A decade of awards captures the essence of evolution in gastronomy

The Global Gastronomy Award, celebrating its 10th anniversary, 5 Sept 2016

Click here to see previous Global Gastronomy Award laureates.

If any contemporary chef represents what the Global Gastronomy Award aims to be, it is Dan Barber, our 2016 laureate. As much a food philosopher and researcher as a chef, he is championing a reboot of our entire food chain, not only to achieve a sustainable sourcing system but also to capture flavours, both long lost and new. His cuisine and thinking are equally radical – the very definition of gastronomy beyond.

Almost instantly it took on a life of its own. The Global Gastronomy Award was initially intended to be just an addition to the many yearly awards that White Guide bestows on talented chefs in the Swedish community, our own international prize, recognising someone who has influenced the evolution of gastronomy in our part of the world. Sweden is known for always being open to the outside world, that applies to everything from lifestyle trends to granting asylum to refugees from war-torn countries – and yes, we occasionally kick off trends of our own.

“Gastronomy forward, and gastronomy beyond” – that is the essence of White Guide’s mission, it is also the leitmotif for the Global Gastronomy Award, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2016. The Global Gastronomy Award has been presented in cooperation with Electrolux since 2010.

The prize was first awarded to Ferran Adrià in 2007. That was at the apex of his career, five years before he permanently closed his restaurant, and moved on to new challenges, beyond gastronomy. Serious gastronauts from all over the world made pilgrimages to El Bulli, incongruously located in the most remote part of Costa Brava in Catalunya. Just like all the chefs after him, Ferran Adrià came to Stockholm to receive his award and to participate in seminars and cooking events in conjunction with the White Guide Gala.

The award goes to a chef or someone else of crucial importance to the restaurant world (So far only chefs), whose work has deeply impacted how we think about food, gastronomy and hospitality - someone who moves the industry forward, who is still very active, preferably at the height of his or her career. This is not a lifetime achievement award. The laureates have much more to give, and much more to prove in the years to come.

But being a genius in the kitchen is not enough to receive this award. There must be a philosophy and relevant applications outside of what is being served on the plate. Beyond gastronomy. Perhaps this is the secret of the award’s success. Again, Ferran Adrià set the example – an example that would prove difficult to follow. His kitchen evolved into a laboratory for food-related particle physics whose results often seemed to defy conventional physical laws. In fact, in wintertime, when the restaurant was closed, Ferran Adrià joined his brother Albert and key members of his team in El Taller, a workshop entirely focused on experiments that has now evolved into the ElBulliLab, an ambitious endeavour indeed. ElBulli itself has morphed into the ElBulli Foundation, no longer a restaurant but a think-tank with ambitions to all but change the world for the better.

Charlie Trotter was one of America’s most prominent chefs. While most famous perhaps for towering dishes vertically, his approach to giving veggies the lead in his cooking was more significant. He pioneered the use of heirloom vegetables, in doing so he opened the eyes and palates of many epicureans and kicked off the search back in time for the true roots of flavour. Charlie Trotter is no longer with us, the only Global Gastronomy laureate to have irrevocably left the scene.

There is an underlying theme of sustainability in almost all the achievements honoured by the Global Gastronomy Award. For Fergus Henderson, the chef-philosopher of the legendary St. John in London, sustainability is a major consideration. His much-acclaimed “The Whole Beast: Nose To Tail Eating” argues that we should focus on the lesser parts of the animals we kill to eat, not only because they impart more flavour when cooked right, but also out of respect for the animals and concern over the environmental impacts of livestock over-production.

Few chefs today match René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma when it comes to influencing colleagues and savvy eaters all over the world. As one of the signatories of the original New Nordic Manifesto in 2004, he became its foremost interpreter, arguing that we don’t have to transport standardised foodstuffs across the earth, as there are plenty of seasonal, flavour-packed ingredients at closer proximity. Foraging became a household word and Redzepi made the cover of TIME Magazine in 2012, recognised as one of the world’s most influential people. Noma dethroned ElBulli, taking the top spot in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking in 2010, ElBulli subsequently closed. Noma itself has now been deposed and is shutting down to re-open as an urban farm in the middle of Copenhagen. Noma’s reincarnation as a farm is just as logical a step as ElBulli becoming a full-fledged research foundation. Gastronomy forward, gastronomy beyond.

France as a nation has not spearheaded evolution in gastronomy for almost three decades, but some of its brightest star chefs have. Alain Passard of L’Arpège in Paris is one of them. A pioneer in abandoning red meat altogether at his establishment, he turned to cultivating his own gardens, bringing the flavours of their terroir along with carefully pruned and selected cultivars to the plate – adding a winemaker’s approach to sourcing and cooking.

David Chang of the Momofuko restaurants in New York is also a cultivator, though on a microscopic level full of spores and enzymes. In Korea mould and fermentation are basic household techniques for preserving and preparing food, and Chang – being of Korean descent – has worked extensively on understanding the role of microbiology in flavour creation, both in his restaurants and in the food laboratory where he collaborates with Harvard University. The ever-evolving result is “New York umami”, building on the multi-ethnic microcosm of the New York trottoir-terroir, it is as alive and kicking as a neon-fueled Saturday night on the town.

Gastón Acurio, the Peruvian chef-entrepreneur is mostly celebrated for his top establishment Astrid y Gastón in Lima, though he also runs a growing restaurant empire with 30+ establishments all over the world. He is a mega-celebrity in his home country. And rightly so. Few have contributed so widely to the global fame of Peru’s abundantly rich gastronomy, or taken so many local initiatives, helping farmers and fishermen, schooling underprivileged children and turning gastronomy into a national sport equivalent to soccer in Brazil. In national polls the Peruvians have repeatedly expressed their wish to make Acurio President, a man who has proven he can create change for the better. Gastronomy forward, gastronomy beyond.

Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, is today ranked #1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, has been many chefs most beloved chef for years. This is not only because he is a lovely, fascinating person, but also because he is continuously reinventing Italian food - the world’s favourite, and one of the most conservative cuisines. To promote Italian gastronomy, Bottura fights fiercely to save the unique Italian habitats that provide its many delicacies, the river Po and its threatened fragile delta system as well as parts of Northern Italy, for instance.

Farther north on our globe, in the Swedish “alps”, at Fäviken Magasinet, Magnus Nilsson builds his stunning gastronomy on an historical fight to survive on the meagre yields of poor soil, a condition intensified by long winters and a short season of light that has forced people to rely on their own ingenuity and what nature provides from forests and lakes. Nilsson has turned the old necessity of self-sustenance into culinary science and art, suggesting that a new Little Ice Age may well be preferable to a global +4° scenario, whichever strikes first.

The Global Gastronomy Award Laureates 2007 to 2016

Its ten-year history has covered critical achievements in the evolution of global gastronomy, which would simply not be where it is today without the work of these brilliant chefs. The jury’s justifications for awarding the laureates read:

Dan Barber

2016

Blue Hill, New York, USA

For sharing his deep insights into the challenges we face regarding food sustainability and for his many initiatives to retrieve lost flavor treasures and conceive of new ones. Long celebrated as the father of the farm-to-table movement, he has realized that the current approach to local ecological sourcing is not enough to secure health and wellbeing – for us or our habitats. We need to rethink our entire approach to food, based on nature’s own laws and cycles. It is not about nostalgia – but strict science.

Visit our Global Gastronomy Day page to read more about Dan Barber.

Magnus Nilsson

2015

Fäviken Magasinet, Järpen, Sweden

For having developed a unique and personal gastronomy, as glorious as the Northern lights, and extracting the innermost secrets of his local woods, fields and waters, with the deepest understanding of terroir, the potential for and the margins of sustainability, leaving the doorway ajar to the parallel universe of microbiology.

Massimo Bottura

2014

Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy

For continuously reinventing Italian food – one of the world’s most beloved cuisines, through a constant dialogue with a rich but conservative tradition, from which he extracts a dazzling culinary artistry, covering a range of expressions from the decep- tively simple to the intellectually complex – bridging history with the future.

Gastón Acurio

2013

Astrid y Gastón and La Mar, Lima, Peru

For having articulated an expressive and forward-looking local gastronomy, la Cocina Novoandina, which marries traditional and unexpected ingredients from the depths of the Pacific, the heights of the Andes, and the jungles of the Amazon, many of them with the potential to help solve our health and food provi- sion issues – as well as for his many initiatives to provide educa- tion for young people in South America.

David Chang

2012

Momofuko, New York, USA

For having created an inspiring, delicious and entertaining synergy between the here and there, the down-to-earth and the upscale, and the present and the past, with a research-based, neo-fusion cuisine that has its roots in the rich ethnic diversity of the contemporary world city – and for beginning to map the urban terroir.

Alain Passard

2011

L’Arpège, Paris, France

For having created a brilliant synthesis between his kitchen and his garden, between the treasures of the “terroir” and the adventures of the table. And for having trained and inspired young chefs from all over the world – not least from the Nordics – to humbly listen to the music from the soil.

René Redzepi

2010

Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark

For having inspired, educated and fostered young chefs in the Nordics – and from all over the world – to explore their own surroundings for flavourful edibles that were forgotten, ignored or overlooked and thus trigger the unlocking of the many l­ocavore treasure chests that can be found all over the world.

Fergus Henderson

2009

St John, London, UK

For having inspired chefs and amateurs all over the world to source and cook responsibly based on common sense, thrift and respect for the animals we eat: to have the decency to eat all of them once we slaughter them, and for demonstrating how the richest flavour can be distilled from the simplest and oddest cuts.

Charlie Trotter

2008

Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago, USA

For having created a contemporary ‘green gastronomy’ and having demonstrated that vegetables alone can create culinary experiences of great depth and complexity and, in addition, for his work with organically grown heirloom vegetables, which has helped us all to reclaim a lost kingdom of sensory abundance.

Ferran Adrià

2007

El Bulli, Cala Montjoi, Spain

For having totally revolutionised the gastronomy of the 21nd century and redefined what a top restaurant experience can be all about, by rethinking everything from what to cook, how to cook – or not – how to present, and how to eat, based on a unique combination of research and artistry in the kitchen, and matched by an equally re-engineered dining room experience.


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