This weekend, six of the world's most renowned chefs — Alex Atala, Dan Barber, Ferran Adrià, Massimo Bottura, Yukio Hattori, and Gastón Acurio — will gather in Tokyo, Japan for the second annual meeting of the Basque Culinary Center's international advisory board. The group is known most commonly as the G9, but this time around, René Redzepi, Heston Blumenthal, and Michel Bras will not be in attendance. To make up for the three absences, the Spanish organization has brought along chefs Joan Roca and Sven Elverfeld, as well as academic Harold McGee.
The agenda for the three-day meeting, which Eater will be covering, includes a visit to Tohoku, the area affected by last year's earthquake, and two days of board meetings designed to discuss the "contemporary definition of the kitchen professional." The plan is also to build on the work conducted at last year's meeting. Some background on that:
The advisory board, for which Adrià serves as chairman, formally gathered for the first time last year in Lima, Peru. At the meeting, which took place during Acurio's Mistura Festival, the chefs drafted and signed a document, "An Open Letter to the Chefs of Tomorrow." At the time, Barber described the letter to this website as "a recognition that the role of the chef is changing, and that as the chef increasingly becomes someone who is representing much more than cooking in their kitchen, he or she plays a role in effecting a variety of aspects of food." Accordingly, the text included several guidelines and reflections on a chef's relationship with nature, society, knowledge, and values (see the full letter).
News of the document — which some organizers and board members called a declaration, others simply a letter — made waves around the world; not all reactions were positive. Guardian critic Jay Rayner, for example, wrote that "a communiqué bigging up [the G9 chefs'] contribution to saving humanity from itself is an act of such self-importance, such ludicrous self-regard you'd need an oxygen tank to help you get your breath back." Sam Sifton, who was still restaurant critic of the New York Times when this was taking place, picked up on Rayner's story and started a discussion on the matter on his paper's site. In the post, Sifton posed the same question many continue to ask at a time when chefs seem to be less and less hesitant to take on responsibilities that lie beyond their kitchens: "Should chefs gather to discuss and disseminate their cultural and ethical beliefs, as artists in other fields very well might, without critics of their commercial work crying foul?"
When asked last year about plans for putting the letter's ideas into action, Barber said it "was a first effort to synthesize our opinions and agree about the role of cooking and the future...It's a continuous process of getting more specific as we move on." It's no surprise, then, that this year's agenda has a clear question behind it: "How do we train the chefs of tomorrow?" That's what the board members will aim to tackle by the end of this coming weekend, as they work to produce another document to send out into the world.
Stay tuned for updates from inside the meetings.
· All G9 Coverage on Eater [-EN-]