Alice Waters: What Lies Ahead

Chef Alice Waters

Chef Alice Waters

Alice Waters visited my home turf in Southern California recently and I was fortunate to have another interesting conversation with her. Much has been written about her and yet there are some aspects I feel that most career journalists in search of the sensational fail to delve into. As we all progress through life our interests and ideas change and I found that to be true in her case as well. She is a very easy communicator and engages passionately in subjects that interest her. Her sense of humor leads to much laughter in every exchange and she has an uncanny ability to bond with with people.

A part of my conversation was published in The Daily Meal recently and the extended version is posted here.

Chef, Author, and Advocate Alice Waters: The Future Lies in Conserving and Preserving

by Geeta Bansal

“I have always wanted to live on a commune” was the surprising response when asked what lies ahead from this ingenious powerhouse of the culinary world. Always a step ahead in everything, she has chosen to take on this Francophile had once even proposed a restaurant at the Louvre in Paris during the 90’s ruffling many French feathers in the process.

She became known for planting the seeds for a brand new concept of cuisine in California in the 70’s influencing the food culture not only in the United States but all over the world. Since then she has been  planting not just ideas but virtual gardens all the way from school yards to the White House, and soon even the Vatican. During our conversation she related the story of her last visit to Rome when accompanied by Carlo Petrini the founding president of the International Slow Food Movement, Waters who is Vice President, spent an entire day waiting unsuccessfully for an audience with Pope Francis to present their proposal to plant the Vatican gardens. Unable to accomplish their mission they are hoping for another opportunity soon since as Walters said “the flowerbeds in the Vatican gardens are ready and waiting “and all that is needed is a go ahead from the Pope who has already established a working farm and a supermarket at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer residence.

Waters began a virtual food revolution on the West Coast of the United States in 1971 when finding a niche that no one knew existed she opened her restaurant Chez Panisse in the university town of Berkley. She laughed when I mentioned Julia Child’s remark about California cuisine and that it would last just as long as a squash blossom in July. Well it has certainly has been a very long July as is evident by the success and popularity of this farm to table cuisine.

The alums of the Chez Panisse kitchen include Dan Barber, Paul Bertolli, Mark Miller, Judy Rodgers, Gilbert Pilgram, David Lebovitz, Jonathan Waxman, Jeremiah Towers, Suzanne Goin, Michael Tusk, Mark Peel, Dan Barber, and David Tanis amongst others. The influence of this symbolic cuisine has radiated into  their  kitchens and projects influencing many others along the way.

Over the years she has become an advocate for school lunches and deeply involved in what she refers to as edible education. Understanding that to carry forth her vision of natural green cuisine and sustainable practices into the future it was important to involve the youth she planted her first edible garden in the local Martin King Luther Middle school twenty years ago. Waters founded the Chez Panisse Foundation in 2003 and because of her initiative thousands of schoolchildren in Berkeley now have access to  free nutritious breakfast and a subsidized lunch.

She has always been very vocal on the subject of societal and cultural repercussions of fast food addiction. “We are sadly exporting our culture around the world which is really depressing. Wherever there is a Coke machine it’s happening. It happens very quickly because it’s addictive and it’s going on and when they can’t sell enough Coke there they will just pack up and go to another country.” These days Waters loves to spend time in Rome where in 2007 she joined with the American Academy to launch the Rome Sustainable Food Project to bring the lost food culture back to family tables.

One hot summer day we sat on the deck of a tree house suite in Laguna Beach enjoying the cool breeze from the Pacific and she said, “Go ahead ask me any burning questions,” and so I did!


You opened Chez Panisse in an era when there was a counter culture that allowed for experimentation in the arts, music, food  and even drugs. Did that facilitate your opening a new kind of restaurant especially since  a pop culture was developing and people were receptive to new ideas and is pervasive social media these days also creating a similar environment?

Yes I feel we really had the support of counter culture and  I felt whatever I opened up friends would come and be part of it. That is how it worked then and  I felt very empowered by the counter culture. It’s a similar thing going on right now and people are opening restaurants not thinking about making a lot of money or opening more restaurants. They are finding that a restaurant can be a way of life and I think that is the healthiest impulse as well as the most hopeful idea in the restaurant world.

During the initial stages of your restaurant how did you choose your team and what did you look for in prospective workers?

I picked people I really liked and I wanted people that inspired me. I wasn’t looking for someone who wanted a job cooking in a kitchen or who had qualifications. I wanted to like them more than all of that especially when you are working with people for ten or more hours a day you want to have a rapport. So I always hired my friends and I have never really regretted that. Though sometimes you face a reckoning and it’s difficult but I have had such a pleasure and such a camaraderie with people that work in the restaurant over the years.

In the early 80’s this new cuisine that you were introducing was viewed with skepticism and was there a point in time when you felt vindicated?

Actually yes, I did feel vindicated especially since when the French first came to visit in the 70’s they said oh! It’s not cooking this is just shopping. Then fifteen years later they said shopping is what it’s all about, at least the French chefs who came to the United States. Chef Jacques Pepin especially has always been passionate about this since he has always had a garden and he understood . Many others though wanted excellent ingredients yet took a while to understand that they should be organically grown and sourced responsibly.

You recently spoke about an epiphany, so when did that happen and did that change the focus or direction of your work into a “before and after” period?

I would say certainly there were two different periods, one before my daughter was born and one after. I started to think about the world very differently because I was concerned about her future and all of a sudden the very self absorbed restauranteur at age twenty, so far very content in herself changed. Prior to that my concern was to be successful and achieve the goal of connecting with a farm and setting up a real farm to restaurant system and we had achieved that.

Then I had a child and I realized that we just couldn’t be an island unto ourselves. Whatever was happening upstream was going to come downstream and I really needed to be involved with what was happening. It actually happened when I was thinking about her going to school, I thought about where she would go, to a public or a private school? Could she go to a public school and were they good enough? Then the whole world opened to me and since then it really is my passion.

In the United States there is a resistance to paying more for food since food grown and sourced in this manner is more expensive. What steps can chefs and restaurants take to overcome that?

We really have to talk about that publicly as much as we can. This is the reason that I want to work in schools and have free healthy  school lunch but I want to pay the real cost of that lunch and pay well the farmers who take care of the land. In fact this is a real obsession of mine  and the more we acknowledge the farmers and the hard work that they do and how little they are paid the more we will understand.

If I had a cooking school the first thing on the curriculum would be one full year working on a farm or ranch, and learning how complex it is. You really need to be an intellectual to take care of the land, rather an intellectual of the land and that is what farmers are. We so underrate farmers and it’s all coming from our fast food culture that we live in. It’s not just food that we are eating but also the values that we are absorbing while we are eating it. It’s not just a quick hamburger that is bad for you but you are also understanding that food should be cheap. Fast, cheap and easy is the value conferred by advertising which promotes this idea that more is better. There is no understanding about waste since it is suggested that there is more where it came from. We want things available 24/7 and we don’t value cooks or farmers. Subsequently you want the same wherever you go in the world and this is what we have become.

Are restaurants supported by their own farms like Dan Barber’s Blue Hill or now the Noma 2.0 by Rene Redzepi changing the industry and people’s perceptions about food?

Without a doubt they are and they do and when you visit Noma you see there is a complete focus on what is local, some of it may not taste great , some of it is wonderful but the fact that he has said let’s use what can we find here and it is amazing. It’s a real experiment and a very important one like what  Dan Barber is doing with grains and essentially just understanding his own understanding so to speak.

Doesn’t this depend on how deep people want to delve in their passion and be willing to share their experience?

The ideas of eating what really tastes good but then looking at what can be grown locally and what is nourishing for you is really where Dan Barber is right now. He is tying those together and I have always been concerned about the aliveness of food and doubly concerned about the nourishment from it. All kinds of things are happening right now that concern farming that really interest me for example the ability to evaluate vegetables for their nutrients. I thought all organic carrots were the same being organic carrots but in fact that is not true. Some farmers really focus on the soil helping the carrot be all that it can be and in fact they are more nutritious. It’s endless what we can learn from nature.

Do you feel that young chefs are working in this direction and are sharing knowledge? Mid-range restaurants and chefs are struggling to stay afloat, so how can they implement these ideas?

I feel that chefs particularly those that have been connected to our restaurant or farms are very generous both with their time and what they are doing. I think it’s not true of the ones that have a lot of money and most of the time they are tied to corporations and they can’t or won’t speak up.

The question is: Do you want to make a whole lot of money or not? The goal of Chez Panisse was never to make money and I just wanted to survive. If I couldn’t survive with the food that we were serving and it wasn’t good enough then I probably would have done something else. I think if a restaurant is really good then people will come. One reason that it has become harder to open restaurants is because of the real estate and so it really puts pressure.

Doesn’t this give rise to these fast food operations since mid-range restaurants are closing everywhere? How can the industry support these restaurants and help them survive?

I think it’s all in a transition right now and one way is just like we help farmers we need to support these restaurants as a community. You can get fifty friends who want to open a restaurant and they all buy a share. We have to think of ways in which we can collaborate. We have to learn how to cook with ingenuity and with thriftiness. The French have always been thrifty, using every little part of a product and we have to learn how to do that.
We need to be able to conserve and preserve. That is in our future and I love the idea of being connected to a farm directly. Maybe it’s two hours away and you meet in the middle and exchange produce for the compost. I don’t know what kinds of systems we can work out but we really need some non profit in the distribution. This is where all the money is lost in the middle and maybe we can begin this in the farm to school process and really set up the pathways that will help us all in the big picture.

Are you encouraged by the recent popularity of farmers markets across the country and is it just a hip thing right now or will they prevail over time?

Even if it is just a hip thing it is encouraging because people are buying food, giving the money to the farmer and they are changed by the fact that they have to walk through the market, meeting farmers. This is a way for us to take care of the farmer and the farmer to take care of us. I am also encouraged that there are a lot of young people going into farming.

Does your celebrity status in the food world empower you to help make changes in the food culture?

I think there is a segment of the population that does listen when you are well known, have books out there and are at conferences or speaking. The majority of the population in this country is woefully uneducated and unless you engage them or really cook for them the chances of them learning about this from reading a book or listening to a lecture is very very unlikely. That is the reason that we are going to the public schools, a last democratic institution and we have to go there ,  feed every child and make school lunch an academic subject. That is what I am really focused on as to how we can reinvent it so that we are talking about whole grains  or vegetables and fruits. I am looking at the Middle Eastern cuisines especially for the spices, yogurts and their benefits, the foods of India for example  The kids really like these foods too and it’s affordable food.

Food can never be cheap, it can only be affordable. That can be understood if it can be widely implemented in the schools beginning in the kindergarten and not just middle schools and high schools. We need edible education.

You mentioned Middle Eastern and Eastern cuisines so has the cultural globalization had a positive impact on cuisine or are we losing the nuances? Is food getting homogenized?

I would say that both things are happening but I think it’s more for the good. I never really understood the use of many spices until I got involved with Mexico. Now it’s is a part of my cooking and I love Indian food too. I think in this country particularly we miss the great taste of well made food that it also good for us. We are missing garlic, spices and the textural complexity  and are talking uniformity and richness  in much of the basic fast food diet.

We have been making these place mats for teaching school lunches as a subject where on these mats there is a history of the ingredients thereby making it part of the whole lesson. For example if we are serving the food of India this history on the mat gives the food a whole other dimension. A picture is worth a thousand words and I think this is the best way in which we are engaging children and teaching about people who are different from yourself through food. I really have to see things myself in order to engage and so do these children. They want to come sit with these people and learn about their culture and history since there is something really wonderful about each country and its culture. We need to find these things and celebrate the country where they come from and there is no better way to teach than putting these things in the school curriculum.

Is this pictorial representation conducive to teaching or learning?

I really have to look at something, touch it and understand it. The place mats are the lesson in themselves and there is no better way to teach a child but through pictures. The kids eat that food and make memories and find out what cumin or cardamom tastes like. Similar mats with a map were used in French schools to teach where things were grown and were from and what was growing in the season. At one time the school lunches in France were fabulous but they are not so anymore. The French pretend that they are but in reality they get food from China which is not organic.

In your opinion can ethics and politics be in the same mix since the food politics have taken on a whole new dimension in the food industry these days?

They have to be in the same mix to make changes and they are not so and I think education is the way. You teach children to value the land, you teach them how to communicate at the table, you then help them to decide for themselves the importance of ecology , sustainability and to always save for the next person. All these values are learned at the table and this set of values is what is going to make us sane. Right now we have not made this education a priority.

How has our industry or the politicians addressed the subject of GMO’s?

It’s shocking the way the industry has really talked about GMO’s. It’s shocking to me that Hilary Clinton could be supported by them and not know and not be informed properly about it.  I don’t know if she is just closing her eyes and ears or she took the money but she needs to be better informed. There is concern that even people like Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan has a very questionable opinion about GMO from my point of view, and she might even be the Secretary of Agriculture in the future. People need to step out and see what is happening.

What are you optimistic about?

I am optimistic about school food especially because of the health issues which are so acute. One in two people in California right now have diabetes. This is in the whole state and while I knew one in two kids had the possibility of getting it I didn’t know that one in two people already had it. It makes you wonder where we are going. Is it over the edge?

The fact that there is hunger in this country is a giant embarrassment and every time the statistics come out we are going to have to think about feeding children in schools something good and soon. There is no halfway good it has to be all the way good. We need to introduce and incorporate the cultural influences in schools.

We are sadly exporting our culture around the world which is really depressing. Wherever there is a coke machine it’s happening. It happens very quickly because it’s addictive and it’s going in, when they can’t sell enough coke here they will just pack up and go to another country, I just read that in Venezuela which is in dire straits, Coke left the country.

I recently wrote an introduction for a book by Olafur Eliasson, a Danish Icelandic artist who makes lunch every day for all the people who work in his studio with the help of two artist cooks. It’s all organic, all local and mostly vegetables, whole grains and fruits with a little bit of meat  stocks and chicken broth. This is done 365 days a year even when it’s freezing cold in winter. Originally intended as a small cook book for friends he gave me a copy and then I asked Phaidon to publish it and they did. It’s full of pictures of the proper size of school lunches with a bowl of something hot like a lentil or minestrone soup and couple of salads and homemade bread. It’s so wonderful to see that in a book, especially the proportions.

Are you still working on planting the Vatican gardens?

I am enamored with the new Pope. Did you read the article about God’s garden? He has done it by deciding to convert the Papal summer residence into a garden and sell the produce to the people. He kept talking about the raw donkey milk that he used to drink as a child and now  they are selling raw milk as well the cheeses that they make. It’s pretty beautiful and I am going to visit this fall.

I want to do the garden at the Vatican and Carlo Petrini and I are trying to make it a slow food project. The beds are already made but they are using chemicals in all the farming at the Vatican. As a result they have green grass but can have wonderful edibles and it could happen overnight if they got a group of organic farmers in there. The Pope is the best person to make this change.

In your opinion, which food issues are being neglected in our country and need to be addressed?

I feel we must address hunger, school lunches, overhaul our system and teach gardening and cooking not as extracurricular activities but actual subjects like math and science. Montessori was always about learning through the senses and we have to do that in every school. We are so painfully uninformed about our physical selves and nature. We don’t even have botany or anatomy as a subject anymore. I have been talking to people about a Slow Food book of the foods of our country. Maybe it begins with all the art, beautifully visualized art and in fact I would like to go state by state and include everything that is edible and really understand the biodiversity of this country because We Have No Clue!

We have never had agriculture for taste, it’s always been for quantity, we let go of our culinary roots because we wanted to be part of a melting pot in this country. We have lost so much of our tradition and identify in an effort to become part of a fast food culture.

What are the projects that interest you the most  these days?

I am becoming involved in much bigger projects in the world. In the last stage of my life I always imagined I would be living in a commune!

In fact I always thought about it , even when I was thirty. I have watched what happens to people in this country in that age and again it’s the fast food culture which doesn’t want to have anything to do with someone who has no money, especially children and old people, and it’s seriously disrupting a way of living that has been part of civilization since the very beginning. Old people need to have a purpose and it has always been to take care of grandchildren and be engaged with young people. Now they are completely  isolated and I have always wanted an inter generational project and I think it is something that can be an adjunct to the public school system.

I am afraid I am not going to get that ready in time and have to go live in Italy for that part of my life!


MAD5 on Tomorrow’s Kitchen: A Report From Copenhagen

This year the MAD5 symposium brought me back to Copenhagen to attend one of the most awaited food events in the food industry. I arrived in the city basking in the sunshine that would soon disappear during the two days of the event. As in other years the boats were waiting early morning at Nyhavn to transport the attendees to the site which this time had experienced thunderstorms and downpours through the night. The staff handed out rain ponchos guests boarding in the rain shower and one of the first familiar  faces I spotted was chef Jacques Pepin and strangely one the last I saw when the event ended a night later.

Chef Michel Nischan and I were waiting for a ride after the final dinner and soon as one pulled up someone yelled at us to not even think about it. It was chef Jacques Pepin accompanied by his daughter Victoria who came charging to the car and who would even dare to commandeer his ride!

My first morning began at Mirabelle the cafe/ bakery, one of chef Christian Puglisi’s four operations  that include Relae, Manfred & Vin, and Baest. An interesting conversation with Puglisi about his latest project, his time in the industry and not to forget the “ladies” his eight Jersey cows that he had taken delivery of just a week prior to our meeting will soon be published.

The afternoon took me to a beautiful Danish villa on a picturesque lake for a delicious lunch cooked by chef and cookbook author Katerine Klinken for a group of people under the aegis of the Copenhagen Food Festival. My trips to Copenhagen usually revolve around restaurants and on this visit I visited the newly opened 108 with Noma alum Kristian Baumann heading the kitchen which of course  was packed to the gills with people in town for MAD. It was great to see a lot of friends some like guerrilla Gardner Ron Finley from LA, chefs Roellinger and Troisgros with their families from France and others from around the world. During a thunderous downpour chef  Magnus Nilsson and I had an intense exchange about his vision of the future of his own kitchen at Faaviken. Magnus is one of the most sorted out young chefs in the world and I look forward to sharing our conversation.

A version of my experience at the event as published in The Daily Meal.

Rene Redzepi

MAD5 Symposium in Copenhagen: Exploring Tomorrow’s Kitchen

by Geeta Bansal

The familiar red big top went up once again in Copenhagen after a one year hiatus on 28-29th August to host the fifth MAD symposium focused on Tomorrow’s Kitchen. As attendees arrived early morning by boat at the windy, rainy Refshaleøen Island they were welcomed by Chef Rene Redzepi of Noma, founder of the nonprofit MAD Food organization and his hard working team. The movers and shakers of the world had journeyed from various parts of the globe to this event under a tent for a preview of the changes to come in the kitchens of the future. The message, as it wove loosely around the central theme of Tomorrow’s kitchen, was not very different from previous years, even though the theme and the players had changed. The missive of this much awaited (usually annual) event is that the world of food is interconnected through social, economic and moral issues and everyone in the food industry is part of this new consciousness and can make an impact. Over the years the names have become bigger and the attendees more internationally recognizable faces yet in some odd way it is still imparts the feel of a very intimate gathering where you can sit at the lunch table with Chef Jacques Pepin and even have ice cream served by chef Michel Troisgros!

The list of keynote speakers has over the years included luminaries of the gastronomic universe and this year was no exception. Legendary chefs like Jacques Pepin (USA), Michel Troisgros, Olivier Roellinger (France), were joined by chefs Jose Andres (USA), Jair Tellez (Mexico), Rafael Magana (Mexico) to explore the theme of kitchens of the future. It has become the norm at every MAD event to feature a live cooking demonstration by an icon of the industry and this year was no exception. Sprightly eighty-year-old chef Jacque Pepin entranced the chefs, cooks and wannabe cooks in the audience with his monumental culinary skills as he nonchalantly deboned, stuffed and trussed a chicken at lightning speed, his daughter Victoria and a glass of wine at his side. His masterpiece omelette demonstration that followed will undoubtedly become the most watched YouTube cooking lesson, even for seasoned chefs like Jose Andres, who during his presentation shared that it made him want to get to work to right away to perfect his own skills with a couple hundred eggs. Andre’s “One For All and All for One”, barefoot, impassioned discourse asked team leaders to not look up but look down the corporate hierarchy for leaders and companies to focus on flattening or leveling the organizational chart. Paper cups and tablecloths served as props to bring home the point that the kitchen is a competition and we need to embrace it and not be afraid to show weakness even as team leaders.

A panel discussion moderated by journalist Francis Lam (USA) with the Chef Fellows (who had spent a week at Yale University in a leadership conference this past June) didn’t quite hit the mark with the audience as they attempted to share their learning experiences. On stage were April Bloomfield (USA), Kylie Kwong (Australia), Alex Atala (Brazil), Jessica Koslow (USA), and Rosio Sanchez (Denmark), but missing Roellinger and Troisgros who had also been a part of the Chef Leadership event by MAD organization in partnership with the prestigious university. Brazilian chef Alex Atala emphasized during this discussion that the kitchens of the future need to learn from the past as to what not to do, to reduce waste and consider recycling back to the farms. Atala said the strongest voice in the food chain right now is that of the chefs, and chefs change when they are the focus of attention and so they must revisit their ethics and morality.

The Mexican chef Jair Tellez accompanied by a very droll head chef Rafael Magana entertained the audience with their own hilarious tale of working with family while transforming from farm workers into cooks. If for any unlikely reason Magana doesn’t make it in the kitchen Hollywood could be the next stop for him. The consummate host, Redzepi appeared on stage to serve shots of Mezcal to help the group from Mexico along to the amusement of the rain gear clad audience. Serious protection from the elements was needed over the course of two days from the downpours and winds that circled the site. Kat Kinsman, founder of Chefs With Issues, spoke about the darker side of the industry with its side effects that include burn out, depression and sometimes more tragic consequences as seen in recent years. Yoga, meditation classes, flexible working hours and reducing collateral damage were the hot topics amidst the professionals in the industry. Even Noma now has a resident den mother to succor the staff an idea that will probably be imitated by other operations around the world.

The roster of speakers also included Trevor Gulliver proprietor of St. John Restaurant in London, venture capitalist Eric Archambeu from the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and Sydney Finkelstein author of “Superbosses” took the stage as well though their presentations seemed to stray from the central theme (the super boss theory) especially was challenged during Carlo Petrini’s motivational discourse that followed. On day two, Rene Redzepi and David Chang spoke about teamwork, solidarity, and the basics of the business such as putting a team together, staying creative and even the inability to fall asleep at night due to the stress that comes with the job. Chang shared that the seeds of the festival were first planted when Redzepi and he met at other events as they climbed up the ranks and often commiserated with each other about their mutual problems in the industry. The nitty gritty of the restaurant business, how to retain or find staff, find purveyors, deal with critics and other issues they found were common to the industry all over the globe. Speaking to the millennials in the audience, they asked them to respect their mentors by keeping alive oral traditions and history. Since “we stand on their shoulders” so listen, talk and learn constantly since the future is yet unwritten. According to Redzepi most millennials had made a choice to be in the kitchen whereas earlier generations had fallen into the industry by default and hence had an important role to play. If anything millennials was the one term bandied about the most during the whole two day event to the amusement of all other generational cohorts, apparently they are the ones taking charge of kitchens of the future. GenX, Y, and Z: move over!

One of the highlights of the two day event was when Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food organization, rallied the crowd encouraging them to become their own leaders in moving tomorrow’s kitchens forward and changing the food system. Petrini charged people in the culinary industry to form alliances and encouraged cooperation between chefs, producers and people. He asked for compassion in our kitchens and society since cooking is an act of love a message that lingered with the audience. He charged the audience to become a part of this new consciousness and rise up to the challenge of changing the defunct food system. His appeal for aid to the earthquake stricken small town of Amatria resonated with chefs and over 700 of them are now serving their versions of pasta Amatriciana in their restaurants with the proceeds going to help the victims. The duo from France, Chefs Troisgros and Roellinger, spoke about their personal journeys, struggles and their hopes and vision for the kitchens of tomorrow which in their case will be run by their progeny. The lighthearted performance of the two lifelong friends evidently struck a chord with the audience as evident from the resounding applause they received. Roellinger declaimed that all cooks are artisans who have been imprisoned in their own ivory towers but the time had come to break out since the ancient world is collapsing and they must participate to make meaningful changes in society.

Chefs Troisgros and Roellinger

Chefs Troisgros and Roellinger

In a departure from the past four symposiums there were fewer attendees since the invitation to purchase tickets was extended after carefully vetting the applications and proposals. The full schedule of the various group sessions that took place in small tents around the main stage being held simultaneously was taxing since it was difficult to choose and get the most out of the whole experience with people dashing about from one session to the next. Mark Emil the gong master from the MAD team (yes, a real gong) sound out the session times that were displayed on the information wall where everyone milled around during the breaks. The day began with breakfast in the food tent and everyone’s favorite this year was the savory rice congee (porridge) served by the Lisa Lov aka the Tiger Mom accompanied by pastries from Lagkagehuset bakery and beverages from an impressive lineup of eight roasters and a tea expert. The rain beating down relentlessly on the tent did not in any way impair the appetites of the 300 plus people gathered to enjoy a veritable feast of the ocean served by Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo and Roderick Sloan the mad Scot of the North on the first day. The second day’s fiery lunch featured fried chicken and all the trimmings by Morgan McGlone formerly of Husk, Nashville and now at Belle’s in Sydney and was a definite crowd pleaser as the unending supply of crispy wings was all anyone would talk about even at the final dinner that night. Bespoke beers by Mikkeller and delicious ice creams and sorbets by Jacob & Jakob were at hand during breaks and lunch.

The event wound down with a group photo as a camera drone hovered overhead and the final beers were handed out and people headed for the boats waiting to transport them to the final dinner under Knippelsbro bridge. Old and new friends sat at the communal tables to drink and devour the meal served by some of the popular restaurants like Relae, Kadeau, Amass, Hija de Sanchez including the most talked about and dissected course of glazed uterus and lung kebabs from Bror. It was the early hours before the eighties-tinged music (apparently tracks Redzepi discovered by happenstance) and enthusiasm of the crowds died done and they moved to the after parties around town. Thus ended one of the most talked about international food events of the year leaving images, ideas and thoughts for the participants to ruminate and reflect on. As to MAD6 as Redzepi said the future is unwritten.


Rosio Sanchez: Tacos Rule at Hija de Sanchez, Copenhagen

One early afternoon on my last visit to Hija de Sanchez in Copenhagen watching a very self-assured Rosio Sanchez being interviewed on camera I recollected the first time I had met her. The year was 2011 and we were at the Noma Food lab on a boat moored by the restaurant . The very shy Sanchez had just joined the team a few days earlier. Five years later this pastry chef at Noma ventured out on her own with her taqueria Hija de Sanchez  in the trendy Torvehallerne a collective food market.

The second location that she opened recently  in Kodbyen, the old meat packing area of Copenhagen is in a historical building and so other than painting the ceiling gold they had to leave the old floor to ceiling tiles intact. Sanchez is already planning a third operation, but as she pointed out not a real restaurant for now, just take another away model like the other two. Rosio wanted to give it a homey feel and though ‘it’s a taco shop I didn’t want it be look like a fast food place, still very professional but not too industrial’. During our most recent conversation she spoke of the responsibility that comes with recognition and success that has come her way in a remarkably short span of time.

Sanchez prefers using free range and organic vegetables, the corn and chills come from Mexico but at the low price point of her tacos she says it’s a struggle. Sanchez’s taco enterprise has really taken off as evident by the buzz in the press and the constantly growing line up of well-known guest chefs at her taqueria. The latest addition is Brazilian chef Alex Atala the week before MAD5 and I know many people who are scrambling to change their travel plans to arrive a few days earlier in order stand in line for what will be a memorable experience. Damn! I’m going to miss it by a few hours but will definitely stop by during the MAD Symposium for one of her delicious tacos with a fiery hot sauce on the side.

A part of my recent conversation with Rosio Sanchez was published on The Daily Meal and the extended version is posted below.


Rosio Sanchez of Hija de Sanchez, Copenhagen

by Geeta Bansal

Rosio Sanchez hit the road to celebrity well before she placed the first taco on the counter of her stand outside the food halls of Torverhallen Market In Copenhagen. Since the opening last year she been hailed as a star by media all over the world, the phenomenon undoubtedly fueled by her connection to Rene Redzepi and Noma. Rosio spent six years as the pastry chef at a restaurant that is on every chef, journalist and food enthusiast’s radar. Considering that a virtual stream of cooks and stagiares have passed through the hallowed Noma kitchens Sanchez obviously stood out receiving the blessing  of her boss to open her own place. Hija de Sanchez (daughter of Sanchez) is not the only taco joint in Copenhagen but probably the only where occasionally her former boss Redzepi shows up to play cook. Many other  guest chefs and friends have  lined up to serve their own on spin on tacos since the opening and in coming weeks Daniel Burns (Luksus), Daniella Soto-Innes (Cosme) and Alex Stupak (Empillion), all from New York, as well as Brazilian chef Alex Atala are on the playlist.

The shy young cook I remember from 2011 in the Noma Food Lab has transformed over the years into a confident businesswoman now juggling two and soon three projects in the bona fide international food hub. Her time at Noma was well spent and provided the opportunity for her to travel to international events and connect with other heavy hitters in the culinary world. This past June she was part of a select group at Yale University for a MAD Leadership Summit along with Redzepi and French chefs Olivier Roellinger, Alex Atala, and Michel Troisgros. Sanchez worked as sous pastry chef in Wylie Dufresne’s WD50 kitchen in New York with pastry chef Alex Stupak and they have both since moved to the savory kitchen in pursuit of their passion for Mexican cuisine and in the case of Sanchez her American Mexican heritage . Sanchez laughed when the subject came up, saying she was just waiting for Malcolm Livingston, also a WD50 alum, who replaced her at Noma to open his own Mexican joint.

During the winter closing this young entrepreneur took off for Mexico on an extensive tour of eight states. Oaxaca to check on their corn suppliers then onto Merida, Tulum, Pueblo, Monterrey and also Cancun which she said” because I had to”. The girl from Chicago calls Copenhagen home now and when asked if she was planning to stay for the long run she said she didn’t know but for now she loves the city for its small town feel and feels part of the community. Her ten years in the industry and the long hours did not give much time for a personal life but during the last winter closing she says started dating and hoped that after her crazy schedule began she could still find the time…

Her stand is a requisite stop on any food tour of Copenhagen these days and though local and international chefs have been seen lining up for her tacos the one dream guest she is waiting for is Dubfire.

Hija de Sanchez

Hija de Sanchez

International press and media attention came from the moment  you announced your taco stand because of your association with Noma and Rene Redzepi. Did this attention put more pressure to be successful?

Absolutely, I felt a lot of pressure before I opened because I had just left Noma in March and in April I started working on the menu and in May we started doing pop ups and in June we opened for business. I felt it was all happening very fast and though it’s a taco shop and not a full-fledged restaurant because of my connection with Noma there were a lot of expectations so it was a lot of pressure!

Now things are going well and I look back and think that if you know what you are doing and not think too much about it but just stay true to who you are that is the best way. For me not focusing on all the pressure and people’s expectations and just doing what I am proud of was good for me.

What did you do after leaving WD50 and New York and then joining Noma in 2011?

I took some time to travel to Spain and worked as a stagiare for a few months at different places and then it was off to Noma. I worked at Paco Torre Blanca in Barcelona which is super classic because after WD I really wanted to work in a pastry shop. I wanted to experience that part of pastry to decide if I wanted to take that route. I figured out that I like the kind of dessert pastry served in a restaurant where it’s a little more fluid and the menu changes and the plating has to be perfect. It was a great experience for me though.

The cooking was more technical especially at WD and then at Noma so are you still using technical wizardry in your own kitchen?

I don’t use it because we are using very simple techniques and doing straightforward cooking, finishing and plating. The technical knowledge is good to have and to know how things work, and why. Knowing the basics especially when you are working with products that are manufactured, have modified starches, LBG gums etc. and understanding how to use them was good. At WD I was the pastry sous chef working with Alex Stupak who messed around a lot with trying not to use commercial stabilizers which are specifically made for pastry, sorbets or ice cream like glucose, gelatins, xantham gum and locust bean gum etc. Alex was trying to make his own mix to alter textures for the outcome that he wanted and a lot of those were failures but it was helpful towards understanding the cause and reaction of these additives in molecular gastronomy. I used a little bit of this knowledge at Noma, especially for ice creams when I decided what would give a nicer texture but I don’t use them at present.

Noma Food Lab, 2011

The food business especially restaurants are so unpredictable with a high possibility of failure. Were you apprehensive when you dived into the business with your first project and did starting on a small scale make it easier?

That is how I looked at it with my first venture because I wanted to figure it out and find out if that was the kitchen I wanted to be in. I had no experience of working in a taqueria and so I wanted to start with a taco stand to test the waters. I thought when I invest more into a restaurant I would have a clear idea of what functions. In the past my only experience has been working at kitchens with a totally different way of functioning than a taqueria. In the time since we first opened I have already learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

I had just left the Noma way of working and I wanted a little space to establish a clear identity for myself. Having something a little less permanent seemed ideal for me. This April we reopened the taco stand after the winter break as well as a more permanent place which is also a take away and in the same format. Opening the second place has been scary but we needed the space because the stand at the market is so temporary. Every year I have to work out a contract with the market that expires quickly and the second location will provide stability.

Your taqueria is in an exposed location at Torverhallen, so does the weather affect your operation?

Weather is HUGE! It’s a big factor in the winter time especially but even then on weekends this past winter we always had a line.

How about opening a full-fledged restaurant?

It’s funny but while working on the second spot I thought that it would be nice to have some chairs and then my mind traveled to using real dishes etc. At that point I caught myself from thinking that way because that would be a real restaurant.

Now that you are fully entrenched in the dining scene here, is Copenhagen going to be your permanent home?

I don’t really know but I have been really happy here though I work a lot and people in the industry would understand since we all work crazy hours. The community here has contributed to my being happy here; all the friends that I have made working at Noma have helped to make me feel at home. I like working here and hope my business is successful since I have opened recently as it’s too soon to tell but that will be a factor in my decision to stay. I like it here and haven’t thought about leaving anytime soon.

What happens if you meet someone from another part of the world?

It’s funny because I just started dating someone which is new for me because I have been single and focusing on work for ten years. I admit I have been trying to avoid a relationship and during the winter break when we closed for three months I started dating someone who I met here. Speaking of coincidences he is also from Chicago (laughing) not really but from Indiana. I have never been able to have a balanced life in that regard and so it’s a whole new experience for me.

What is a normal workday like for you? At Noma you worked five days a week and now that you own your business is it 24/7?

It’s true since I wake up real early to my phone, try to answer emails and set up appointments while still in bed and then head to the office to make sure things are happening at the pace that they should be. Now there are three locations since we have a prep kitchen, the stand at Torverhallen which is open seven days a week and the new take away in the meat packing area. The prep kitchen really needs to be functioning seven days a week.

Do you have a good team in place and are there a lot of women in your staff?

We hired a lot of new people and everyone looks bright eyed and bushy tailed and in the right zone. Of course proper guidance has to be given in order for them to succeed in our operation.

Last time I checked we had sixteen people out of which only two are males. Most of the people are from Mexico though there are a few Danes as well. I am so proud that we have so many women since a lot of them applied from Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, France, Bulgaria and all over. Some of them are part time and doing their own things on the side. One of the guys is studying for a master’s in environmental change so it’s a mixed bunch which is nice because sometimes when you get chefs they tend to be jaded. It’s an advantage to have people who have their own world and are doing this because they like to cook. At Noma most people were very career oriented and were chefs or wanted to be one and here we accept all kinds of people who might be studying business or something else.

Do you think we have a lot of unhealthy competition in this industry?

That is what I like about the people working with me that there are not rubbing shoulders or elbows to be the best. I don’t like that and we don’t need that either. When I left New York I wanted to be away from all that and was a little fed up with the layers that come with working in a city. Those layers being egos and who is who, which guy needs to be addressed as such and those were my observations as a young cook at 21 years of age.

Did that time and those experiences help you realize how you wanted to lead your own team?

Yes, I had seen people be egoistic and real jerks and didn’t want to be like that. Rene is also a good example for me and how he is so down to earth and will talk to anyone and everyone. Even now when I speak to people in New York or when they use assistants to talk to me I find it strange and don’t want to be like that. It’s shocking since even someone like Rene will not do that and always answers his phone or mail and is very respectful. Then when you see someone in New York who is not even close to that level have a huge ego and think much of themselves it’s disappointing I didn’t want to like one of those assholes.

Where did you acquire more practical knowledge about running your own operation? Was it WD50 or Noma?

Definitely at Noma because it’s more recent and it’s where I spent the most time. The other reason is that at Noma  you really look over the whole restaurant and not just your own pastry section and just working on whether your ice cream is crystallized or not. At Noma the whole team is in tune with what’s happening with the guests and what  is working or what needs to be fixed. Everyone is responsible to be intuitive of people and know what’s happening around the whole kitchen. For me that especially has been a huge influence and prepared me for what to expect and to be on top of everything.

At Noma I joke about “Welcome to Noma” and now you are responsible for this, that and sometimes all over the place but I really like that you are expected to be a part of everything. If you are in pastry you will go over to help in appetizer section if they need help. It’s so simple that you help your neighbor and that’s different in the States and other parts of the world.

Have all the associations and relationships you formed over the course of your career been helpful to you, and have you kept up with them?

I still have that association with people I have worked with over the years. I don’t think that when you meet a really good person in this industry you ever want to let go and tend hold onto them. Especially when you have the same ethics and I keep in touch with Alex Stupak and I recently ran into Wiley Dufresne and there are others I worked with there that I keep in touch.

What are your thoughts on events or forums that focus only on women, and do they encourage more discrimination in our industry?

They have a good motive and are creating an awareness with these forums but I also think that you are making the situation worse with these things. It would be better to make a forum and just include women in it. I respect the work put into organizing these events to change something in the industry. I got upset with a journalist once while I was at Noma because this person wanted to write about why there were no women chefs in the industry because one of the first interviews I ever did was about women chefs for the New York Times. That story mentioned Elena Arzak, Pamela Yung, and I while talking about where are all the women chefs. So ten years later when asked this question again I felt this topic about  women chefs was so tired, especially when all you had to do was find the women chefs because they are there.

Do you have a set schedule for changing your daily menus at the taqueria?

We try to keep to a schedule but sometimes it just depends on what comes in. Sometimes we can’t get an ingredient or something is available for example when we had the sea urchin taco that we only served at a certain time when the water is the right temperature and so we put it on the menu. Sometimes we can’t get any or enough veal tongue then we have to switch to something else instead of having a fixed day for it. There are issues with the butchers and if they don’t butcher any or enough animals to give you the quantity that you need.

Does this unpredictability and creativity bring in customers who look for the unexpected?

A lot of them love it and though we have a lot of regulars who come in not knowing what’s on the menu and love the surprise. It’s also the trust they have in us to try whatever we are offering believing that it will be good regardless.

Any fermentation or pickling in your kitchen since it’s a major focus at Noma and very Nordic?

Yes, we make pickled onions and pickled spicy jalapeños in the very classic way with vinegar and spices. We also ferment our habaneros for our dark habanero salsa.

Any ants in your tacos?

They are used in Mexican cuisine and called chicatanas or grilled flying ants but we don’t serve them as they are but we toast them al plancha and add lime juice, salt and tajin pepper and put them in a bowl on the counter for people to add if they like. That is how it is served in Mexico and we have done it a few times. We do make a taco with grasshoppers using spicy grasshoppers from Mexico which we toast and add cheese for flavor.

You have a lot of guest chefs visiting and serving their version of tacos with a twist, so who are some of the chefs visiting this year?

Last year we had a lot of friends come to cook and we don’t do it for money but just for fun and the tacos are very inexpensive so it’s not for profit. This year I do have about nine chefs who want to come and maybe they will all come. Sometimes when friends are coming to town I will ask if they want to cook and then we have them over. It’s not pretentious or anything but just fun.

Has Noma been the ultimate learning experience for you and is does it motivate you to experiment and keep evolving on a daily basis?

It has been amazing and that is why I stayed there for almost six years. I could have stayed longer because every year you try something new there and it’s all done with a good heart. You are trying to make delicious food but you are doing it cleverly with regards to ingredients. I applaud Rene for the way he takes on challenges such as moving into the new concept of Noma. I faced so many obstacles in opening my little taqueria and he has now taken a huge challenge.

Do many chefs and friends visit and hangout at your taqueria?

I feel like I see much more of them now and it’s everyone from Christian Puglisi from Relae to Rasmus Kofoed at Geranium. From Rene to Lars and cooks from different places all come to support me. I don’t feel any aggression or competition but rather a lot of support.

Where do you usually like to eat in town?

I love eating at Christian Puglisi’s places and usually go with whatever they are offering since they change their menus quite often.

What advice would have for a young cook with dreams of opening their own operation?

I would advise them to have a clear idea or a business plan, and a strong genuine soul to their idea and be sure they are doing what they want to do. It makes it a lot easier and worth it.

Are you in a happy place now?

It’s a good time in my life right now but super scary at the same time, especially the day we first opened was really scary because I was really putting myself out there. For so many years I was behind the scenes in Noma and they have a great success and I was part of it and then suddenly I was on my own. To be successful on my own was a huge load to take on but I try not to think about it too much and just concentrate on what I am doing day to day. I have pride behind what I am doing and I am doing what I want. If I fail then at least I tried to do what I wanted to do.

Would you give it all up for romance?

Oh no you are asking me that way to soon! It would be hard but who knows. When I left Noma I thought I would make a business where I could have a personal life. I met someone when we were closed and we had time to hang out so we will see how it works out with me working from eight to twelve every day now. Let’s see….


Guy Savoy: Magic in Paris

A version of this conversation was recently published in The Daily Meal.

Chef Guy Savoy

Chef Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy: Magician of French Cuisine

by Geeta Bansal

Guy Savoy, the celebrated Parisian chef and restaurateur, believes that cuisine is magic. In any conversation with him it is impossible  to be unaffected by his infectious enthusiasm for cuisine, France and especially the city of Paris. A red neon sign at his three Michelin-starred restaurant proclaims “Cooking is the art of instantly transforming historical products into pleasure.” For a French chef he is quite unconventional as evidenced by his modern art collection and minimalist yet elegant decor in his restaurants that juxtaposes with the classic techniques he favors to reimagine  ingredients. The original “Guy Savoy” restaurant, opened in 1980 and then was relocated in 2015 to the grandiose Hotel de Monnaie (the former French mint), where its ten-foot tall windows look out over the Seine. A regal red-carpeted staircase leads  guests into six sumptuous dining rooms with contemporary art on the walls and exquisitely laid tables. The affable chef is the consummate host, often dropping by to greet guests, regulars, and the who’s who of the town.

In new the light-filled kitchens in the heart of historical 18th century Paris, Savoy and his team attempt to make the ephemeral unforgettable for guests every day. Food lovers experience that special magic and finesse in the iconic truffle-laden iconic artichoke soup, the famous “Colors of Caviar”, the humble “Myriad of Peas” or other magical offerings.

The suave chef is intimately acquainted with the foodscape of his city since he owns multiple operations that range from his posh three Michelin-starred restaurant to less formal places to grab a bite without dropping a bundle of Euros. Savoy started the casual trend as early as 1988 with his bistro l’Etoile following more recently with an oyster bar, a boulangerie spinning out those delicious brioches served with his truffle/artichoke soup, a seafood restaurant (at the former location of his gastronomic restaurant), and a soon to open cafe at the Monnaie. Savoy’s other restaurants in Paris are Le Chiberta (one star), Les Bouquinistes, and l’Atelier Maitre Albert. The “Guy Savoy” restaurant at the Caesars Palace  in Las Vegas was recently recognized by Restaurant Magazine as one of the top ten restaurants in the U.S.

It has been 49 years since the Burgundy native began his career in the city of Paris. While he himself interned in the famous Troisgros kitchens in Roanne, a number of well-known chefs like Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Richard Ekkebus, and Alex Guarnaschelli have trained and worked in his kitchen. Guy Savoy was recently chosen as an ambassador of gastronomy by the French government to attract the international business community for events and meetings to the country. An avid art collector, his collections adorn his various restaurants and he is known to frequent art galleries in search of singular pieces to add to his well-curated collection.

Is your new location meeting all your expectations?

It was love at first sight on my first visit in November 2009… and love ever again when we opened in May 2015. We’re now situated at the heart of historical Paris, by the Seine.

What has been the most unexpected and pleasant surprise during this year for you?

I knew that most of our clients would follow us, but the unexpected surprise was to see that, even the neighbors who are working at the old address (18, rue Troyon 75017 Paris) come to La Monnaie de Paris regularly.

Have you acquired any new pieces of art specifically for the new restaurant?

Yes. We are now exhibiting works from the Pinault Collection, as well as a new work by Fabrice Hyber, titled  “Effervescence”

La Liste listed your Paris “Guy Savoy” as the 4th best restaurant in the world and now the World’s 50 Best has mentioned your Las Vegas restaurant as one of the ten best restaurants in the United States. Do these recognitions affect the flow of business and diners to your restaurants?

It is not evident on the flow of business in my restaurants, but it is such a good thing for the spirit of my teams.

You have rapidly opened a lot of new ventures and were they being planned over a long period of time?

They had been planned a long time ago, but with the delay at La Monnaie, everything seemed to arrive at the same time. The restaurant at la Monnaie should have opened long ago (three years and a half).

Over the past three decades how has your clientele changed?

No, I would say everybody has followed. It keeps renewing, but some of our guests have been with us since 1977 when we first opened.

Has the kitchen concept changed in any way at the new location?

No. It will keep evolving as it always did.

What do you enjoy most about cooking in the new kitchen?

The light and space, with the magnificent view over 18th-century Paris.

What are your latest creations on your summer menu at the restaurant? Is there a new contender for your soupe d’artichaut à la truffe noire et brioche feuilletée aux champignons et truffes or huîtres en nage glacée or your unforgettable pea soup?

There are many like the “Tomatoes in two services”, “Red mullet ‘swimming in the sea'”, “Surf spray and turf saddle and rack of lamb”.

Well-known chefs like yourself are opening casual eateries like your oyster bar or your latest brioche boutique. Is casual dining taking over the fine dining market?
No. I started this in 1988, with ‘Les bistrots de l’Etoile’. As for the brioche shop, it is just an answer to our guests who keep asking to buy our brioches.

You take pride in using the best French products. Is there a new product that you are using in the new kitchen or anything being produced exclusively for you?

Ours is the land of diversity. I have not gone through all the possibilities and riches of France, by far.

Are there dishes or ingredients on your menu that you would have not considered ten years ago?

There are a few products like seaweeds, shellfish (a few years ago I thought that oysters were the only high-quality shellfish), now I use clams, goose barnacle, etc. I also use parts of the beef like beef chuck that I wouldn’t have done earlier.

Do the tastes of chefs and diners change with changes in society? How has this changed your own food?

This is an eternal question: Is it the cook that changes the mind of the guests, or the opposite? It is like “the chicken or the egg” I think we are unconsciously inspired by the society and the time we are living in.

Are chefs more adventurous about introducing unexpected flavors, combinations, textures, and ingredients these days?

I don’t think so. We (the chefs) are lucky to work in a time where we can find so many different products. Chefs dare to express their sensibility on a technical basis. There are so many different styles on Earth.

You now have multiple operations in Paris. Have the recent tragic events affected your business?

Of course it has affected my business. Fortunately our Parisian guests (who are numerous in our restaurants) are still there but there is a decrease of tourists. I have to say that if the Parisians have such a choice of restaurants it is thanks to the tourists that enable the restaurants to work.

What would you say to tourists, especially gastrotourists, about continuing to come to your beautiful city?

I tell them that it is also risky to drive your own car in your own country. Life goes on.

Is the French government or tourism board providing sufficient support to promote French gastronomy?

It’s getting better. The power of gastronomy is now a real topic for our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius. And let’s not forget that we export over 11 billion € in wines and spirits.

Do you like guests constantly taking pictures in the dining room before savoring your exquisite cuisine? Is it proper etiquette, and when is a line crossed?

I don’t mind guests taking pictures in my restaurant. I just hope that the best memory they keep of their experience stays on their palate (all that a picture can’t do).

What’s the most pleasant change in French gastronomy in recent years? Do you like the toned-down dining rooms of today?

The change is not only in France but all over the world. There is a diversity that grows in regards of the plates, the decorations, the ambiance, the service (which is more friendly).

Was there any unusual request when President Obama dined at your restaurant? Any special incident or memory from that event?

The people who organized the dinner composed the menus a few days before. Because of a time issue, they decided to skip the  cheese course . President Obama asked for cheese during his meal and said “We are in France so I would like to eat cheese” and he did. The First Lady was not there, but when Mr. Obama was about to leave the restaurant he told me that he would come back with her the next time they visit Paris.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception regarding French cuisine?

(Smiling) I never pay attention to misconceptions.

Would you share some of your favorite places in the city of Paris with us?

Of course!


Some of my favorite restaurants, bars, and other haunts in Paris are:

Mama Shelter
109 Rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris, France

Mama Shelter

Mama Shelter


Les Bouquinistes
53 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris, France

Le Bouquinistes

Le Bouquinistes


I like to shop for groceries at Papa Sapiens
7 Rue Bayen, 75017 Paris, France

Papa Sapiens

Papa Sapiens


The bar of the Hôtel Raphaël. So British! I can contemplate a beautiful Turner before coming in.
17 Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris, France

Hotel Raphael Bar

Hotel Raphael Bar


And L’Aventure. So Parisian!
4 Avenue Victor Hugo, 75016 Paris, France


Other haunts in the city:

The beautiful Jardin des Plantes, the centuries old main botanical garden of France.
57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes

Quartier Latin – 5e Arrondissement

Rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire – 75005 Paris


The place Igor Stravinsky with the Stravinsky fountain created by Jean Tinguely et Niki de Saint Phalle.
Rue Brisemiche, 75004 Paris, France

I love visiting all the museums and art galleries and I enjoy theatre, but unfortunately my job does not allow me time however one of my regular guests for 30 years goes to the theatre 250 days a year. That goes to show the cultural richness of Paris.



​Nathan Myhrvold and his Modernist Cuisine

Nathan Myhrvold and Magnus Nilson

Nathan Myhrvold and Magnus Nilson

I have no hesitation in joining the ranks of food geeks or nerds especially if it leads to an invitation to dine at the Modernist Lab in Bellevue, Washington. It was an amazing meal that marked this years Cinco de Mayo with a Taco el pastor imprinted with an image of the guest of honor that night the very cool, long haired affable chef of Faaviken in Sweden. As I flew to Seattle on the day of the dinner I knew that the evening would be exciting with an opportunity to visit the inner sanctum of the high tech modernist cuisine proponent, Nathan Myhrvold. Having Magnus as a dinner companion made the evening even more unforgettable.

An ensuing conversation with Nathan Myhrvold who can expound on almost any subject under the sun was not only full of laughter but also accompanied by his very frank opinions about any subject we touched upon. He chortled when I said I could listen to him for hours and it is not hard to do considering the many disciplines he is involved in. His crew being quite aware of the possibility rolled their eyes leaving me with the impression that it had happened before, probably many times.

The interview as published in The Daily Meal.

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold and his Concept of Modernist Cuisine

by Geeta Bansal

Nathan Myhrvold has a natural exuberance and generosity in his laughter, the food that he occasionally serves to the lucky few who make it to one of the rare dinners in his Modernist Lab, and in sharing his ideas or opinions of which he has many. In a nondescript office park in Bellevue, on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington, the doors to The Intellectual Ventures Lab open into Myhrvold’s private imaginarium. Within this 87,000sf space the Modernist Kitchen serves as the crucible where food ideas and techniques are tested and opinions floated. The former Chief Technology Officer and Strategist of Microsoft is the founder of Intellectual Ventures, a private invention marketplace. This physicist, inventor, author, scientist, trailblazer, philanthropist, and self-confessed geek is undoubtedly very smart, considering he pursued a post-doctoral research fellowship under Steven Hawking. A close friend of Bill Gates, his former boss, Myhrvold has a penchant for challenging experts in any field. A considerable fortune assists his large-scale hobbies that include researching dinosaurs, which led him a few years ago to challenge a scientific report on the growth rate of dinosaurs. Controversies about Intellectual property and patent collecting business aside, he is probably more well-known for his forays into the science behind food and avant-garde cooking than for paleontology, oceanography, history, or nuclear science and a multitude of other disciplines that interest him.

Myhrvold the perfectionist added a culinary degree to his master’s degrees in space, geophysics, mathematical economics, and a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics. A sabbatical from Microsoft to attend Ecole de Cuisine la Varenne, a French cooking school in Burgundy, was preceded by a stage at a local Seattle restaurant as a requirement for admission. You have to give him credit for never resorting to half measures. For many “food geeks” Myhrvold’s encyclopedic “Modernist Cuisine” published in 2011 is the new go to cookbook/reference book for professional cooks. The six volume and 2400-or-so-pages-heavy tome requires physical as well as literary fortitude to stick with the elaborations of the pure science of cooking not forgetting the $625 price tag.

Myhrvold, whose can trace his own Nordic heritage all the way back to his great great grandfather Johan Adolfus Svendeson Myhrvold who migrated to Minnesota in 1878, recently hosted an intimate dinner at his lab to honor famed Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson. The unusual setting of the dinner in the middle of an active laboratory researching and elaborating on food techniques with its team of chefs and in house sommelier set the tone for the twenty three course gustatory experience. Prior to the dinner the small group was privy to an informational lecture along with stunning slides and interesting anecdotes of the teams visit to the Svalbord Seed vault in Norway. Visuals from the next book Modernist Bread: The Art & Science to be released next year accompanied interesting bits of information gleaned by his team during their exhaustive research.

Ferran Adria, Massimo Bottura, Andoni Aduriz, and Anthony Bourdain have also graced the tables in the Modernist Lab. Myhrvold, who attributes his interest in food to Ferran Adria and his many visits to El Bulli, when asked about why he hosts these events said, “We want to tell people that we can cook” and a recent dinner there proved that they certainly can.

Why did you choose Modernist Cuisine as the title of your book, and what is modernist cooking?

It is cooking that is using modern ideas and modern techniques. It’s not trying to be the past and that is the simplest definition of it. It’s cooking that is just focused on saying we can do new things as opposed to the ideas that cooking should be about the past and authenticity is the most important thing. Everything in cooking was invented at some point so it is not in the air and water but it is a human invention.

How long does anything remain modern or current because a split second later it’s already the past?

That is a really important point. If you asked an art critic what modern art was they would have a similar idea or response. If you are in a museum of modern art you will see things from the 1920’s which is not terribly modern but at the time it was really modern.
You are investigating the science behind cooking and you have considerably weighty books in print. Even your book on bread that is in the works is probably the same if not even more expansive.

You are investigating the science behind cooking and you have considerably weighty books in print. Even your book on bread that is in the works is probably the same if not even more expansive. Why not choose a digital dissemination of information?

I really like books and in fact have always loved books and think there is something wonderful about a physical paper book. We go to all this trouble and do all the incredible work on the books, take these beautiful pictures and then to just stick it on a website comes with two problems. First that we can’t make any money back from it or it would be very difficult to and second it just isn’t the same experience as holding a physical book. For the same reason I could say why don’t we just take nutrition pills, vitamins and protein powder and we will be just fine. People are doing this stuff called soylent which a disgusting soy milk shake you drink instead of ingesting real food.

We could but it wouldn’t be much fun!

Is there any particular cookbook that has impressed you during your foray into cooking?

There are tons of good books and I hate playing favorites because for one thing people might get mad at me and the other is that there are too many wonderful books out there. I certainly think those like Rene Redzepi’s book and Magnus Nilsson’s books are important. Especially Magnus since he has a tiny restaurant out in the middle of nowhere and in order for him to have an impact on the gastronomes and chefs of the world and in light of the fact that most people who would like to eat in his restaurant never will it is significant. That is why it is important for him to publish and that is also an element of our strategy here. We think it is really important for us to write books in order to influence more people and have a bigger impact on the world of cooking than if we tried to have a little restaurant in Bellevue, Washington.

You are also very keen on photography and have come out with a book on it. In fact all of your books have some amazing images. Is such visualization important to stimulate interest in food?

I think that people like looking at pictures of food and it is a part of getting people interested in our books. Some of the images in our books are pure science and that can be scary for people. Some of the things are very technical, especially some cooking techniques that are so advanced that they are meant for professional chefs like Redzepi or Magnus. In order to make the book accessible to people we used pictures as a universal language. The pictures interest you and then you think about looking up more stuff and pretty soon you have sucked them in. It’s a very important point that in order for us to make cooking techniques, ideas and science accessible we make them visual and pretty.

You have so many passions and varied interests ranging from paleontology , photography, history, scientific research, and food, but which particular aspect of cuisine interests you the most? Is it the creation, or the comprehension, the process, or the invention?

You left out my favorite part, consumption because I love to eat!

Sometimes I get asked if now since I know so much about food if it’s impossible for me to enjoy it anymore. No, I love it, it’s more fun because I have the understanding. By the way there are still a lot of things I still don’t understand. It’s all important and they are all things that I love and food to me is about all of that stuff. It is understanding and figuring things out. There is a great pride in making food and people like to make food and I like to because it’s fun and comes with a feeling of accomplishment. It also feels great to serve food to others and have them appreciate it.

You referred to the reformation of cuisine. Can you elaborate?

Most fields have gone through periods of trends as well as big new movements. Modern art and Modern architecture are really good examples and it happened even in poetry, literature, and painting. Many schools like the French impressionist school of painting for example came up with their own vision, there were many schools of painting and each one came up with their own new vision. That strangely did not occur in food and most of  the twentieth century was about the emergence of new art forms like bold new architecture and same for other fields, but we did not have a bold new phase in food and cooking. The closest we came to that was as late as the 1970’s when the French Nouvelle cuisine movement began and that was a shocking thing within France.

It was considered wacky, bold and horrible because people don’t like when you change stuff. Just as the French Impressionist paintings had been viewed as ugly when they first emerged. Everything else in the human culture and aesthetics went through this big revolution and metamorphosis. During the revolution in French Nouvelle cuisine they went from being revolutionaries to winning very quickly and then they stopped there and there wasn’t another movement right afterward. In art there was a continual effect of new movements like Picasso bringing Cubism and then came Surrealism and other forms. This change in food only happened in Spain where chefs like Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arzak, and Joan Roca rose to the top of the revolution. In the 80’s Ducasse and Robuchon were at the top but there wasn’t another French chef after them to start another revolution to overthrow them. In Spain the chefs I mentioned wanted to emulate the French but unlike them the Spaniards kept innovating. They developed this new avant-garde, modernist type of cooking in Spain and then suddenly they were at the top of the heap.

Heston Blumenthal started cooking this way in the UK and then it came to the U.S. Then the Scandinavian chefs started cooking this way too so I view all of these movements as modernist. Like modernism in art they are about creating a new thing though inspired by the past. They were not slavishly following the past just like this new movement in Scandinavia which I consider to be modernist even though they might be cooking with old techniques they are still their own and not French. Not that there is anything wrong with French cooking!

So I think this movement has been very powerful just like the reformation in Christianity or art in the earlier part of the twentieth century.

Has this change given freedom of expression to people in cuisine?

It has given tremendous freedom and allowed people to create. They get to do what they want and no one can stop them like for example Nordic cuisine which has been embraced. Customers are lining up, it has helped the economy and brought in more tourist trade. It has also prompted other guys to open restaurants. The impact of these Nordic chefs like Nilsson or Redzepi is not just their restaurants but it’s also putting their countries on the map and encouraging other chefs to do cool things.

Since you had Magnus Nilsson as your guest of honor and in light of your own heritage, what is your perception of Nordic cuisine?

The important aspect of Nordic cuisine according to me is that they are doing it and I draw the connection back to the Spanish chefs like  Ferran Adria, Joan Roca, Juan Mari Arzak . Prior to their work the only way would have been to be French or copying the French. The Spaniards created a model whereby they could be doing their own thing and still create great cuisine. Rene Redzepi and Magnus Nilsson and then at Maaemo in Oslo along with other chefs set out to make a New Nordic cuisine  and it’s a fantastic thing. Rather than cook like they were in Paris they decided to cook their own thing though they took inspiration from Nordic ingredients, history  and it’s a creative cuisine that is evolving. The idea that anyone would go on a food tour of Scandinavia would have been a joke twenty years ago. You would have eaten rotten shark or herring, and now people are going there on food trips because these guys are cooking up a storm.

Have these Nordic chefs changed direction in recent years and have they begun using more regional ingredients and techniques?

I’m not sure that is true. One of the things about creating your own cuisine is that  you can do whatever you want and take your own direction. While it’s great to use Nordic ingredients and traditions most Nordic cuisine is not authentic in any reasonable way. It’s not about your grandmothers Nordic cuisine it’s a totally new thing. I mentioned at the dinner that there are Nordic chefs making fish sauce which is commonly associated with Southeast Asia. Now they are making it with Scandinavian fish, which of course will ferment just as the Southeast Asian fish does since there is no trick to that.

Going back to Nordic ingredients, there is an interesting challenge of working with things that are only available in the Nordic countries. There is an ethical challenge but at the end of the day I don’t think that some appeal to localism or regional ingredients makes much sense. For example Tim Wendelboe is a Norwegian who by many coffee lover’s standards makes the best coffee in the world. He selects, roasts and brews at his shop in Oslo. This for me is the definition of great coffee and whenever I am even remotely in the vicinity I make it a point to visit. Since coffee doesn’t grow there so should he not be doing this? Of course not, because people in Scandinavia drink it and it’s a wonderful tradition in the region.

Another example is that as a child I could not figure out why traditional Swedish baked goods have cardamom. I looked it up and found it comes from India and was surprised that these spice cookies were still Swedish cookies. In the Middle Ages all throughout Europe spices were a really big deal and Europeans were fascinated by them. The spice trade was what Columbus and other great explorers set out for on their travels. So the question is: Are cardamom cookies traditional Swedish cookies and I would say they are since they are made in Sweden for a couple hundred years. But is cardamom Swedish? Hell no! And I don’t see a contradiction in that.

Is this a current trend with chefs talking about going back to their roots or bringing back lost or forgotten ingredients to their kitchens?

There is an element of this which is very much about being trendy and I totally agree with that. However there are other motivations. I think it fine to rise to the challenge of using these ingredients and it is trendy. Sometimes people wind up fixating a little more on the trend than they do on other things. One aspect is that many people who go to Noma or many other such restaurants somehow fantasize about this and the notion that there is an element of tradition in it. There may be an element of tradition in the inspiration or even the techniques but it is not your grandfather’s Danish restaurant. This is a new wonderful thing and it’s novelty is something we should celebrate and not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

What do you think about all the international conferences and events these days? Are they also contributing to this progression of cuisine?

Absolutely, these conferences like MAD or Madrid Fusion, the Internet, the fact that people can find out about new things so easily and quickly help in this process. If people like Magnus had to wait twenty years before the world discovered him he would have a lot harder time. Though he did have to wait before the world discovered him but probably not as long as Ferran Adria who started cooking in a bar and grill that was part of a golf course in 1983. It took a long time before the world of foodies found him. Other young chefs have been found earlier in their careers because of the media, conferences, the present worldwide interest in food, writers like you covering all of this have got a role in this as well.

You are fond of the term “nerd”. Is that the target audience for your books?

I don’t want to apply one label to everybody because there are actually a lot of different folks with different ideas. Certainly the biggest set of people we are targeting are those that label themselves as foodies and are into food. They may or may not be cooks or at the level we were cooking at the dinner the other night. Without a lot of such people being interested in food it would not be possible for any of this to happen. There are lot of other segments besides customers consuming food that are important so I don’t have a word for “food nerds” but yes I am one. When I use the term nerd I mean that I am a science guy so a lot of my approach to cooking is pretty much about science and technology. There are a lot of people in the food world who love food but they don’t come about it naturally from that point of view because they don’t consider themselves as science sort of people.

There is widespread perception that when science and technology are applied to food, taste and flavor are lost in the process. Is that a valid criticism?

I think that is bullshit, but maybe that’s just me. There is this stereotype that if science is involved it somehow takes the soul out of cooking or that it is not about the ingredients any more. In almost every walk of life people will come up with trends, words and ideas which tend to get overused. This is a good example because there is wonderful insight into food that you can get from traditional ideas and ingredients by themselves can be totally wonderful and I agree with that. It’s like the pea soup which we served at the dinner where we have taken an ingredient and enhanced the taste and not detracted from the essence of it.

You are often criticized for research into food techniques which do not benefit a broader cross section of society. For example not everyone out there knows of a sous-vide or a centrifuge. You are also researching many other fields that many people are not aware of. Any response to that?

In our case we do the food projects and are famous for the crazy, big cookbook and intense focus on food like you experienced at the dinner. What we are aiming to do with that is just creating the best food experience that we can. We have lots of other projects at Intellectual Ventures that are directly aimed at the Third World and at helping people to not starve to death example our projects aimed at food in Africa and that I feel is an important area. A problem like famine is of course different from trying to make the world’s best pea soup which is not going to save the world. Our projects at Intellectual Ventures like fixing the world’s energy problem and dealing with climate and global warming are important because they have consequences on people’s lives. At the same time we are also dealing with things in a personal sense like my passion for food and cooking in the Modernist Lab.

Talking about your forthcoming book on bread, you mentioned an electron microscope that could detect gluten strands, so are you looking into the gluten intolerance that seems to be afflicting a large cross section of people these days?

What we have done is two things in the book. For one we covered what is known scientifically about gluten and gluten intolerance and then we also have a chapter on gluten free bread recipes. To be honest these are two different things because a lot of this gluten intolerance is self-diagnosed and there is potentially no scientific evidence that it’s correct. I think people should eat whatever it is they want to eat and I don’t like telling people what they should eat. Personally I don’t think that is my job. One of the things that is true about this gluten free movement is that a lot of the people who are in it don’t have that point of view. They want to proselytize and tell people not to eat gluten because it’s terrible for you. You have to be correct before saying that but unfortunately they are not because there is no scientific evidence to back them up. In our book we provide gluten-free recipes because there is a lot of interest and there are people who do have celiac disease or other medical conditions and should not consume gluten. So we have some of the best gluten free recipes that I have ever tasted. I also think gluten and bread have been unfairly demonized by people who are proclaiming something they believe in or they want to sell books.

You visited the global seed vault in Svalbord , Norway while researching your bread book. Other than the frost nip on your nose, what else impressed you about this project?

It is an amazingly cool place and we went dog sledding and it was a fun experience. I think it’s awesome that someone has gone to the trouble of making a doomsday seed vault to save us all in case some major shit hits the fan. It’s one these places you hope the world will never need and that would be everyone’s hope. It’s great that someone actually put the passion, energy, and money into doing it. I am proud to be part of a society broadly speaking that has the foresight to do that even though I hope that it is totally pointless, a complete waste of money and we never have such a catastrophe and need the seed vault because we have destroyed the planet. It’s great that someone planned ahead just like the building I am in has fire sprinklers which I hope never have to be used.

The other message behind the seed vault is that we tend to take so many parts of our food system for granted and that is one of the reasons our food system is so screwed up. In all the musings over what would happen in case of a catastrophe how many people are thinking about seeds we will need to plant to feed the world? It is a great example of recognizing the importance of something we take for granted.

Since we are talking about seeds, what are your thoughts on the subject of GMO’s and the controversy with the seed vault?

I am not sure what the GMO controversy involves in this case but generally speaking throughout history people have been freaked out by changes to food. People were afraid that new things were bad for them and even tomatoes were viewed with skepticism when they first came to Europe from the New World. Part of it was because the leaves looked like deadly night shade family which they were. Tomatoes are not bad for you but very well-meaning people over a period of two hundred years were skeptical about them.

Ironically the place where they were most outraged and took a lot of time to accept them was what is now Tuscany which seems ludicrous now. The food in Tuscany now revolves around tomatoes. A lot of the worry about GMO’s is way overboard in my opinion.

Does it stem from a fear of the unknown?

Food particularly seems to freak people out and fear of the unknown about food is worse than in any other case because we actually put it into our bodies. People who are against GMO’s are typically not against anything that actually happened. What they are afraid of is that there will be some scenario like the Godzilla movie and suddenly some GMO in the future destroys the world or kills us. The GMO’s that exist today have all been proven scientifically to be safe. It’s just this question of “could it be” and maybe it could, that is why this whole issue, I think, is overblown a bit. It is a choice and if someone doesn’t want to eat them then they have a right not to do so. What bugs me it when people go out and tell the world and frighten them by saying they are dangerous especially when they have not been proven so.

Do you view food as medicine?

Food is essential for our existence and certainly there are some foods known to have medicinal properties. I am sympathetic to the idea of food as medicine but we haven’t focused on that. In our book we have focused on the other aspect of food and health which is foods that are bad for you. We have found that scientific evidence of foods that are bad for you is contrary to the popular conception. For example lot of people think that dairy products, meats are terrible for you and there is really no scientific evidence of that. In fact in the 1970’s and 80’s food companies unwittingly promoted poly unsaturated fats or fake fats as being good for us while animal fats were bad. It’s turned out that these manufactured fats or trans fats were really bad for us so there is a history of bad stuff being touted as good for us contrary to the facts. If you actually care about fats this is a very troubled history.

What do want your contribution to food or legacy to be?

Personally I hope my legacy does not start for a long time (laughing) and I don’t want to think about it for now so I can’t say what it will be. All I can say that we certainly have tried to make a book that covered food in a very different way than all other cookbooks out there. By the way it also happens to weigh more than any of them out there!

A lot of people have resonated with that and we have been able to communicate things about food that I think are useful to people regardless of whether they are a foodie or a chef trying to cook simple food, but are yet very curious about it. So hopefully we will continue to make books that people find useful.

Any unrealized dream out there?

(this was responded to by guffaws of laughter)

I will quote Lord Byron:”Man’s reach exceeds his grasp what the heaven for”.

Incidentally the lines are from Robert Browning’s poem Andrea del Sarto

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?

Whoever the poet, in this instance the words succinctly express Myhrvold’s thought.

Travelogue Spring/Summer of 2016

With Chefs Nathan Myhrvold and Magnus Nilsson

With Chefs Nathan Myhrvold and Magnus Nilsson

My quest for food experiences and those who influence the world of food has recently taken me to Seattle, Washington, Nice, Monte Carlo, Menton, Cannes in France, and Ventimiglia in Italy in May and the early part of June thus far this year. Mid-June I headed to New York City for the first and apparently the last for now World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards (and all the events around it) that had moved from across the pond. I was back home in time to meet with Alice Waters for a most interesting dialogue, and then it was off to the city by the bay (San Francisco), the picturesque Half Moon Bay, and Napa Valley to enjoy some wonderful meals and meet with some amazing chefs.

An invitation to a dinner to honor Magnus Nilsson of Faaviken in Sweden at the Modernist Lab home of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine and cookbook took me to Seattle. It was an incredible experience from the moment I arrived at the nondescript office park on the Microsoft campus in Bellevue on the outskirts of Seattle. The twenty three course intimate dinner served to the fourteen guests included a Taco el Pastor (it was Cinco de Mayo) with a laser etched image of Magnus on the taco that definitely broke the ice amongst the small group. Seated next to the usually reticent  Magnus I saw the consternation followed by amusement on his face as he gamely folded the taco with his face on it and took a bite. Daniel Burns of Lukshon and Torst in NYC and I suggested he should ask the host to make him a pack to take home to his three young children. Magnus said he was not quite sure what they would make of it. An interview with Nathan Myhrvold and a story on the dinner will follow soon.

My dear friend Mauro Colagreco chef patron of Mirazur, France is celebrating his restaurants tenth anniversary with ten guest chef dinners at his restaurant over the next few months. Last  October he came to my restaurant and cooked a collaborative dinner with me to celebrate my restaurants 30th anniversary. In the absence of any family anywhere in the world my friends around the world are my family, always beside me when I need them and I cherish each and everyone of them. It was a given that I would go at least to the first two dinners in this celebratory series. David Kinch of Manresa the three Michelin starred restaurant in Los Gatos , California initiated the dinners with an elegant multi course repast. The Daurade sashimi and the crostillant of foie gras, the caramel of chèvre on the vanilla glacé had my dinner companion Julia Colagreco and me ready to beg for seconds. David and Mauro have been friends for over fifteen years when they met in the kitchens of a restaurant in Toulouse, France. Colagreco and he have cooked together in each other’s kitchens on numerous occasions during this time.

David Kinch's Loup de Mer

David Kinch’s Loup de Mer

The next day after a morning shopping trip to the Ventimiglia produce market across the border with Kinch and Colagreco in Italy we all (the Colagrecos, their son Valentin, and Kinch with his team members) set off for Cannes and a boat ride to the Ile Sante Marguerite. We landed on the picturesque shore to walk into La Guerite a relaxed beach restaurant, with sand underfoot, sunlight filtering through the canopy overhead  leaving the views of Cannes over the water to enjoy over the next several hours. The festive live music, the Nebuchadnezzar’s of wine (yes, at almost every table) and Chef Yiannis Kioroglou’s amazing food inspired by his Greek heritage and the exceptional produce of the region made for a memorable afternoon that extended into evening. David and Mauro checked out a few yachts for fantasy purchases and then we headed back to Menton for a late night meal at Mirazur. I saw Yiannis two days later in the Mirazur kitchen when he could not make it in time from his island retreat for a seat at Redzepi’s dinner. I think he will soon be flying to Copenhagen for the experience.

The following morning the team from Noma arrived for guest chef Rene Redzepi’s dinner the next day. After a meal at Louis XV during the hoopla over the Grand Prixe in Monte Carlo it was back to the kitchen to prep and then dine at Mirazur that night. Colagreco’s exquisite cuisine following the grand meal in the afternoon actually blew everyone away. No surprise the two-starred Michelin Colagreco moved from #11 to #6 two weeks later in NYC at the world’s 50 Best awards. It was a joy to be with them in the moment to celebrate their well-deserved success.

David Kinch and Mauro Colagreco

David Kinch and Mauro Colagreco

I enjoyed a very interesting conversation at the dinner table with the team from Noma about our industry and people and after Mauro joined in we were there till the early hours of the morning. I will be seeing them again soon in August at MAD5 in Copenhagen. Redzepi though somewhat under the weather hunkered down next day to prepare one of the most brilliant meals from the Noma team that I have enjoyed. It surpassed my last meal in the private dining room at Noma last October which was one of the best I had all of last year.

The next evening began with the most excited diners I have seen entering the restaurant and the guest list included well-known chefs from all over Europe. Such is the charisma of Rene Redzepi not to mention the fact that reservations at Noma are not easily acquired especially since Redzepi announced the closing in December to reopen in another location in 2017/2018.

It was a magical evening and there was a spirit of camaraderie in the air and the dining room. One after another beautiful plates appeared along with wine pairings. Redzepi and Colagreco first met in 2005 in London for an evening with grand chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adria, Andoni Aduriz and conjectured that the two of them were thrown in the mix as young chefs to add interest. Nevertheless the two hit it off and have been friends since.

The evening began with a rhubarb rose, followed by a radish tart and ten more courses and I watched the faces around the table that included well known French chefs , transfixed and amazed. Several guests commented  that they didn’t want the evening to end, but it did, leaving us all wanting more. Chef Jean Luc Rabanel from Arles was so happy to see me and I was touched that he still appreciates  the story I wrote about him a few years ago. I couldn’t visit this time but maybe in October when I will be back in France. All good food events end in the kitchen and it was chock a bloc with Michelin chefs vying to take pictures with Redzepi over the jumble of languages in play along with the free flowing  Billecart Salmon champagne. These are some memorable moments and hard to put in words. The night ended well into the early hours and the next morning after an early breakfast the Noma team headed back.

With Rene Redzepi and Mauro Colagreco

With Rene Redzepi and Mauro Colagreco

While in Monte Carlo I visited JimmyZ the hottest new nightclub adjacent to Alain Ducasse’s Pit Stop and Trattoria  with my two partners in crime. Time flew by leaving magical memories to cherish and revisit and on the long trip back home I reflected on relationships, special people in my life. Redzepi commented that I was home anyplace in the world and can count on friends just about anywhere, and I agree that I am very fortunate to have all of these wonderful people in my life.

Soon it was time for the biggest party in the food world in New York on June 13th and I headed to my former home. The first morning at breakfast in the NoMad hotel it was wonderful to see all the familiar faces from around the world and be greeted with kisses and warm embraces by some of the nicest people I have the good fortune to know. Elena Arzak, Massimo Bottura, Sven Elverfeld, Jose Andres, and the room kept filling up with the who’s who but then one of my favorite chefs Alain Passard waved and beckoned me over to the group of French Chefs that included Pierre Herme. Soon the Mexican group walked in followed by Mitsuharu of Maido and Virgilio of Central in Lima. It continued for the next few days with familiar faces of Wylie Dufresne, Dan Barber and other New York chefs dropping by to meet and greet their friends. I spent the afternoon the day before the awards with Massimo Bottura and his lovely wife Lara and conversing over lunch at Danny Meyers new restaurant Untitled at the Whitney Museum. That amazing conversation will be coming up in the next few weeks.

The evening of the awards at a cocktail reception in the NoMad library before we were transported in sprinter vans to the Cipriani Wall Street for the awards there were dressed up chefs, with spouses getting a bite and few drinks. I joined Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco and his lovely wife for a cocktail and were digging into fried chicken, fries, crudités, etc. when Massimo Bottura came over and we plied the anxious chef with some food since he had missed lunch that day. Jordi Roca and wife were into some serious PDA moments. There were anxious faces including Massimo Bottura and the Roca brothers, especially since they were both contenders for the number one spot. A spiffily dressed Dominique Crenn reminded me of a brunette Ellen, all ready to take to the stage to accept her World’s Best Female Chef award. The evening ended with a jubilant and emotional Bottura on stage. It was wonderful to see everyone celebrate, though some did not achieve the position they had hoped for but to make it into the top 50 or even the top 100 restaurants is an achievement. Joshua Skenes from Saison, his wife and I had traveled together along with Mitsuharu Tsumura and Virgilio Martinez with wife Pia Leon to the event, and just a few hours later it was wonderful to see them victorious and celebrate their happiness with them.

These rankings are very subjective and in no way the last world on who is the best since it is hard to justify term in the very competitive industry. Some chefs were notably missing including Alex Atala of DOM, Sao Paolo, chef Rene Redzepi of Noma whose restaurant dropped to #5 this year, David Thompson and a few more. Eleven Madison at #3 ended up as the best restaurant in the U.S which did not surprise many. Next year with the awards moving to Melbourne it will probably be some Australian restaurants in the top ten and we will wait and see.

After Party at Eleven Madison

After Party at Eleven Madison

The bar at NoMad was bursting at the seams with journalists and chefs over the days leading up to the event which was followed by a roof top barbeque courtesy of the Aussie chefs next morning as an introduction to next year’s awards event in Melbourne. The NoMad hotel is run by the Eleven Madison team who had hosted many of their friends from around the world. They also hosted one of the after parties at Eleven Madison where chefs not at the awards like Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud joined the crazy partying throngs. The bar was almost inaccessible so we headed to the kitchen for Perrier-Jouet accompanied by bites of the whole roast pig and tiny hot dogs. There were people dancing on the table in the middle of the normally elegant and formal restaurant and we all watched as it was being literally trashed and the cleanup later that night must have been a bitch. The overjoyed Massimo and Lara walked in to a champagne shower courtesy of Mauro Colagreco who got real handy with a case of Perrier Jouet. The sedate Alain Ducasse with whom both Massimo and Mauro Colagreco worked at one time did not escape the fizzy shower. I will never forget Daniel Boulud trying to take a video on his I phone of the bacchanalian festivities over the crowd!

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Needing some serious R&R, I headed to the beautiful Ritz Carlton resort at Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco on the scenic coastline of California. The incredible views were matched by superb service and an amazing dinner at their Navio restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Jason Pringle. The next few days took me to Napa and a meeting with chef Christopher Kostow of the three Michelin starred The Restaurant at Meadowood. That interview along with conversations with chefs Mourad Lahlou of Mourad and Aziza, Chef Michael Tusk of Quince and Cotogna will also be coming up soon. Chef Joshua Skenes’ Saison (the Michelin starred restaurant that jumped to number #27 in the 50 Best list this year) is the subject of a profile along with the most interesting take on the food industry that will also appear soon.

Now I must hunker down and catch up on my stories!

Paris Mon Amour!: 4 Top Chefs of Paris, Gourmet Magazine

Paris, the city of lights and love, the epicenter of French gastronomy where millions of visitors from all over the world flock to satisfy their gustatory cravings. It’s the city with a veritable galaxy of restaurants helmed by some of the most celebrated chefs in the world who set the tone for gastronomy even in far flung corners of the globe. Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Anne-Sophie Pic, and David Toutain share their insider secrets and their favorite locations in Paris to spend their rare moments of leisure.

Paris - Swedish Gourmet 1Paris - Swedish Gourmet 2Paris - Swedish Gourmet 3Paris - Swedish Gourmet 4Paris - Swedish Gourmet 5Paris - Swedish Gourmet 6Paris - Swedish Gourmet 7Paris - Swedish Gourmet 8Paris - Swedish Gourmet 9Paris - Swedish Gourmet 10