BRUSSELS: On November 17, an innocuous post was published on Inua’s Instagram page. It was a repost from one of the restaurant chefs. “After 60 or so trials and variations (some of which were the worse things I’ve tasted in a very long time we’ve finally reached consistency in something we’re pretty happy with.”
With it they posted a photo of tofu treated like camembert made with soy milk.
Thousands of kilometres away, at Bon Bon Restaurant in Brussels, Christophe Hardiquest and his team were wrecking their brains on the matrixes they received from one of 148 chefs around the world. It was part of the GELINAZ! Stay in Tour Shuffle.
“We have been working the whole month on the recipes. We were not used to certain produce, to certain ingredients and also to certain fermentations,” Christophe Hardiquest told Food and Wine Gazette.
He knew that the recipes came from Asia, that was evident from the ingredients and there also was a Nordic touch though though the penny really dropped when Simon Neyens saw the Tofu Camembert picture on Instagram.
When I arrived at Bon Bon at around 6.15pm just one hour 15 minutes before the service was starting I knew the restaurant from where the recipes came. I had been sent the information by the GELINAZ! team. I asked Christophe who was sitting at the entrance to the restaurant speaking to one of his children whether he had an idea from where the matrix recipes came.
“Yes, INUA,” he told me nonchalantly. “I tried to retain a poker face and I think he did not yet know that I knew. “Are you sure,” I asked. “Yes, we have even laminated the name to tell the guests later,” he said.
The idea behind the GELINAZ! Stay in Tour was for the chefs to rework recipes of chefs they did not know from 38 different countries around the world. The name of the chef and restaurant from where the recipes came would be revealed at the end of the service.”
In this case, I had to insist that they do not spill the beans to the guests in advance. In his introduction, Christophe gave them a hint. “The ingredients come from Asia. Let’s see whether you will guess from where,” he said.
Service started and Christophe served a katsuobushi of ‘filet d’anvers’ on a home-made focaccia as an appetizer.
The first dish was eggs, eggs, eggs. A cod roe tarama cake with caviar and bee eggs in a jelly and fried. No hint of where the dish came from.
The second was a sea snail crisp made with miso, beach herbs and a snail broth. We were now getting the first hint of where the dish was from though not enough.
The Barbecued King Crab with ponzu, ginger and flowers could have been the first real hint of where the dish was from. Looking at the ingredients alone a real ‘foodie’ could be able to narrow down the list of chefs considerably.
The next dish was a pumpkin seed cake, a vegetarian ‘schnitzel’ again possibility revealing the nationality of the chef.
I went around the restaurant asking guests if they had an idea who was the chef and restaurant behind these recipes.
When we finally asked, we correctly got to Japan and then I opened the envelope to reveal the name “Inua” and Thomas Frebel.
Thomas Frebel does not need much introduction. Despite having just opened his restaurant Inua in Japan, he is already critically acclaimed around the world. His 10 years working with René Redzepi as head of Research and Development before going to Japan with René for the Noma pop-up. He was fascinated by what he saw and decided to stay there and open Inua.
For the record, the remaining dishes of the evening were horse meat in a seaweed shabu shabu followed by deer tongue and a wild mushroom salad.
Then came the dish that gave the game away, the tofu camembert served with white truffle. The dessert was Sake, lees and chocolate.
In Gent, the other Belgian city where the ‘stay in tour’ was taking place Kobe Desramaults was remixing recipes from Marc-Olivier Frappier from Montreal.
Back in Hong Kong, Angelo Agliano, who we visited two weeks earlier had guessed correctly that the recipes came from Mexico while the chef of Ho Lee Fook must have got the shock of his life when he realised he was working with Alain Ducasse’s recipes. His recipes on the other hand were reinterpreted by Riccardo Camanini in Lago di Garda.
Carlo Cracco, the Italian chef whose restaurant is in Milan literally stayed at home together with his recipes – they travelled a few metres away to Diego Rossi’s Trippa.