The sun was setting at Tenuta di Valgiano on the rolling hills above Lucca. GELINAZ! Stay in Tour Silent Voices was about to come to life. Months of hard work, stress all came together to create what turned out to be a magical evening.
All good things take time. The first Silent Voices Chapter 1 took place in November 2020 with restaurants mainly in Asia since restaurants there were not facing any lockdown restructions. In other places, however, the event had to be postponed not once but twice because of the pandemic. Originally pencilled for the end of January, it was later pencilled in for spring before it finally took place in a number of locations around the globe on Sunday 29 August.
We were at Tenuta di Valgiano where the event organised by the 3 chefs of Ristorante Giglio, Stefano Terigi, Lorenzo Stefanini and Benedetto Rullo, was taking place. In total, 13 chefs and their teams had been busy for over a day preparing a dinner for 140 people. They were given matrixes (or recipes) by the GELINAZ. But until that moment (and throughout the dinner) they had no clue whose work they were remixing. That’s part of the fun of GELINAZ events.
There have been many other events before. It all started with Fulvio Pierangelini being annoyed about fellow chefs copying dishes at a time when social media barely existed. Provocatively Andrea Petrini who still leads the collective today told him to bring a few together to rework a recipe in their own way. Today, the chef collective, in its loose format has helped to break boundaries and create a bond that remains way after the event. From a shuffle of chefs were people booked in a restaurant not knowing who would be cooking for them on the evening or the even more daunting was the Stay at Home tour, many formats have been tried and experimented.
This new edition was different, as GELINAZ events are. You could say that the Grand GELINAZ Shuffle Silent Voices brought back the principle of collaboration and creativity while at the same time putting a spotlight of those who have struggled during the pandemic either because they had to close their restaurant or they were between projects.
Mauro Colagreco, the most experienced chef among the group that came together at the winery and a GELINAZ! veteran par excellence had no idea whose work he was remixing. That was finally unveiled as the final course was being served. There were a few hints – tacos for example – which served to throw many off track rather than help them guess. Could it be a remix from Mexico? Many did not really think so though they had no clue who the recipes could be of.
The Giglio Boys were the curators of the event. It is a unique restaurant in Lucca owned by three chefs who being friends came together to work and have fun when they opened the restaurant five years ago. I’ll tell you about them another time.
As Stefano Terigi told Food and Wine Gazette, organising this event would not have been possible if they worked alone. I ragazzi del Giglio (Giglio Boys), as they are known in Italy surpassed all expectations creating the mother of all parties.
They thought of everything. From the lighting to the music, the cocktail bars, different stations were the appetisers were served, the location of the KRUG champagne bar at sunset. There was a neon welcoming people to this 140 person long table which looked like one from another era given what we’d come to expect in the time of COVID 19. Enjoy the fucking dinner it said. That too captured the spirit of the GELINAZ! The event is experimental, it forces collaboration, free thinking, provokes and also sets trends. Who would have thought that the first ever Stay in Tour organised in 2019 would be the prelude to really staying at home for so many.
The venue was the Tenuta di Valgiano, a winery that has been biodynamic since 2001. Moreno Petrini and his wife Lauri di Collobiano provided the Giglio’s with this stunning venue. Some of their stunning wines would be served at the dinner. There was the austere 2014 from a very difficult year (but which still showed the potential of the winery in making exceptional wines) and a more opulent Tenuta 2015.
The weather proved to be stunning though a few threatening clouds on Sunday afternoon appeared. Moreno was looking at the weather app on his phone. “We don’t have a plan B if it rains,” he told me. “But we’ve been checking all phones and it shouldn’t rain,” he added.
Couple Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto who work in Venice restaurant Venissa were the first to arrive and start working on Saturday before we went for the pre-GELINAZ dinner at Giglio. There was a lot to do. They were working on a complex main course with Carlo Cracco and Mattia Pecis and also preparing a dessert that required a long preparation.
Riccardo Camanini left Lago di Garda very early on Sunday morning as did Mauro Colagreco from his Menton restaurant Mirazur. The first worked throughout the day at Il Giglio restaurant while the latter was the first to start working on his appetiser early on Sunday morning.
Colagreco is a fixture at GELINAZ events. He is always a point of reference, always ready to give a helping hand with his smile and charisma. And despite being at the helm of Mirazur, the No 1 restaurant in the world according to the World’s 50 best, he is no primadonna. he was there alone with no help from any member of his team chopping onions, chilly peppers from the fields around the Tenuta. When asked he said that this was the spirit of the GELINAZ which has always seen most chefs work alone in many of the events that have been organised over the past years. There’s a lesson in there just observing him work.
Husband and wife Taka Kondo (Osteria Francescana) and Karime Lopez (Gucci Osteria) arrived there and found themselves working mostly on a table tennis table. It served its purpose allowing members of their teams to do all the preparation necessary. Karime is still working despite being nearly eight months pregnant. Both have a radiant smile. They are about to become parents for the first time and Mauro jokes when they arrive that it might well end up being the first ever GELINAZ baby. “We hope not,” they both tell him. The reality, however, is that it is. They met at a GELINAZ event some years back and became friends before the deciding to build a family together. For them, GELINAZ also represents something really important.
There was also Lorenzo Lunghi, a young chef who used to work with Italian legend Fulvio Pierangelini, who together with Andrea Petrini founded the GELINAZ collective. He worked on his appetiser turning a red turnip into a ‘sausage’. He is also moving around and discussing often with Taka and Karime because they were working together on the Gigliosole, a dish that packed all the flavours.
Mattia Pecis from Carlo Cracco’s new restaurant in Portofino is there preparing not just an appetiser but also a main course while Carlo Cracco arrived late in the afternoon to give the finishing directions.
A lot of work and effort went into preparing the food that would be served in the evening. Dishes would change in the process. By the time the chefs found out they had remixed Mads Refslund’s recipes the event was nearly over. The chef was René Redzepi’s best old pal and opened Noma with him before going to the other side of the globe to open a restaurant there. A new restaurant is in the pipeline and hence why he is a ‘silent voice’.
Riccardo Camanini worked on his two dishes with the Giglio boys. They created a royale of courgettes with pine nuts, rue and vanilla. A very interesting combination of flavours and textures which was matched by the dessert. Here the four chefs turned what had to be a savoury dish into a dessert. Camanini, famous for his ice-cream created a date ice-cream which he matched with dark sugar at the bottom, nigella (an Asian spice similar to cumin) and sea urchin. The result was astonishing and wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up on the menu of the Giglio boys.
Sunday turned out to be a long day interrupted by a lunch prepared by Forno Brisa, a bakery from Bologna taking Italy by storm with their bread and pizzas. It was a welcome pause for the chefs who had been busy working from early morning.
So what did we eat you might ask. And was it good? There were a number of appetizers. My favourites of the evening were Mauro Colagreco’s Miraporc and the Taka/Karime combination of prawn, plum, hibiscus and lemon zest.
For main courses there was Camanini’s and the Giglio boys royale of courgettes. It was followed by Colagreco’s and Iacobucci’s tartare of squid with tomato, tomato water and amaranth.
It was followed by Gigliosole, a combination by Taka Kondo, Karime Lopez and Lorenzo Lungo which packed loads of flavour. They combined prawns with a ‘spaghetti’ of sweet potatoes and a coconut milk broth. The main course changed everything. Here they served chickpeas and loads of ‘contorni’ with a meat sauce. In this case vegetables and pulses took centre-stage and the meat served as a condiment.
This chapter two of the Silent Voices was a huge success. Maybe it was because of the pandemic, maybe it was because it looked like a return to a form of normality. Could this also be prelude of things to come?
Elsewhere across the globe, there were other events, other parties. From Tokyo to Manila, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Berlin, Ukraine, Norway, Sweden, Albania, France, UK, Colombia, Bolivia and the United States. That’s a story for others who were there to tell. What’s for sure is that the GELINAZ really looks like no other party.