The second and last day of Chef’s (R)evolution was a great finale to the Dutch avant-garde cuisine festival. Organised by Jonnie and Therese Boer of De Librije together with publisher Port Culinaire, yesterday’s line-up was a spectacular array of creative chefs from Noma’s Rene Redzepi’s to Alinea’s Grant Achatz, Bjorn Frantzen, Sang-Hoon Degeimbre and Spanish Quique Dacosta.
Redzepi kickstarted the day with a brilliant presentation of some of the dishes that are currently being prepared at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant in the World’s Top 50 San Pellegrino list. He spoke about the difficulty of preserving food when they had opened the restaurant 11 years ago as they faced a terrible winter and went on to speak about how this had led them to study the art of fermentation. Like Massimo Bottura the previous day, Redzepi spoke about the importance of eliminating food waste saying that this is one of the greatest problems and challenges facing the food industry. He said it is estimated that 40 per cent of food produced in the world is wasted. “This is a horrific thing,” he said.
We need to ferment our way out of food waste he said. Redzepi spoke about misconceptions and prejudices in food particularly when recalling the story of how Noma came to serve ants in its restaurant (more about this when I profile Redzepi in the coming days).
Quique Dacosta’s story is an inspiring one. Unlike many of the top chefs in the world, he knows only one restaurant. He started work to earn money as he humbly recalls when he was 14 years old. Having later bought the restaurant he is now a three-Michelin starred chef. His restaurant is just 30 metres away from the Mediterranean sea, and this is his main source of inspiration for his creations. He is obsessed with the territory, all his menu comes from within 80 kilometres radius of his restaurant. He says cooking is his passion and he could not have dreamt of sharing his passion with so many people through this restaurant.
Swedish chef Frantzen made a spectacular presentation with his two chefs. He presented 19 dishes from the menu of the previous weekend, plating all the dishes in the 45 minutes allocated to him. It was a tour de force but they managed to showcase all the dishes with 10 seconds to spare to the applause of the packed theatre in Zwolle.
Belgian chef Sang-hoon Deigembre of Korean origin, like Quique Dacosta did not work as a chef prior to opening his restaurant L’Air du Temps in Belgium. “No one wanted to hire me as a chef so I had to become a sommelier,” he said. He cooked for the first time in a restaurant kitchen on the day he opened his restaurant and from that day the two-Michelin starred chef has never looked back. Like Redzepi, Deigembre spoke about the importance of fermentation and said this is the best way to make use of all the vegetables that grow in his garden. He works with chemists to find the right food and flavour combinations. The oyster with kiwi, which I was lucky to taste, was sensational, an explosion of flavours in the mouth with a lingering taste.
Grant Achatz, the best chef in the United States closed the evening with a memorable presentation of some of Alinea’s concepts. He started his presentation by setting a centrepiece on fire. From this, he and his team created six dishes which were all cooked by the fire. He took inspiration from the products which he found in the Netherlands during his four day stay with his team. Normally Alinea serve this dish with hidden Wagyu beef amid the flame which is set in the middle of each table. He spoke about the creativity process and how creativity was not about having an eureka moment but rather the result of hard and repetitive work to try and come up with new ideas and break new ground. His concept is to make his clients happy. I want my customers to leave with a smile on their face. One of his most famous creations, the edible helium balloon made with sugar and water clearly impressed all those present.