Gelinaz! 2014 in New York. A carefully orchestrated cloak and dagger operation involving chefs from all over the world. A collective formed by the food writer Andrea Petrini and chef Fulvio Pierangelini, a group known for octopus touting male strippers, masked naked women, 23-course chicken banquets and avant-garde gastronomy presented as performance. A group of chefs intent on pushing boundaries, sharing ideas and, most importantly of all, having fun.
They’ve done Lima, Ghent, scared Massimo Bottura in Emilia Romagna and last night it was revealed that for the past four days they’d been secretly working in New York on what might just be their most ambitious project to date.
“This began over a year and a half ago”, explained Petrini, just after the American chef Wylie Dufresne had been lured into his own wd~50 restaurant, called by a nervous and visibly shaking staff member claiming the electric had blown and that food was destined to perish. She was so nervous a test call had to be made to the restaurant manager, anything to make sure he didn’t smell the giant Gelinaz! shaped rat hiding in his kitchen.
Once inside his own darkened restaurant, Dufresne was immediately stopped short, “I knew something wasn’t right”, he remarked afterwards, “I could see all these people, then I saw Jean-George and he told me to sit down.” Around two minutes later and Dufresne knew he was being played by Gelinaz! Chefs from all over the world were in his kitchen. The electric was firing sharper than ever, and they were set for a night of service. Each team eagerly awaiting their chance to present a remix of one of Dufresne’s signature dishes.
On paper the idea sounded simple. Get the Gelinaz! crew, minus Dufresne, to New York. Split into teams and spend the remaining days secretly working on the dishes. Most people would have no problem hiding in the shadows of New York, however, it’s a little harder when your collective consists of 29 of the world’s biggest chefs.
They slept in apartments together, worked secretly in some of New York’s best kitchens, busily prepped dishes, held secret lunch meet ups and at one point were were nearly caught out when a group visited the morning market together.
Peru and Chile formed an alliance in the form of Virgilio Martinez, Karime Lopez and Rodolfo Guzman who presented an avocado and egg ceviche; an intense, fresh, super aromatic plate with herbs from South America. Denmark and Australia combined with Rene Redzepi and Ben Shewry working on Dufresne’s famous cold fried chicken dish and the rest of the chefs formed alliances that saw techniques, cultures, tastes and styles mash together.
Claude Bosi, Taka Kondo, Gabrielle Hamilton, Daniel Patterson and Alex Atala formed the largest group with a dish that seemed to best exemplify the Gelinaz! spirit. They remixed Dufresne’s scrambled egg ravioli with a theme of universal sharing. Egg pasta was cooked by Massimo Bottura in Italy, delivered and prepared by his Japanese sous chef Tako Kondo before being filled by the Brazilian Atala, French Bosi, and Americans Patterson and Hamilton - each using their own chosen ingredients. A dish with a foundation in one of Dufresne’s favourite ingredients, egg, but a dish that travelled the world in five small bites. Shared, open, without barriers or copyright - the real reason Gelinaz! was formed.
Why Wylie? Is it because he’s undervalued? No, it’s a factor but this was more than that. It’s for his contribution to gastronomy, his dedicated focus, his creative cuisine but mainly, and it’s something that was displayed within two minutes of the surprise, it’s for his humble, welcoming and modest approach. After the lights flicked on and Dufresne had scanned the room, seeing his friends, colleagues, family and staff - all there to celebrate him. His chest didn’t puff, nor his ego swell, instead he immediately recognised Jean-George sitting in the crowd and congratulated him on his recent four star review in the New York Times.