Just as the typical 9-5 office format is being evolved into more limitless living, top chefs leading the culinary scene are breaking out of the kitchen and going global. This new trend means chefs are not obligated to tie their name to one 5-star restaurant for years to build a reputation.
these trailblazing cooks are pulling from the nomadic lifestyle, appearing and disappearing from unique spots on the globe in exploration of new flavors, cultures and experiences.
Danish chef René Redzepi has been spearheading the pop-up movement. As chef of Noma (known as “ world’s best restaurant”, Redzepi staged his first pop up for 10 weeks in Australia, bringing with him his entire kitchen crew and sourcing from rare local ingredients such as saltbush leaves, seafood shells garnished with crocodile fat and fermented kangaroo with crab. It took 90 seconds from website launch for reservations to be booked up entirely. 2700 people were on the waitlist.
This roaming performance provides more than sheer novelty; chefs are given a fresh opportunity to explore new flavors and culinary traditions. For Diego Muñoz, the young Peruvian superstar recognized as one of the world’s most talented chefs, this means taking a global tour and nomadic year through 22 different countries and kitchens in Europe, South, Central and North America, Russia, Asia and the Middle East. With such a melting pot of inspiration, his creations are being savored across the globe from dinner parties to lectures, charity and gastronomic festivals.
Paris Pop Up and Cooking in Motion are other roving chefs traveling in twos. Moving without a full staff allows them flexibility in planning and staging events….Think guerrilla-style dining takeovers such as beachside dinners, cooking in abandoned lofts and other experimental locations. Cooking in Motion feature a chef and sake sommelier, and this creative pairing has led to vibrant results such as menus titled “Nordic Landscape”, which featured sake with local reindeer steeped in a wasabi-spiked beet sauce. In dishes like these the influence of environment on taste is clearly present.
Of course, traditional dining destinations are also opening their doors to receive these roving chefs. This method allows the restaurant to retain its identity while serving new fusion dishes.
A fresh example of this is Nomad in Marrakech. This chic and dynamic restaurant has implemented an ongoing pop-up program, inviting chefs to come take over its kitchen. Chefs are treated as guests, first immersed in the history of classic Moroccan dishes and then challenged to invent new fusions that integrate their own culture’s background. For example, a vegetarian version of the famous Moroccan bastilla, filled with spiced vegetables, goats cheese and caramelized tomato confit.
Of course, dining can always be taken to the next level, integrating aspects of theatre and performance. La Table Ronde is a group of Parisian gastrochefs who create unusual events for groups of 18 people. Respected chefs “perform” live for their audience, giving voice to their process by explaining how and why they prepare foods in a specific way, also supplying background information on the unusual ingredients used. These intimate groups are ideal for gourmet enthusiasts who want to peek inside the mind of the chef and can dialogue with the creator in realtime.
With so many options between restaurant takeovers, temporary chef residencies and niche nomadic pop-ups, the international culinary scene is being raised to new heights where fresh, local and unusual ingredients take center stage. Chefs are free to innovate as they see fit, staging experiences that go beyond the palate. Prepare to see the nomadic gourmet scene evolve into ever-new iterations…. watch this space.