Contemplating the future of food
What is the future of food?
This was the question posed to five chefs whose restaurants had previously been voted No. 1 by the jury of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.
The prestigious panel included the legendary Ferran Adria of El Bulli, the restaurant that revolutionized the dining scene in the early 2000s, taking culinary artistry to a whole new level with molecular gastronomy. While El Bulli closed in 2011, its status as the World’s Best remains unshaken, having been recognized as the World’s No. 1 restaurant a record five times: In 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Adria was joined onstage by Rene Redzepi, the chef who has made foraging a part of the culinary process. Redzepi’s Noma has been named World’s Best Restaurant four times: In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Also on the panel were Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, which garnered the No. 1 spot in 2013 and 2015; Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, No. 1 in 2016; and Daniel Humm, with restaurateur partner Will Guidara, whose Eleven Madison Park in New York, although closed for renovation, currently holds the No. 1 spot.
It was interesting to see the perspective of each of these renowned chefs on the future of food. Adria and Redzepi, both celebrities turned legends having each won the top spot several times, are now focused on ensuring that the next generations are able to grasp, embrace and execute their philosophies on food.
Adria is about to launch Sapiens, which is poised to be the ultimate handbook on gastronomy. It seems to aspire to be, to the culinary world, what Samuelson’s book has been to economists. Or, on the grandest scale, the Bible to Christians. Adria has taken his status as the world’s best chef so seriously that he is condensing in a 25-volume “Bullipedia” what the El Bulli Foundation has been working on for years: Everything one needs to know about products, restaurant design, etc.
The El Bulli Lab will also be re-launched in Roses, Catalunia, Spain, where the restaurant used to be, as an exhibition lab sometime 2018 or 2019. And in Barcelona, the space that currently houses the El Bulli Lab while the Roses space is under construction, will be converted into a Bulliografia, or the archives housing all of Adria’s studies, which will be open to the public in the future.
Redzepi is taking foraging to a whole new level. Foraging, revived by and which became a signature practice of Noma, is an ancient tradition that uses what one can find in the land surrounding us, possibly including ants, in cooking.
He wants foraging taught in schools, alongside math, reading and science. It is a way to make the next generation value the earth, he argues.
In line with this, Redzepi announced the launch of Vild Mad (or Wild Food), a project he has been working on for the past four years, at the 50 Best Talks. Vild Mad is a platform for reinvigorating the Danish public towards foraging. An app provides a curriculum for Danish schools and foraging workshops led by 50 trained park rangers around the country.
“If our kids are enriched by nature, if they see how much we actually depend on it and if they grow up loving it, we believe they will fight for it,” Redzepi stressed.
Meanwhile, the Roca brothers and Bottura are keen on sustainability and reducing food waste.
Brothers Joan, Jordi and Jose Roca have become United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors and joined forces with the United Nations SDG Fund, among other partners, for Food Africa, a project to revolutionize the food industry in Kaduna by educating and training locals on sustainable production practices.
Nigeria, where Kaduna is located, has been an avid proponent and early adopter of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are sought to be achieved by 2030. Roca hopes that this project will be replicated in other African communities to improve lives through increased knowledge and enhanced skills in food production and gastronomy.
Bottura, for his part, has been the most prominent advocate against food waste. He made world news in 2015 when he transformed an abandoned theater in the Greco neighborhood, a Milan suburb, into an avant-garde soup kitchen to educate and feed refugees, homeless, and working poor using more than 15 tons of salvaged food from the Expo Milano which he, alongside 65 invited celebrity chefs such as Joan Roca and Daniel Humm, converted into 10,000 meals.
Bottura recreated this community kitchen model in Brazil during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics where he turned wasted Olympics food into food for the homeless.
The dynamic duo of restaurateur Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm, while currently busy with restaurant renovations, expansions to Las Vegas, and pop-ups at the Hamptons, recognizes their new role as the reigning No. 1 restaurant as well.
“There are so many more bigger things to accomplish than to be number one,” Guidara mused at the 50 Best Talks. “It’s more what you do with that voice that you now have.”
At the moment, they are using that voice to communicate a simple message to the new generation of chefs and restaurateurs: Don’t forget the basics.
Deliciousness, Humm stressed; gracious service, Guidara emphasized. Creativity and innovation, the focus of Adria, are well and good, but without deliciousness and exceptional service, you cannot create the “happy place”, as Humm called it, that guests wish restaurants to be.
In conclusion, what is the future of food? It will be the best of all worlds. With the leadership role that these chefs have taken, thanks to the blazing spotlight focused on them by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, we can expect the next generation to be that of chefs equipped with knowledge that will allow them to explore their own potential for creativity and innovation in the field of gastronomy, but more importantly, chefs who value the earth and who have a sense of community and desire to uplift others as they strive to become No. 1 without forgetting that the job is to ultimately serve delicious food.
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