Rockin’ the kitchen
The knives are sharper than guitar riffs, and wooden spoons stand in for drumsticks. Today’s rock stars aren’t onstage but in the kitchen. Fine dining goes all the way to eleven.
Text: Xavier Sancho | illustration: Hugo Horita
“Four-star chefs, three unique dinners, one stylish setting – CHEFstock is back,” read the announcement for the 2014 edition of this culinary event where meals cost more than US$300 a head.
CHEFstock, of course, is a festival. Held in London in September, the event takes its name from Woodstock, the most celebrated music festival in rock history, representing the peak of 1960s counterculture. But nearly half a century has passed since the musical celebration that marked the rise and fall of a way of life. People drank, danced and practiced free love to the sound of rock and folk music at Woodstock, but they ate next to nothing. Today, however, it’s impossible to imagine attending a mega-production like Lollapalooza and not finding a range of culinary offerings.
Adrià, The New Bowie
If food is a now staple at festivals, why couldn’t the culinary scene take a page from the essence of Woodstock?
That’s where things seem to be heading, and musicians themselves were the first to tune in to this shift. Blur’s bass player makes cheeses, including one named after a New Order song, and bands share recipes in cookbooks like The Rock and Roll Cookbook and Lost in the Supermarket: The Indie Rock Cookbook. The fabulous coffee-table book Love Music, Love Food: The Rock Star Cookbook is packed with London food photographer Patricie de Villiers’ portraits of musicians like Brandon Flowers, Alex Kapranos, Roger Daltry and Marina Diamantidis with extravagant fare, or exercises in irony, such as the picture of Sparks playing with frozen vegetables. British chef Heston Bumenthal wrote the foreword and Sarah Muir, chef to rock stars, provided recipes. And don’t forget The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, Paul McCartney’s collection of vegetarian recipes.
According to Iñigo López Palacios, music critic for the Spanish newspaper El País, chefs have filled the void created when music stopped being the motor that provided impulse to the creative scene. “Today, chefs are rock stars not just because they sport tattoos and play indie music in their restaurants, but also because – in some sense – they’ve taken up the role of witnesses to cultural innovation in modern times. What was once up to David Bowie is now the responsibility of Ferran Adrià. It’s that simple.”
Innovation and Cuisine
Through the 1990s, rock, pop, hip-hop and electronica were elements that defined the aesthetic of every era. But then the record industry collapsed, and fewer chances were taken. In the context of this cultural landscape, gastronomy stepped up to the plate.
Once upon a time, Brian Eno, Bob Dylan and Laurent Garnier would knock our socks off. Now, we go to Noma, the Osteria Francescana, Astrid y Gastón and the Celler de Can Roca to find the same adrenaline rush offered by live music. For Spanish chef Diego Guerrero, who has two Michelin stars and heads DSTAgE (one of Madrid’s most celebrated culinary spaces), the current challenge lies in making the relationship between innovation and food a little more explicit. It’s about getting away from the cliché of the restaurant with linen tablecloths, haughty waiters and patronizing sommeliers, creating something more appropriately modern for the times.
A punk-style revolution was needed: even the timelines for the evolution of chefs and rock music are similar. “There’s been enough ritual and stupidity,” says Guerrero. “We’re susceptible to the same thing that would happen to bands when they lost touch with their fans and started living in a bubble. Chefs can’t fall in that same trap. If we’ve learned a lot from the logic of rock in terms of presentation, we’ve also had to learn about reinvention. I want a space where a young person can come in for some delicious cebiche without feeling like their monthly budget is going to be destroyed. That’s why I opted for a relaxed atmosphere, with a playlist featuring my favorite songs turned up a little louder than what you’d call ‘background music,’ and dishes that are sophisticated yet reasonably priced.”
It seems likely that we’re in the punk phase of the culinary world. And given the continuing impact of names like Gastón Acurio, René Redzepi, Massimo Bottura and the Roca brothers, the next step isn’t much of a stretch: massive festivals.
And while food fairs are held regularly all over the world, the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle takes a slightly different approach with 37 of the most famous chefs in the world swapping kitchens to invent menus with eight dishes made from only local ingredients. These are big names and recognizable faces, living legends on the culinary scene, from Albert Adrià to Rodolfo Guzmán, Virgilio Martínez to Sean Brock. The list of participating chefs is always like the lineup of a rock festival. Even the label at the bottom of the 2013 promotional material was a reinvention of the classic warning Tipper Gore forced on “offensive” records in the 1980s, but instead of announcing “explicit content,” it boasts “explicit food.’ This year’s slogan is “Beyond Food and Evil,” once again, ethics and esthetics combined.
When Joshua Applestone, one of the most popular and influential butchers in the U.S., was asked about people in the food industry with celebrity status, he pointed towards our region: “A rock star? Right now, I think Renzo Garibaldi.” This butcher from Peru – the country in Latin America that consumes the least meat – has become a global phenomenon, thanks to his wild experimentations with cuts of meat and the aging process.
Garibaldi is an example of how gastronomy can push the envelope when it comes to the creative world. Since rock is no longer the transcendent industry once was, the world needs people like him to blow our minds with creations that move us, heart and soul. in