On a grey day in March, 1985, Albert Adrià, age fifteen, dropped out of school and left home to join his brother Ferran in the kitchen at elBulli, on the Costa Brava of Spain. Ferran had only been there a year, and the restaurant was not yet the temple of groundbreaking gastronomy it would soon become.
Albert remained at elBulli for twenty-three years, taking charge of pastries in 1987, then heading up the workshop where culinary experiments were run. He and his brother became leaders of the molecular trend by pioneering techniques from foam to spherification. At Ferran’s side, Albert helped turn elBulli into the most famous restaurant on the planet, and Spain into the culinary capital. With his extraordinary re-creations of nature, he earned a reputation as the most imaginative pastry chef of his generation.
But it’s not easy working for the world’s best-known restaurant, nor for an older sibling. It is only since leaving elBulli that Albert has really come into his own, as an equal partner with his brother in a number of wildly successful ventures in Barcelona, including Tickets, a circus-like tapas bar, and 41o Experience, a cocktail bar with music, lights, and the fireworks of their cuisine.
With his puckish features and goat-like beard, Fredrik Andersson looks like someone you might find on a mountaintop. Fortunately, you can track him down at ground level, in Enskededalen, a leafy suburb of Stockholm. This is where he and his partner moved their restaurant, Mistral, a few years ago, in order to be closer to the source of their biodynamic products. (While in Stockholm, they had a Michelin star.) He builds his menus from the best-quality local ingredients of the moment, furnished by three nearby farms and the woods where he forages: herbs and flowers, wild fish, game and birds. His minimalist and vegetable-driven cooking reflects the current Nordic sensibility, while the unforgiving local climate only juices his creativity.
Iñaki Aizpitarte is never quite where you expect him to be. Though he grew up in France, he discovered cooking in Israel. He comes across as lackadaisical, yet created the buzziest bistro in Paris. Then this renegade chef snagged one of the most prestigious distinctions in France, the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
The eye-pleasing, notoriously unpredictable Basque chef was born the youngest of five in a modest French household. Rather than attend university, he drifted from job to job, and in his late twenties went to Tel Aviv and fell into the restaurant business while working as a dishwasher, then a cook. When he returned to Paris via Latin America he continued learning in various kitchens before opening his own bare-bones bistro, Le Chateaubriand, followed a few years later by Le Dauphin, a Rem Koolhaas-designed French tapas bar.
A marvelously instinctive chef, Aizpitarte creates simple, finely-executed dishes marrying strong flavors in unlikely combinations—mackerel with lychees, say, or red berry piperade. This is fine dining on a budget, the central tenet in the contemporary French movement known as bistronomie. It is often stunningly good. And as hard to predict as his personality.
Modest practices science and nature In cooking – a cuisine which is state of the art, driven by experimentations on textures and alternative ways of cooking, but exploring the real, eternal taste of Polish nature In each one of his creations.
Though raised a city boy in São Bernardo do Campo, Alex Atala often went with his father to fish for dinner in the ocean and pick fruit in the rainforest. He has always been, as he says, an “independent personality,” and at age 14 he left home for good to join São Paolo’s rock and roll scene. After working as a DJ, he took off once again, backpacking through Europe. In Belgium he enrolled in catering school just to get a visa, and there he discovered his calling as a chef.
Atala perfected his skills in some of Europe’s top kitchens before returning to São Paulo and opening a gastronomic table named D.O.M. — Latin for “To God, Best and Greatest.” (In return, the heavens blessed him with the fourth slot on the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.) At D.O.M. he applies haute cuisine technique to indigenous products such an enormous freshwater fish called pirarucu. More recently he opened Dalva e Dito, a modern take on Brazilian grandmother food.
With his dimpled smile and reddish beard, his torso graced by nipple rings and tattoos peaking out from under his whites, Atala seems to be pure testosterone. But there is a caring nature underneath the he-man physique. He once acquired 57,000 acres of rainforest in order to protect it, and he researches sustainable new food products for the benefit of Amazonian tribes. Priprioca, for example, is a fragrant root normally used in cosmetics; Atala pairs it with chocolate cream.
In the miniscule kitchen of his small Paris restaurant, Pascal Barbot uses his remarkably precise hands to turn out exquisitely good food. Barbot grew up in the Auvergne with lifelong plans to become a chef. After perfecting his skills with Alain Passard, he and a colleague opened L’Astrance (named for an Auvergnat wildflower) in 2000. In short order they racked up three Michelin stars. This was despite the fact that the restaurant has only 25 seats, is closed on weekends, and offers one no-choice menu, based on what the chef finds at the market.
Barbot has never let success go to his head and, unlike many chefs of his standing, he shows up at the restaurant for every single shift. Potential diners, on the other hand, don’t get through the door so easily, as L’Astrance is one of the city’s most coveted reservations. Those who score a table are rewarded by a cooking style that is contemporary and curious, infused with flavors from Barbot’s many travels abroad. His favourite tool is a mortar and pestle from Thailand. And his signature dish is a galette of foie gras marinated in verjus, then layered with paper-thin raw slices of white mushroom—a simple, perfectly balanced combination of humble and refined.
Mark Best’s road to recognition as one of Australia’s best chefs was a circuitous one; he worked as an electrician in gold mines until putting down his screwdriver and deciding to apprentice in a bistro kitchen at age 25 (and taking a major pay cut in the process). After eating at L’Arpège in Paris he knew he had to train there, and did so, for four months, learning the perfection of French technique and an aversion to complacency. In 1999 he and his wife opened the 50-seat Marque in Sydney. A bloke who can work 4,000 feet underground is not one to shy away from risk, and Best’s kitchen challenges his customers with bold creations such as raw tuna on a brioche with foie gras custard and pork crackling. You might even say his food is electric.
Large and stocky with the nose of a Roman emperor, Claude Bosi grew up in Lyon, where his parents ran a bistro. A wild child, he accidentally set fire to the kitchen while frying an egg. When he was 14 the school called his house to say his grades were okay but they didn’t want him around anymore. “I decided then and there to become a cook,” he recalls.
For the next year he “pre-apprenticed” at a friend’s brasserie, full-time and without pay. That led to an apprenticeship with Jean-Paul Lacombe and later stints with Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse. He moved to Ludlow, England, to brush up his language skills while working as a sous-chef. With his then-wife, Claire, he finally opened his own restaurant, Hibiscus, and earned two Michelin stars. In 2007 the couple relocated Hibiscus from Ludlow to London, regaining their stars in little time.
The majority of his products come from Britain’s small farms and producers, and are always in season. His cuisine is modern and surprising, the flavors of each ingredient dialled up to maximum, such as roasted scallops with pork pie sauce and pink grapefruit purée. Some critics describe his food as feminine, despite the lamb testicles that often appear on the menu.
Recently Bosi and his brother took over a pub in Wimbledon, The Fox and Grapes, where they serve ale-battered fish and chips alongside other extremely English fare. Bosi’s accent, on the other hand, remains as thick as foie gras.
Massimo Bottura is a voluble philosopher, a lover of jazz and a collector of contemporary art who spends as much time conceptualizing as cooking. His reflections have lead to radical reinterpretations of classic Italian dishes and products from his native Emilia-Romagna, such as a bollito misto that resembles the Manhattan skyline, or a potato dreaming of being a truffle. “My kitchen is about memories, and a vision for the future,” he says.
Born to a well-off family in Modena, Bottura started out working in the family’s heating oil business. Nonetheless, his passion was food, and at 23 he bought a trattoria and turned it into a popular local spot. One day Alain Ducasse dined there, and invited Bottura to apprentice at the Hôtel de Paris. The Italian accepted, selling the trattoria in 1994. He also spent time at elBulli, learning about sous-vide and dehydration, but mostly how to play with his food.
When Bottura opened Osteria Francescana in his hometown in 1995, his cutting-edge cuisine shocked traditionalists and he struggled, almost shutting it down. Fortunately, he held on, eventually earning three Michelin stars and fourth place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Ingredients of the highest quality possible are key to his cuisine. Not only does he produce his own balsamic vinegar, he also helped to save the Bianca Val Padana cows from extinction. Their milk makes the world’s best parmesan, and has done so since the Middle Ages. But when Bottura deconstructs the cheese into foam and air, it is anything but medieval.
Sean Brock grew up shucking corn in a tiny coal-mining town in West Virginia. Today he has a cob of very rare corn tattooed on his arm and runs a restaurant named Husk (along with another, McCrady’s) in Charleston, South Carolina. Working with historians and plant geneticists, Brock has given new life to heirloom grains and vegetables from the antebellum south. Embracing both traditional and 21st-century cooking methods, from barbecue to sous vide, he works wonders with fresh, locally-grown products. In doing so, he has opened people’s eyes to Southern American cooking beyond the stereotypical fried chicken and grits. Brock won the James Beard Best Chef Southeast award in 2010; a year later Bon Appétit magazine named Husk “The Best New Restaurant in America.”
New York City has not been the same since David Chang came to town and opened his hole-in-the-wall ramen joint in the East Village in 2004. At first utterly ignored and then endlessly imitated, the Momofuku Noodle Bar ultimately turned Chang into a superstar. Google him and you will learn that he is headstrong, contrarian, prodigiously talented, self-deprecating, mad about music, a workaholic, generous to his staff, worried over by friends and colleagues, hooked on the F-word, and incapable of taking the easy way out. All true.
His parents emigrated from Korea in the 1960s, his father demonstrating the same ambitious streak as his son, starting out as a dishwasher in New York City and eventually running a golf supplies business outside Washington, D.C. This is where David grew up, eating his mother’s Korean barbecue and kimchi. After college he moved to Japan, an experience that taught him restaurant food didn’t have to be expensive to be delicious.
Chang’s very personal vision mixes his Asian roots with European technique and the best of American food culture. Thanks to him, New Yorkers have developed an addiction to fluffy pork buns filled with braised Berkshire belly, among other (largely pork-based) delights. He now runs a restaurant group that extends from Manhattan to Sydney to Toronto, and his impact stretches further—a quarterly food journal (Lucky Peach), a role on a TV series (Treme), even a place on the Time 100 list as one of the most influential people of 2010. Not bad for a guy who started out making noodles.
He may be a foreigner on French soil, but Mauro Colagreco has quickly won over fussy Gallic palates. Michelin awarded him a star ten months after he opened his restaurant on the Riviera, followed with a second one five years later. When the Gault-Millau guide named him Chef of the Year, he became the first non-native ever to receive this honour.
He was born in Argentina to parents of Spanish and Italian ancestry, and moved to France to work with Bernard Loiseau and then as Alain Passard’s second. In 2006 he took over the Mirazur, steps from the Italian border with a drop-dead view of the Mediterranean. The restaurant has two gardens of its own—one for herbs and citrus, another for vegetables and forty varieties of tomatoes. Colagreco’s vibrant cooking deftly mixes this homegrown produce with ingredients from the land and sea, like oysters wrapped in pear carpaccio with shallot cream, or barely cooked langoustines with flowers. If you could eat the Côte d’Azur, this is how it would taste.
It was while doing a gig as a dishwasher, age 14, that Quique Dacosta discovered a love for the restaurant business. He has come a long way since then, and now runs his own two-Michelin-star temple to Spanish avant-garde cuisine. His creative development coincided with the blossoming of Spain as ground zero for Modernist cooking; since the closing of elBulli he has been considered one of the movement’s leading lights. Located in the tourist town of Denia, on the Costa Blanca, Dacosta’s eponymous restaurant makes the most of his region’s products—Senia rice, blood oranges, and fabulous seafood including sweet red prawns. The chef also creates magic through molecular transformations, such as gelatin “eggs” or peppers made from watermelon. Just like elBulli, his restaurant closes for several months each year so the team can develop new dishes and stay one step ahead.
In De Wulf
Kobe is young, smart and free-minded. A nature-oriented son of Flandres, this rebellious youth never compromises, showing in his familial idyllic inn hidden in the middle of the countryside, a deep understanding of his Belgian roots – including the best way to renew them. He makes an innate, sharp and joyful vision of where the future of Belgian cuisine lies. His restaurant, In de Wulf, has now earned official entry within the selected club of the World 50′s Best Restaurants.
The year 1979 brought two happy additions to the Gauthier family. In March, Roland Gauthier acquired a traditional French restaurant called L’Auberge de la Grenouillère (the Frog Pond Inn) in the northern Pas-de-Calais region. Two months later, his son Alexandre was born. The younger Gauthier followed in his father’s footsteps, training at culinary school, then doing apprenticeships with the likes of Régis Marcon and Michel Roth. In 2001 the Grenouillère lost its long-cherished Michelin star, and Alexandre took over the restaurant two years later. A new generation meant a brand new style: out with the crêpes suzette, in with barely-cooked pigeon, lobster smoked over juniper branches, wild herbs. Pepper is the only spice he uses. Michelin took note of his straightforward, daring cuisine and in 2008 gave the restaurant its star back. In 2012, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards named Gauthier “One to watch.” This is one frog pond worth leaping into.
Ichiro Kobuta thanks his father, a top Kyoto chef whom he calls his master, for instilling him with culinary values—though he didn’t always listen. “My father said, ‘Never eat a hamburger. Your palate will be destroyed,’ he recalls. “When I finished elementary school, I invited my brother, nicked some money from my mother’s purse, and we went to McDonald’s. It was amazing.” Fortunately, Ichiro’s palate survived the assault, and he went on to work in some of Kyoto’s best kaiseki restaurants before leaving for France, where the restaurateur Marlon Abela discovered and hired him to head up the kitchen at his new London venture, Umu. Opened in 2004, it was the city’s first Kyoto-style table. To make it authentic, Kubota flew wild fish and vegetables in from Japan, and imported water from the island of Kyushu. He picked up a Michelin star after only five months.
His grandfather ran a Japanese sweets shop, his father a Western-style one, and Yoshihiro Narisawa’s culinary style is a hybrid of the two cultures. He always wanted to be a chef, and at 19 left Japan to study in Switzerland, France and Italy, under greats such as Frédy Girardet and Joël Robuchon. Today he runs an eponymous 25-seat table in Tokyo that has risen as high as number 12 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Narisawa applies his hard-earned European techniques—from classic French to molecular—to the Japanese concept of shun, the precise moment when ingredients are at their peak. His gorgeous culinary compositions bear evocative names like “soil soup” or “Landscape of February,” green buds pushing through grated turnips as snow. Made of such stuff as twigs and berries, wild hare and ash from charred vegetables, they are like a walk in the woods.
Magnus Nilsson looks like a babyfaced version of Thor, but he has a poise and maturity beyond his years. He grew up on the Swedish island of Frösön, south of the Arctic circle, and now runs the kitchen at Fäviken, 85 kilometres away. In between, he sharpened his skills at l’Astrance in Paris, then quit cooking for a while, feeling that he needed to discover a style of his own. Fortunately, he found it—what he calls “rektún mat,” or real food—inspired by ingredients from the restaurant’s 24,000-acre estate and surrounding area. It is audacious fare made with the best available products (much of which he hunts, fishes, and forages himself), prepared simply and with a creativity born from limitation. Wild trout roe in a crust of dried pig blood. Steak from a retired milk cow. Marrow freshly scooped from a bone sawed in two in the dining room. As Nilsson explains, “We push the product to what we think would be perfect. Some dishes stay on the menu for years, but we are continually developing them.” A true Viking quest.
Imagine a Swedish version of Brad Pitt with the demeanor of a Tibetan monk and you’ve got Petter Nilsson. Born in a beachside town in southern Sweden, the Scandinavian has cooked his way through Mälmo, Copenhagen, Bordeaux and Uzès, in the south of France, where he developed a serious following at Les Trois Salons. Now he heads up the kitchen at La Gazzetta, a stylish bistro in eastern Paris with a no-choice prix-fixe that’s one of the best deals in town.
Nilsson’s cooking is as zen as his character: spare, unfussy, with lots of vegetables and practically no cream or butter. The French tend to write about the malice—or mischief—of his culinary style, startling rendezvous of flavours and textures such as poached egg with bergamot or octopus with salicornia. There is a certain delicacy to both the man and his cuisine. Confronted with a pig slaughter at Cook It Raw in Italy, he opted to create a vegetarian wild boar tartare, or, as he put it, “something more kind.”
One of the Bay Area’s most original chefs, Daniel Patterson has shaken up the narrow definition of Northern California cuisine with Coi, his small gastronomic table in North Beach. “Coi” is an Old French word meaning “tranquil,” and though the chef himself comes across as mild-mannered, he can be provocative, as evidenced by the pull-no-punches food articles he has written for the New York Times.
In the kitchen, Patterson uses local, sustainable products and an abundance of wild plants (he’s been foraging for nearly two decades). And while he respects the exceptional quality of California ingredients he never allows them to suffocate his creativity. Dishes such as abalone with sprouts and flowers beautifully evoke the landscape and have earned Coi two Michelin stars. With two more restaurants in Oakland and a food lab in the works, Patterson’s footprint on the NoCal dining scene is steadily expanding.
Rene Redzepi has been called the world’s best chef, but that’s too simple a description. His approach to food perfectly encapsulates a time and place, the plate as microcosmos, from ingredients and cooking methods to the way it is consumed. At his Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, diners harvest root vegetables from edible soil and rip through beef tartare with their fingers.
Few can resist Redzepi’s straight-talking charm and boyish good looks. Nonetheless, critics ridiculed him when he co-founded Noma with the idea that it would serve a contemporary, purely Nordic cuisine at a time when high gastronomy in Denmark meant French or Italian. He proved his detractors wrong, taking overlooked regional products such as musk ox and sea buckthorn and preparing them with a creativity that knew no limits. The result earned him top position in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards several years in a row.
His father was born in Macedonia, where Rene spent much of his childhood, and this culture helped inform his ideas of cooking: poultry came from chicken in the backyard, fruit grew in the fields. “You never visited supermarkets,” he recalls. “Such things simply didn’t exist.” Years later, he has done as much as anybody to turn foraging into a 21st-century global trend.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Redzepi is continually thinking, questioning, pushing the envelope. A boat near the restaurant houses his Nordic Food Lab, a center for scientific research, where studies include a reexamination of insects as food (live ants are served at Noma). Obviously, this chef has not finished revolutionizing the way we eat.
Working in the family restaurant of Hisa Franko, overlooking the sloping hills of Slovenian countryside, Ana Ros is one of a kind. An accomplished cook, stretching her exploration of the beautiful nature of her land – between mountains and clear spring waters. Earth-inspired, her cuisine Is flowery, herbal, feminine whilst as delicate as precise. Ana is the only woman to have joined the Cook it Raw group of chefs.
Davide Scabin relishes his reputation as a shit disturber, but there is method to the madness of this Italian provocateur. A truck-driver’s son, he smokes like a barbecue, has a silver, movie-star head of hair and a voice so deep it would give Barry White pause. He even inspired an Italian film: Tutte Le Donne Della Mia Vita (All the Women in My Life), a comedy about a famous and totally irresponsible chef.
Growing up, he planned to become a computer hacker or else a thief, but his mother steered him towards a career as a chef. Since 2002 he has run Combal.Zero, the long, skinny restaurant at the contemporary Castello di Rivoli museum outside Turin, where he has two Michelin stars.
Obsessed with design and technology, he often brainstorms with researchers at the University of Turin, and even teaches a class there on food design. His take on cuisine is avant-garde and always changing—if there is one constant, it is in breaking the rules. Scabin prepares rabbit to taste like tuna, boils macaroni for 50 minutes to make an ethereal soufflé, crafts sushi from veal and foie gras. At evening’s end, the dining room fills with helium balloons, as diners burst plastic bags in their mouths and a mix of Campari and soda shoots out. And there is the fundamental appeal of his approach: food as una festa.
Shewry’s dishes overflow with memories, notably of his childhood years on a farm in New Zealand, where his family grew food, foraged wild plants and ate seafood from the coast. By age five he knew that he would be a chef, and by 10 he was doing a mini-apprenticeship in a restaurant kitchen. Today he is head chef at Attica in the suburbs of Melbourne, where he has earned a top hundred spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list several years in a row. Deeply knowledgeable and endlessly curious, Shewry makes thrilling use of the exotic range of products from this part of the world—such as snow crab prepared like a little pile of snow, or a potato cooked in “the earth it was grown,” a nod to Maori cooking methods.
Two of the finest ingredients in Massimo Bottura’s kitchen are these two young chefs from Japan. Tokuyoshi hails from a family of pharmacists going back generations. But he preferred cooking, notably Italian food, and left Japan to do an apprenticeship in Umbria. When it ended he searched for another gig without success; it was only at the airport on his way home that he noticed the Osteria Francescana in a restaurant guide. He phoned, Bottura answered, and he was off to Modena. In the years since, Tokuyoshi has risen to become the restaurant’s second-in-command. He is now considered one of the most promising up-and-coming chefs in Europe.
Kondo Takahiko, known to his friends as “Taka,” was born in Tokyo and started doing restaurant work there at age 18. Like Tokuyoshi, he was crazy about Italian cuisine and went to cook in Tuscany, Veneto and Milan before ending up in Modena. He ate lunch at the Osteria Francescana in 2005, falling in love with the food and the conceptualism behind it. In return, Bottura gave him a job. Takahiko became pastry chef in 2010, and has contributed to some of the restaurant’s most inventive desserts, such as “Oops, I dropped the lemon tart.”
Playing the role of head judge on “Top Chef Suomi” has made Hans Välimäki a star in his native Finland. He’s been preparing for the role for most of his life, starting when he baked his own “pulla,” or sweet bread, at age 12. After attending cooking and pastry schools in Finland he apprenticed in Germany and Sweden, then took over Chez Dominique, a classic French establishment in central Helsinki, in 1998. Since then he has coaxed the kitchen ever northward, offering a modern take on Finnish cuisine— marinated herring, reindeer pudding, a “snowball” filled with mint and berries—along with the odd French delicacy, for an eclectic mash-up of culinary cultures.
If Germany has become a must on the foodie’s globetrotting tour, it is largely thanks to Joachim Wissler, one of the protagonists of the so-called New German School. He picked up a third Michelin star in 2005 as head chef at the restaurant Vendôme, in a baroque castle in Cologne. The chef’s refined rustic style covers the spectrum from traditional culinary technique to molecular artistry, and he has opened the cupboard to earthy, often forgotten ingredients such as calf’s heart, roebuck and pork stomach. His combinations are strikingly innovative (octopus marshmallow, anyone?) and his dishes can be so complex and colourful they resemble abstract paintings.