This weekend, chefs from all over the world have been gathering in London in anticipation for tonight's World's 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony. Londoners have had a chance to take advantage of their presence through a number of public events held over the weekend: live demonstrations from the likes of Massimo Bottura and Danny Bowien at The Lab event, a lunch featuring seven Michelin-starred chefs at Harrod's, and a Cook it Raw book launch at the Royal Geographic Society. At the latter, René Redzepi, Alex Atala, Daniel Patterson, and Albert Adrià joined Cook it Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli to share their experiences at the annual gastronomic retreat.
1) Cook it Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli called in René Redzepi, Alex Atala, Daniel Patterson, and Albert Adrià to talk about the pillars of the event: collaboration, tradition, nature and creativity.
2) Patterson spoke about the inspiration of nature and how an important part of Cook it Raw is in using indigenous ingredients and paying attention: "I think cooking itself is a lot about paying attention. There's a moment when something is perfect and then there's a moment just before that and just after. And sometimes, unless you're paying attention, that moment of perfection can come and go without ever noticing it."
3) Adrià on creativity: "The purity of creativity is to say this didn't exist before. Yesterday that did not exist. And this incites fear because there's no set end point." He also said he's "tired of this false debate between avant garde and tradition. It's like opposing in a football match offense and defense. I'm just in favor of good football and I'm in favor of good cooking." He also argued that "the avant garde of today will be tomorrow's tradition."
4) Redzepi used "very special" Copenhagen newcomer BROR — run by former Noma sous chefs — to demonstrate what collaboration can do for a restaurant. He described watching Daniel Patterson "fuck around with his beets" at Cook it Raw in Lapland. What looked like it was going to be a big fuckup, Redzepi says, turned out to be the best beet of his life. So when he got back to Noma, Redzepi said, he created his own version of Patterson's beet dish. And then, Redzepi revealed, it was the beet dish at BROR — a long piece of beef bone wrapped with grilled beet brushed with bone marrow fat — that had sealed the deal for a big-deal food critic and won their new restaurant raves. "That, to me, is sort of the most perfect, wonderful story of what collaboration can do to you."
5) Atala showed a short film and talked about tradition and natural conservation because, as he said, his mise en place started in nature. But Atala also said that human beings are part of nature as well and linked that to the camaraderie aspect of Cook it Raw. "Be generous. The pleasure to share, the pleasure to learn and have ears to listen to another chef not as a competitor but as a friend. I hope this, the new lessons I learned with these guys will be the next tradition in cuisine: share, friendly, generosity is the new ingredient for future recipes."
6) Redzepi said that an event like Cook it Raw can help open the world of cooking because chefs should be going to gastronomic capitals like France and Italy, but also to places like Poland to be inspired by what's there.
7) On the next iteration of Cook it Raw: Though there's nothing official yet, organizer Porcelli said they have a plan to do a roadtrip through the American South. There would be four stops based on four different principles, he said. So in Louisiana they might tackle issues such as food deserts and obesity, while in Alabama they might talk about how people lose contact with food traditions.
8) Back on the subject of creativity, Adrià got in a sight gag by pouring himself a glass of water by holding it several feet above the glass and spilling it all over the table below. "What is this? Creativity or idiocy?" He then went on to explain how cider in Spain is poured from a height to allow the cider to breathe.
9) A question from the audience about the "bloke-ishness" of Cook it Raw (and roadkill?) prompted the discussion about the dearth of women participating in Cook it Raw. The panel host put Madrid-based journalist Lisa Abend — on hand to provide translation for Adrià — on the spot to address it. Abend said that this is a problem that "remains to be addressed," but also pointed out that the friendships and connections are a vital part of Cook it Raw. The bigger problem, she pointed out, is that there aren't that many women chef in top kitchens around the world.
10) Porcelli said that Cook it Raw is teaming up with Tumblr sometime in the near future on a project that would scout the world's restaurants looking for up-and-coming talent.
11) After an audience member asked why the Cook it Raw book doesn't include any recipes and why the food was not literally served raw, Phaidon editorial director Emilia Terragni offered an explanation from her own seat in the audience. "It would have been a very easy shortcut to put recipes. It would have given what people think they want. What we wanted to focus the book was the attitude that these chefs had. This is what people can really learn from." It's about friendship, fun, fear, adventure and more, she said. "Recipes are a part of it, but they are not the most important thing."
12) Redzepi also had some thoughts on why a book about food might not include recipes, saying, "Unless you're cooking a dessert, recipes are a very evil invention." He explained that recipes can make cooks into machines and "are not the absolute truth."
13) When asked how he can effect change and make governments listen, Atala said, "We don't have a recipe for it. We must keep trying." Chefs have been trained how to be chefs but nowadays also have to be public speakers. They are still learning and trying to find a way to influence governments, he added.
14) In the chefs-as-the-new-rockstars vein, all the chefs were mobbed by audience members with copies of the Cook it Raw book in hand seeking autographs. Redzepi and new Time 100 inductee Atala had some particularly long lines.
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