Something magical happens when you bring 20 of the world’s creative chefs to cook together in a restaurant kitchen. Creativity flows, collaboration and sharing of knowledge is in evidence, as is the joy to watch so many talented people cooking, joking, sharing a good time and helping each other out.
As a guest, you do not want this moment to end even if there are time constraints because in the space of 15 hours there will be four sittings (with just an hour in between each service to clean the restaurant and prepare for the next sitting).
At the same time, you are in awe because these are dishes which you will never see or try again. There are dishes that push boundaries, some that you might not expect to find in a top restaurant and others which will remain etched in your memory, which is what dining is all about.
Then you stop to think about the idea and you start to wonder where could this creativity stop. Because what happened yesterday was a unique experience.
GELINAZ! is the name of the collective of chefs who each year takes the culinary world by storm. This year on the 10th November, the first (will it be the last?) GELINAZ! Brussels Headquarters was organised at the two Michelin star restaurant Bon Bon.
Belgian chef Christophe Hardiquest welcomed into his kitchen 19 chefs from across Europe to work together and recreate dishes that were inspired elsewhere but which were reinterpreted by these 20 chefs.
As the Brussels Headquarters was taking place, 40 chefs from around the world were involved in what is called the Gelinaz! shuffle. These chefs are drawn by lots to go to a restaurant in another corner of the world. Massimo Bottura ended up cooking in Hedone, London, Virgilio Martinez from Peru was in Jimbocho Den in Tokyo and Adeline Grattard was at Attica in Melbourne.
Each of these 40 chefs sent a recipe to the 20 chefs at the headquarters in Brussels and these forty dishes – a tribute to the restaurant they were visiting – had to be created in the four different shifts.
Therefore all the guests at the Brussels Headquarters yesterday were served different dishes in each of the four shifts.
Most of the chefs landed on Tuesday in Brussels though a few arrived on Wednesday and carried out all the preparations and testing before they approached a 15-hour marathon which started at 12 noon with the first sitting for which we were present. (It was in fact longer if you consider that they had been working already earlier that morning carrying out the preparations for the first shift).
GELINAZ! was origially created by Fulvio Pierangelini and Andrea Petrini both present in Brussels yesterday together with Alexandra Swenden, the co-curator of the events together with Petrini.
The collective approaches cooking in a completely different style, away from the fanfare of Michelin stars or lists. It is a way for chefs to collaborate, for chefs to test ideas away from their usual clientele and to exchange and maybe test some ideas that might otherwise not be tested in their restaurant.
The recipes received were different. Some sent just the name of the dish with three ingredients leaving everything else open to imagination. Others were very detailed and technical sending a recipe longer than 5 pages. “In this case, we discussed, looked at the name of the dish, the ingredients and then decided to take matters into our hands and recreate the dish,” Fulvio Pierangelini told Food and Wine Gazette.
In all this you see the different styles of chefs. There are the young chefs and the more experienced chefs. There are those who meticulously follow a recipe once a dish is made and others who still leave room for improvisation.
The menu surprised guests with names like ‘Kung Fu Panda Bolognese’ and you ask what and how is this going to be served or ‘Merci Dominique’ and you wonder whether this is going to be a dessert or still a savoury dish.
Creativity is flowing and you ask yourself what will I miss in the next serving but there is no time to think as you are served with another dish. Another question you ask yourself is how would have a different team of chefs created the same dish. Because the combinations can be never ending and the results could be mind-blowingly different.
Let’s face it, this is not your usual restaurant dining experience. When will you have the occasion to have so many Michelin star chefs or rising stars in the culinary world or chefs in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list assemble a dish for you together? And all in open view at the open kitchen of Bon Bon.
The first shift at Brussels Headquarters
A bit about the lunch or the first shift.
The first dish to be served was an Adeline Grattard tribute to Attica, a restaurant in Melbourne. Christophe Hardiquest and Enrico Crippa, three Michelin star chef of Piazza Duomo served the Kung Fu Panda Bolognese. Topped with Sicilian aubergines and herbs, the bolognese had Asiatic and Japanese notes as you would expect from Adeline Grattard’s dish. This was a tremendous start to the lunch.
What came next might not look inspiring if you were to see it on a menu but the end result was also great. Kristian Baumann (formerly Noma and now 108 restaurant in Copenhagen) and Magnus Ek (Oaken Krug in Stockholm). A Blaine Wetzel tribute to Brae in Birregurra, this was caramelised milkskin with sourdough bread and cabbage. It was served as a taco to be eaten with your hands.
Philip Rachinger of Mulltalhof (Austria) and Davide Scabin of Combal.Zero (Italy) worked together to recreate a Braustralian ramen giving it their obvious twist. This was an Alex Atala tribute to Momofuku Seiobo (Sydney). Philip told us at table that he had never worked with sea-urchin but here he mixed it with smoked mango on chopsticks. With the ramen broth, they created squid ink noodles and served it in a transparent glass.
What followed was the Scandinavianated Blood of a Scotsman, a dish prepared by Paul Cunningham ( and Mathieu Rostaing-Tayard. It was a Mikael Johnsson tribute to Orana (Adelaide). Here Paul and Mathieu created meat to resemble haggis and served it with raw scallops and citrus shavings. It might sound outrageous but it worked magnificently.
Alas Father Joe (food writer Joe Warwick) dressed as a priest distracted us with the Gelinaz! tattoos and there was no photo of this dish though I had taken some during its preparation minutes before.
Gert De Mangeleer, chef of Hertog Jan and Clare Smyth who runs Gordon Ramsay’s gastronomic restaurants and is set to open her own restaurant in Notting Hill, London in April next year teamed up to prepare a Sean Gray tribute to Narisawa. It was charcoaled pumpkin with buttermilk. An incredibly tasty dish from a humble yet seasonal ingredient.
Next came a remix by Fulvio Pierangelini and Peter Nilsson called Brussels’ Milk. They used that name because this was a dish of Virgilio Martinez in tribute to Jimbocho Den (Tokyo). Instead of dulce de leche they prepared a mussel white broth which was combined with tiny potatoes (instead of corn traditionally used in Peru) and mussels. As Fulvio said, we are in Brussels after all so he also wanted to pay tribute to the famous moules frites.
Next on the menu was an Inaki Aizpitarte tribute to Burnt Ends (Singapore). The dish was remixed by Armand Arnal (chef of La Chassagnette) and Claude Bosi (who closed Hibiscus and is set to open Bibendum next year). They cooked ceviche on the grill and it was a perfect combination of flavours with a perfectly cooked scallop.
Next came a pigeon dish remixed by Yannick Alleno (Alleno Paris Au Pavillon Ledoyen) and Nicolai Norregaard (Kadeau). This was a Sven Elverfeld (Aqua) dish in tribute to Gaggan in Bangkok. They sent out pigeon thighs (incredibly tasty) together with pigeon with black garlic red berries and apple barbecue, and a couscous of preserves (capers).
Albert Adria (Tickets) and Leonardo Perreira, who is set to open his restaurant in Porto next year, presented Thai Chicken, a Dave Pynt tribute to Bo Lan (Bangkok). Brilliant tapas as you would expect from this duo of chefs.
The last dish was a Dominque Crenn tribute to Nahm also in Bangkok. The dish called Merci Dominque was remixed by Mauro Colagreco (Mirazur) and Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillere). They served a raw prawn with a coconut cream and components of pina colada flavours. A stunning dish to end the 10 course first menu.
It was time to meet the chefs who stopped to speak to guests and sign a special booklet prepared for the event. Will some of these chefs return again if there is a second Headquarters event? Would that event be in Brussels again? These are not easy questions to answer since Gelinaz! do not normally repeat events. But who knows, by popular demand they might return and if it does, it will surely be bigger, crazier and more fun.