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Chefs : 2009
190 GREAT, GRAND & FAMOUS CHEFS AND THEIR SIGNATURE DISHES THE NEXT BIG THING The first Michelin guide to Tokyo sold over 300,000 copies, and must be accounted a phenomenal success. But with success often comes criticism, and Michelin is still accused of having a French bias: there are three French restaurants at the top of the Tokyo list, but no Chinese, no Italian, no tofu restaurants. Jean-Luc Naret disagrees. "There are 40 types of cuisine in the London guide," he counters. "We are giving stars to Indian, Chinese and Japanese restaurants... " And if it is true that the company is seriously considering devoting a guide to Shanghai, as has been claimed, then certainly the tally of starred Chinese restaurants will grow accordingly. Or perhaps Australia might be next. Or Hong Kong. Or Macau. Yet wherever Michelin goes, it must be remembered that it is chefs who make cuisine, not critics. Chefs such as René Redzepi of Copenhagen's Noma, whose regeneration of lost Nordic traditions, cutting-edge techniques and assiduous sourcing of native Scandinavian ingredients have become the hallmarks of a new Danish cooking. So intent is Redzepi on authentic ingredients that Noma employs up to five foragers, whose sole job is to gather up wild produce, and his menu changes monthly to reflect the seasonality of his produce--- horseradish 'snow' with razor clams wrapped in parsley jelly with clam juice, dill and parsley being just one example of this dynamic Scandinavian cuisine. Another Scandinavian chef who is refining and personalising Nordic traditions is Magnus Ek, whose Swedish restaurant, Oaxen Skärgårdskrog, is located on an island accessible only by ferry, and even then only in summer. "A true modernist, Ek creates dishes that are pared down but complex," says Food & Wine magazine, "as with his lobster carpaccio on herb ice accompanied by green-tea jelly." Or his king crab porridge in red wine and basil vierge with caramelized emulsion of pig's blood and shellfish butter, lardo in crispy pastry and salt-baked celeriac, flavoured with some of the 15 or more types of wild local herbs Ek and his wife gather whilst out walking their dogs. Nor is the combination of innovation and tradition confined to northern Europe. After learning his skills at various Michelin starred establishments, chef Alex Atala returned to his native Brazil to open D.O.M. in 1999. Here he applies French techniques to Brazilian ingredients, creating tasting menus that might include a codfish brandade in a black bean reduction, or filhote---a type of catfish---in a manioc crust, or a salad of pumpkin, crayfish and squid with Amazonian flowers. And in Sydney, Peter Gilmour at Quay complements the restaurant's unrivalled views of the harbour, Bridge and Opera House with innovative modern Australian cuisine such as his signature 'sea pearls', individual balls of smoked eel brandade encased with slow braised octopus tentacle and egg white pearls, tartare of sea scallop with horseradish créme fraiche coated with tapioca pearls, silver leaf and rosemary flowers, and pearl meat and abalone encased in dashi jelly. Each of these chefs is engaged in taking cuisine in new and exciting directions. And there are countless others, in Argentina and in Africa, the West Indies and the South Pacific, combining new ingredients with traditional techniques, foreign flavours with local styles. Their efforts are impossible to catalogue, because only the very best and most passionate of them will rise to the level of a Ducasse or a Guérard. But if they are true chefs, in the purest sense of the word, then even if they do not go to Michelin, it is possible that Michelin might one day come to them.