The Next Big Food Trend: Too Many Cooks
Mr Christopher Kostow at The Restaurant at Meadowood, Napa Valley, California. Photograph by Mr Peter Frank Edwards/Eyevine
The insular attitude of old has made way for a new, open approach to cooking. We meet the chefs who like to share and share alike.
The restaurant world has changed. So, too, have the typical characteristics of the world’s most influential chefs. For diners, restaurants are more accessible, often more informal; meanwhile, the modern kitchen is less a battleground and more a melting pot. The bullish, Mr Gordon Ramsay-style alpha-chefs of recent years have been superseded by culinary innovators who are more plural, world-wise and cerebral – chefs, in short, who are willing to work together.
But more than exchanging ideas, the latest wave of chefs are taking up guest spots in each other’s kitchen. Like artists whose combined, and often very different, creative rationale is more than the sum of its parts, chefs with different backgrounds and affections for particular cultures have recognised the importance of learning from like-minded contemporaries. The result is not only new culinary events and unique dinners, but a desire to shape the industry as a whole and continue to redefine its guiding principles. Here are five of the world’s most exciting chefs who share and share alike, from the man behind a Michelin-starred Tokyo institution teaming up with a London-based purveyor of hot dogs to Mr René Redzepi making tacos and manning a Copenhagen market stall. Open sauce, you could call it.
Mr James Knappett
Cornish line caught trout, served raw with pickled turnips, Meyer lemon jam, lemon miso and turnip tops, by Mr James Knappett
Kitchen Table, **London**
Once a month, Mr James Knappett – whose state-of-the-art, stainless-steel speakeasy kitchen sits behind a curtain at the back of Bubbledogs, the cult hot dog bar on London’s Charlotte Street – hosts a chef for a one-off dinner. There are no formal guidelines restricting the pool from which he selects his collaborators, but they must share his passion for cooking with the best available ingredients and have a desire to give their guests a truly memorable experience. When Mr Knappett opened his restaurant in 2012, he quickly realised he “was always stuck in the kitchen and hardly ever saw anyone or met new people”. As a way of socialising, part professionally, he started inviting his peers to cook with him “for fun”. When Mr Zaiyu Hasegawa from the two-Michelin starred Den in Tokyo appeared last year, Mr Knappett says he could have booked the restaurant solid for three years, such was the demand to experience such an icon of Japanese cooking. Together, they played with a dish called cheese and pickle – Montgomery’s Cheddar paired with Japanese pickles. It’s all about “making friends, not networking”, says Mr Knappett.
Coming soon: Mr Torsten Vildgaard from STUD!O, Copenhagen; Mr Ken Holland, a vegetable farmer from Northumberland; and Mr Magnus Ek from Oaxen, Stockholm.
Ms Rosio Sanchez
From left to right: mole negro and chicken taco with crema and sesame seeds, huevo ranchero taco and cod skin chicharon taco with salsa casera, as prepared by Ms Rosio Sanchez. Photographs by Mr Erik Olsson
Hija de Sanchez, **Copenhagen**
In March 2015, Ms Rosio Sanchez left her position as pastry chef at Noma, then the world’s best restaurant. Shortly after, she set up her taqueria at the shiny new (and rather great) Torvehallerne food market in Copenhagen. In a city at the cutting edge of international gastronomy, it’s testament to Ms Sanchez’s skill and authenticity (she even grinds her own Mexican corn) that her street-food stall inspires as much excitement as any restaurant, not just among Copenhagen’s growing number of food tourists, but also among its close-knit cheffing community. Indeed, on Monday lunchtimes, when restaurants are typically closed, the industry gathers at Torvehallerne for one reason. Fittingly, it is also on Mondays that Ms Sanchez invites along her Amigo de Sanchez guest. Why? “To give the public one delicious mouthful from a great chef,” she says. “It’s for fun, not profit.” Ms Sanchez’s approach is, in some respects, a reaction to the exclusivity and expense of tasting events in high-end restaurants. “Here, anyone willing to wait in line has access to something that’s been made with care by a respected chef,” she says. Her list of amigos reads like a roll call of the world’s best: Mr René Redzepi (Noma), Ms Lisa Lov (Relæ), Mr Shinobu Namae (L’Effervescence) and Mr Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil) have all created their particular rendition of the taco.
Coming soon: Whisper it… Mr Isaac McHale of The Clove Club, London, doing haggis tacos.
Mr James Lowe
Gulls' eggs, served by Mr James Lowe. Photographs by Mr Per-Anders Jorgenson
During his time as head chef at St John Bread & Wine, Mr James Lowe recalls lamenting the food scene in London. Despite the plaudits being heaped on the city, whose culinary style principally aspired to Mr Gordon Ramsay’s ruthlessly unforgiving old-school approach, Mr Lowe was left wanting and remembers “wishing for something more exciting”. So he travelled “to Spain, America, Denmark, everywhere”. And it was no accident that he found himself working for the two most innovative and unorthodox spirits in British cooking – Messrs Heston Blumenthal and Fergus Henderson – when in the UK. Because in new ideas and challenges, he found impetus. Mr Lowe opened Lyle’s in 2014. Without the ability to travel and eat as much as he would like, he has turned to inviting chefs to his monthly The Guest Series. All are different, from Ms Elena Reygadas to Parisian chef Mr Bertrand Grébaut, but all subscribe to the new gastronomy founded on co-operation and mutual affection. “I love how two people can look at something and come up with two completely different ideas,” says Mr Lowe. Like when chefs from Babette in Stockholm came to Lyle’s. “They sent the food in ‘waves’, not courses; three dishes at a time, to share.” He welcomes the dialogue and disruption caused by a different chef co-owning a service every month.
Coming soon: Ms Tatiana Levha from Le Servan, Paris; Mr Mitch Orr from Acme, Sydney; and Game London.
Mr Christopher Kostow
Kohlrabi cooked in its own juices, rye porridge and mustard seeds, created by Mr Christopher Kostow. Photographs courtesy of The Restaurant at Meadowood
The Restaurant At Meadowood, **California**
In some ways, Mr Christopher Kostow’s Restaurant At Meadowood is a paradigm of the collaborative modern-day restaurant industry. His annual The Twelve Days of Christmas event is a series of collaborations with a different chef for 12 consecutive days. Countless ideas, ingredients and perspectives from all over the world are showcased, shared and enter the chefs’ collective conscience. Mr Kostow calls it “cross-pollination by travel” and points to a legacy that has made the industry “better and more dynamic. Before, kitchens were hermetic in their approach.” The best chefs he’s collaborated with are “those who don’t focus on making culinary fireworks. It’s the people who have a perfectly formed idea and an authentic persona – the likes of Christian Puglisi from Relæ, Yusho’s Matthias Merges and Courtney Burns and Nick Balla of Bar Tartine.” It seems that they willfully embrace the effect they’re having on each other’s style and methodology. “We certainly hope that we’re moving the needle for each other, or at least that’s how we look at it,” says Mr Kostow.
Mr Jeremy Charles
Newfoundland bouillabaisse, by Mr Jeremy Charles. Photograph by Mr Ned Pratt
Raymonds Restaurant, New Foundland
Raymonds sits on the eastern-most point of North America, on the edge of The Narrows, which open out into the north Atlantic. Its remote location forces Mr Jeremy Charles to “focus on wild, locally sourced and foraged ingredients from land and sea (moose, rabbit, partridge, cod and sea urchin) to create a unique sense of place.” And it’s this that he likes to use as a pull to bring chefs – “typically twice or three times a year” – to his corner of the world. What’s more, “hosting [chefs] is a great way to showcase what our province has to offer and keeps our team inspired”. The process is therefore two-pronged: Raymonds’ remoteness presents unique challenges to the visitors, while their visits ensure Mr Charles’ own style does not remain too inward-looking. It is a recurring theme for chefs who are as interested in showcasing as they are about learning. Mr Charles considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with chefs in the vanguard of modern cooking, including Mr Daniel Burns of Luksus in Brooklyn, Mr James Lowe from Lyle’s and Mr Paul Kahan from Chicago. “Chefs are eager to share and use their kitchens to educate and collaborate in creating a sense of community,” he says.
Coming soon: Mr Charles is cooking with Mr Normand Laprise from Toqué, Montreal, in early April. Later in the year, Raymonds will be hosting Mr Mark Best of Marque Restaurant, Sydney, a collaboration with Terroir Symposium.