blame is down to this odd Scot of Italian origin who for years has kept on at the Aborigines from the hills overlooking Adelaide with one objective: to glorify their deeply-guarded traditions. These have brought into creation dishes composed of unknown ingredients and techniques. Let your ear be delighted by the delicious sound of completely new words: karkalla, quandongs or chamelaucium uncinatum, a white-flowered bush that flavours grilled scampi wrapped in lard.
Kamilla Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari Gustu, www.gustubo.restaurantgustu.com, La Paz Bolivia When a restaurant shifts into a gear that changes the rhythm of an entire country. All down to the popular Danish chef/businessman Claus Meyer - previously co-founder of Noma with Renè Redzepi. He asked himself if the principles of New Nordic Cuisine could be also applied to far-flung destinations. In Bolivia, a Danish chef and an Italian-Venezuelan CEO have been putting them into practice for some time. They only use products that are cultivated, grown or raised in the Andean country (from which they source 60 varieties of pepper and hundreds of different potatoes).
A challenge that has already been won. Above all, a spin-off that involves - in the restaurant and elsewhere - hundreds of local people who first lay their hands on the golden ingredients.
Rodolfo Guzman Boragó www.borago.cl, Santiago de Chile Chile The whole of Latin America is increasingly taken by the example of Rodolfo Guzman, the Chilean with eyes of steel. After a dazzling period of training at Andoni’s Mugaritz, in the Basque Country, he decided to return to his native village to lash against the status quo. An avid and slightly mad approach: watch him as he gets his hands on snails the size of baseballs or kangaroos squeezed in a drawer. Whilst he marinates cherries that he then marries with pork bellies. The native who imported a Chile that was non-existent.
Mingles www.restaurant-mingles.com, Seoul South Korea Forced as it is by the need to be self-sufficient from the traditions of the Chinese and Japanese ex-invaders, South Korea has developed highly unique popular cooking habits and techniques. What was still missing, however, was someone who could filter this ancient know-how through the sieve of haute cuisine. For some time this has been the undertaking of a quiet thirty-something who, in the centre of Seoul, has developed great mastery in the art of fermentation - the country's trademark - and all those sauces (doenjang and gochujang) that grant local food a spinal column far removed from the olive oil and butter of our territory.
Poul Andrias Ziska Koks www.koks.fo, Tórshavn Faroe Islands
Who would have had the audacity to offer a fine dining restaurant in this magical archipelago halfway between Scotland and Island? A young man who is yet to turn thirty, back from a European jaunt in the capital of the 18 islands (with not even 3 trees over all), to glorify whales and fermented sheep, the two symbols of the country. No-one turns up their nose, it's just a case of winning over the local palate. That is softened all the more by the most prized scampi in the world and a landscape outside the window that seems from another planet.
S’Apposentu di Casa Puddu, www.sapposentu.it, Siddi Italy What has an Italian restaurant to do with this panorama of countries without tradition? Take a visit to the region of Marmilla, an hour or so into the backcountry of Sardinia. It feels like you are on the set of a Sergio Leone film, the arid windswept soil and herds of sheep disappearing on the horizon. This is the kingdom of Roberto Petza, a real hero because he cooks in the context of the country's higher difficulty coefficient, exacerbated by the scepticism of the Sardinians. But everything he touches in no-man's land takes on a gluttonous aspect. Experience the magic with which he couples sheep and seafood. An ode to taste.
Ana Ros Hiša Franko www.hisafranko.com, Kobarid Slovenia
One day not too far into the future we will sing the praises of the chefs once to be found to the east of the Iron Curtain. Because today, after decades of shady foods connected with soviet-influenced regimes, they are all eager to shed new light on the land and producers with enormous and largely unexplored potential. And we will pay thanks to this young woman, who alongside her husband Walter Kramar, was able to create a cuisine with personality, technique and quality products before many others. In the very green valleys of Upper Isonzo, a half-hour car ride from the Italian border. Less so if you happen to be a trout, the symbol of Ana's incisive cooking.
Le Quartier Français www.lqf.co.za, Franschhoek South Africa The diffusion of designer cuisine still meets with resistance in the African continent. But the spotlights are focused on the extraordinary rainbow of cuisines and traditions that connect Morocco to Namibia and Egypt to Swaziland. Where the absence of famine and civil wars permit, brilliant examples already exist. Like that of a leathery Korean at the head of one of the most beautiful South-African cottages. Worthy of mention for a project outside of the context of the restaurant known as Isabelo (“Feeding Hungry Minds”) nourishing thousands of children who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Creativity and solidarity.
Gaggan, eatatgaggan.com, Bangkok Thailand This eccentric young man, born in Calcutta to Punjabi parents, is facing with great success a double challenge yet to be achieved by anyone else: the creation of Indian designer cuisine in Thailand, a country in which haute dining struggles somewhat. This is “Progressive Indian Cuisine”, the lesson imparted by Ferran Adrià (he who worked at Bulli, the most influential restaurant of our age), prompted to move thousands of kilometres to the east by a fertile and anti-conformist mind that crosses impossible worlds. Such as “When India met Italy” a seafood risotto cooked in rice milk and saffron. Impossible on paper, magnificent on the palate.
Mikla www.miklarestaurant.com, Istanbul Turkey They call it new Anatolian cuisine. An expression that suggests never-explored crossovers. Traditions on the ridge of the West and East, popular cooking and modern techniques, sweet and savoury. A crossroads centred on a restaurant at the top of a magnificent hotel, overlooking the magic of the Bosporus. Under the rule of a half-Turkish, half-Scandinavian man. Who spends all his free time hunting down products such as pumpkins and pistachio nuts. A rainbow so nourished with spices that we "Europeans" haven't the slightest idea of.
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