Good Food Blog
Is there a chef in the house?Posted at 2:07PM, 27 April 2009 by Andy Lynes - Food writer
If you want your money's worth from a Michelin-starred restaurant, you need to find one where the chef only runs one establishment and is therefore bound to be in the kitchen sweating over a hot stove. Well, good luck with that, because these days Michelin-starred chefs are just as likely to be touring the world demonstrating their talents at the year-long roster of food and wine festivals.
In March, the 17 day Melbourne Food and Wine festival played host to Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in Bray; Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen and Thierry Marx of Cordeillan Bages in Paulliac, France. In April, you can catch Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in the Napa Valley and New York's Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival in California and in May, you'll find Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes, Spain at the Sani Resort Gourmet festival in Greece. And don't bother eating at a cutting edge, molecular restaurant next January as all the chefs will be hanging out at the annual Madrid Fusion conference.
In February this year, I traveled to Milan for Identita Golose (a version of which will be held in London in May) where local superstar chef Carlo Cracco slow cooked cuttlefish in olive oil to make a savoury créme brulee; the Roca Brothers of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona used a vacuum distiller (more usually found in a science lab) to extract the pure essence of soil to make a sauce to accompany oysters; and Marcus Eaves of the newly Michelin-starred L'Autre Pied restaurant in London made snail sausages and Earl Grey tea jelly.
It was fascinating stuff and gave me the chance to discover the cuisine of numerous top restaurants in a matter of a few days. For the chefs, it's an opportunity to network, swap ideas and promote their restaurants.
It seems harsh to criticise chefs who have worked long days for many years for enjoying their day in the sun (literally - windowless basement kitchens are the norm even in the best establishments). It's also worth remembering that they'll have left their restaurants in the capable hands of a loyal head or sous chef who is probably more adept at cooking the named chef's food than he or she is.
However, that doesn't stop me hoping that the next time I hand over my credit card in a restaurant, it will be to pay for a meal that has at least been overseen by the person with their name above the door.
You never see Ronald McDonald at a food festival do you? Maybe I should give his place a try...