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the good life | lifestyle |

The Gourmet Season

Food and wine again united epicures and chefs from different nationalities at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. Gavin Nazareth speaks with the chefs that gave their time and talents for a good cause

It was open season for gastronomes in Bangkok last month as they gathered at the 13th World Gourmet Festival at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. An annual event at the hotel, the fest offers foodies an opportunity not only to attend workshops and demonstrations, but to also sample a variety of flavours, textures and foods plated by chefs from around the world. “This year’s event was a bit bigger than last year,” says Reto Moser, Director of Food & Beverage at the hotel. “We still had eight chefs, but we also had a dinner based around cheese with cheese affineur Jean-Francois Anthony, a wine masterclass with Jeannie Cho Lee, and a hands-on happening with tea mixologist Robert Schinkel. The core featuring eight chefs from around the world remained the same, but the idea was to make it slightly more diverse by adding something new and exciting.” The festival ran from September 3-9 and as always, in addition to the proceeds from the daily auctions for accommodation vouchers at various Four Season properties around the world as well as airline tickets and other items, 500 baht from every dinner ticket sold was donated to HRH Princess Soamsawali’s ‘Save A Child’s Life From Aids’ project under the auspices of the Thai Red Cross Society. This year saw the return of top American chef Michael Mina. Says Moser: “We had him here about five or six years ago, when he had just started. He is now one of the most famous chefs in the United States. When he came here the first time, he was this young shooting star and now he’s made his name.” Here the eight chefs tell us what they brought to the table at the festival.... 158 – Prestige – october 2012

october 2012 – Prestige – 159


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Shiqin Chen

Travelling through Europe, Chen’s life took an about-turn when he took a course at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners. This led to an internship and later a full position at Chef Gianpiero Vivalda’s Michelin-starred Antica Corona Reale in Cervere, where he stayed for 10 years. He subsequently moved to another Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Pescatore, run by Nadia and Giovanni Santini in Canneto sull’Oglio, before taking over the kitchen of La Rei at the Il Boscareto Resort & Spa. Last year the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star. What is the philosophy behind your cooking? My philosophy is to respect the culinary traditions of Piedmont and Lombardy. Since the traditional cuisine is heavy, I definitely try to make it lighter. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? A pumpkin risotto with crushed amaretti cookies. A person/s you would most like to cook for? My mentor, Giovanni Santini; and I am already planning what I to cook for him. What do you cook when it’s just you at home? I always eat Italian food. After 12 years in Italy I have been less than five times to a Chinese restaurant. I only eat Chinese food in China. If you were not a chef, what would you have been? I can’t imagine life without cooking. I studied a bit of IT, but can’t see myself working in an office. It’s boring.

Galvin Lim

Les Amis, the restaurant where he is top toque was ranked 53rd on World’s Best Restaurants 2012, up two places from last year, and the fourth consecutive year it has been awarded a place on the list. After an eight-year initial stint with mentor-chef David Mollicone, Lim joined the opening team of Au Jardin in Singapore as resident chef. Over the years, he has also trained at some of the top kitchens in the world, including Lameloise in Burgundy, Le Gavroche in London, and Les Elysées du Vernet in Paris, honing his style of French cooking that emphasises the balance and contrast of flavours and textures. What is the philosophy behind your cooking? To always feature the best seasonal produce. One dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Warm smoked French eel with egg scramble. Kitchen ingredients/tools you can’t live without? My working knife sets, which have followed me through my culinary life. A favourite food from your childhood? My father makes the best lamb stew with Chinese celery cooked over charcoal. I also adore his partially-ripe papaya, stir fried with dried shrimps. What are your guilty pleasures, foodwise? I love pork lard. It has an amazing taste, especially when tossed with noodle or vegetables. Is there anything you won’t eat? Yes. I will try anything but I will not eat dog. I adore dogs and just because we can eat it doesn’t mean we should.

Igor Macchia

Diego Irrera

The head chef of 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallmann in Argentina’s picturesque Mendoza Valley, Irrera worked his way up the ranks at various restaurants in Buenos Aires and Patagonia owned by renowned chef, food guru and philosopher Francis Mallmann, an expert at playing with fire, be it open flame or glowing charcoal. Irrera’s menu is an homage to the regional flavours of his home country and is a perfect match for the wines that the Mendoza region is famous for. What is the philosophy behind your cooking? Simplicity and respect for the products is what is important in our kitchen; noble intentions transmitted through recipes and flavours. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Braised lamb with pumpkins, onions and sweet potatoes on the embers. A guilty secret in your arsenal of ingredients? The potato. It’s a good accompaniment for many recipes. Last thing you cooked for yourself? Potatoes, squash, carrots and fennel, roasted with thyme and grapeseed oil. Does travel in any way inspire your palate? Sure, it adds new culinary cultures to my senses. A few signature dishes from your restaurant’s menu? A salad of green beans, celery, red peppers, hazelnuts and mascarpone cheese; and home-made bresaola salad with fennel, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted ciabatta. 160 – Prestige – october 2012

The co-owner/chef of the Michelin-starred La Credenza has travelled through China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Maldives, not just to promote his cuisine, but also to learn more about Eastern cultures. The result is an original blend of colours, tastes, textures and shapes in his dishes, while still retaining the essence of Italian culinary traditions. What is the philosophy behind your cooking? Easy, simple, tasty and fresh, I like to keep my food as easy as possible in terms of ingredients and don’t like to have too many of them in one dish. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Risotto with red pepper, parsley sauce and anchovies, ingredients that are really popular in my region in Italy. If you were not a chef, what would you have been? At first I wanted to become a fireman, then I wanted to become the Pope, but I changed again when I realised it was too difficult. An item/s you’d like to see struck from most menus? Salmon. I don’t really like it much and mostly it is never cooked in a good way. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in? Tokyo. At the Tsukiji fish market. Some must-haves in your kitchen and why? Parmesan cheese, because I absolutely love it, And a really good team that can follow you. I could be the greatest chef of the world but I would be nothing without my staff. october 2012 – Prestige – 161


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Michael Mina

Masa Shimakawa

Cairo-born, Washington state raised, his epicurean journey began in 1987 at the Culinary Institute of America. Today he is an award-winning celebrity chef, restaurateur and cookbook author who has cooked for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama. Along with business partner Andre Agassi, his restaurant company, Mina Group, runs 19 restaurants, including the two that bear his name and a Michelin star each.

Masa had no intention of jumping on the culinary bandwagon when he started out as a dishwasher in his teens. The road to the top took him first to the Hakodate Professional Cooking School, after which he got his first job as a sushi chef in Tokyo. Five years later he landed at the first of two sushi restaurants in Montreal, followed by positions in Chicago and New York, before joining the Onyx at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village.

What is the philosophy behind your cooking? I am trained in the French classical style and have worked in French and American kitchens. My restaurant is in California where everything is product-centric. So I believe in solid cooking techniques with products from around the world for bold and balanced flavours. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Foie gras with pineapple, Thai spice, vanilla bean, kaffir lime and tapioca pearls. Any kitchen ingredients/tools you can’t live without? My sharp Japanese knives and a microplane. Last thing you cooked for yourself? Braised beef short ribs. Favourite food from your childhood? Falafel and Koshari, an Egyptian dish of rice chickpeas, lentils, caramelised onions and pasta. A person you would like to cook for? I think it would be Elton John, because I like his music. Signature dishes that feature on your restaurant menu? Cote de boeuf cooked with a salt crust, burnt hay, and cracked at the table; Crisp filo crusted Dover sole; and Ahi tuna tartare with pine nuts and sugar.

What is the philosophy behind your cooking? Only the best ingredients, simple methods and bold flavours. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Chilled Maine lobster cocktail. If you were not a chef, what would you have been? A commercial pilot. Is there anything you won’t eat? Rabbit, because I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. A must-have in your kitchen and why? Japanese metal plated chopsticks, to complete the details on the plate.

Frédéric VaRDon

Víctor Quintillà Imbernón

Hailing from a family of charcutiers and farmers in Normandy, Vardon’s passion for cuisine was passed down to him from his grandmother, who taught him that food should be made with love and should be made for sharing. After completing an apprenticeship with Jean-Pierre Morot-Gaudry, he had the opportunity to work with the three Alains of the French culinary world: Alain Dutournier, Alain Chapel and Alain Ducasse. Teaming up with the last, he worked for 14 years in his renowned restaurants around the world, including Spoon, Benoit Tokyo and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester. Today he runs his own luxurious restaurant, Restaurant Le 39V, tucked away on the sixth floor roof of an apartment building in Paris.

What is the philosophy behind your cooking? For me, the most important thing is the taste, then you know where you are and what time of year it is. A dish on your menu that will follow you wherever you go? Crispy beef sweetbreads and tiny cuttlefish. One dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Seabass over potato terrine and black ‘botifarra’ with mushrooms. Something in your fridge or freezer that would surprise people? Canned shellfish, because I like it. Person you would most like to cook for? Chef Ferran Adria Some signature dishes that feature on your restaurant menu? Zucchini curry; marinated mackerel over piparras peppers juice; suckling pig with celery root in a l’ancienne mustard and endive. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in? Barcelona.

What is the philosophy behind your cooking? My cooking philosophy was inspired by a passion for quality products that was ingrained in me since childhood. My inspiration has always come from our cultural heritage and I have to admit, I just love this cuisine that is all about taste and sharing! The dish on your menu that will follow you wherever you go? Saint-Pierre de Bretagne, artichokes ‘in bunch’, juices garnished with chopped parsley, soft-boiled free-range egg, royale and mushroom emulsion. A dish you served at the World Gourmet Festival? Suckling veal with Chanterelle mushrooms, new onions and tomatoes with parmesan, veal and sage gravy. Is there anything you won’t eat? Anything that is done with mediocrity. What are your guilty pleasures, foodwise? Fresh rustic country bread with half-salted churned butter – and you have to make sure there is enough of it because I would devour it! Does travel in any way inspire your palate? Yes, indeed! Travelling and different cultures are a source of inspiration, even though my original inspiration remains traditional French cuisine. I take great pleasure in tasting the food of other chefs. I was fortunate during my 14 years with Alain Ducasse to travel around the world and to discover extraordinary chefs, fascinating recipes and amazing products.

This native of Barcelona began his culinary career at the Escola d’Hosteleria I Restauració de Barcelona, after which he apprenticed at some top restaurants in the region including the Michelinstarred El Reno and El Bulli. Lluerna, his restaurant in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, specialises in Mediterranean-influenced dishes that are paired to wines by his sommelier wife.

162 – Prestige – october 2012

october 2012 – Prestige – 163


The Gourmet Season