Eight hours:Fusing high cuisine with high art
On a chilly evening in September, a string of candles lit a path through the Huaca Pucllana compound, located in central Lima. The historic site, with its seven-tiered, adobe pyramid and ocher-toned ruins, provided a fittingly surreal backdrop for Gelinaz -- an eight-hour, multisensory food event that fuses high cuisine with elements of experimental art. Organizer Andrea Petrini, co-creator of the avant-garde Cook It Raw congress, describes the Gelinaz project as a traveling piece of culinary theater.
Tappong the top chefs on the World's 50 Best List
The program featured 22 top chefs, many of whom rank highly on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List. The lineup included Rene Redzepi of Noma (No. 2), Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana (No. 3), Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz (No. 4), Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park (No. 5), and Alex Atala of D.O.M. (No. 6), alongside Latin stars like Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico City and Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido in Lima. Each prepared a different version of Gaston Acurio’s Pulpo al Cilindro, a dish of octopus, pureed Peruvian potato, and olive.
The dishes were executed with wit and inventiveness. Albert Adria (Tickets, 41 Degrees, Pakta) served crispy tapioca and rice crackers, stained purple with octopus concentrate and shaped like tentacles, while Virgilio Martinez (Central) used varieties of dried seaweed to symbolize the habitat of the octopus. Daniel Patterson (Coi) made a cold soup that resembled a Modernist painting and was as delicious as it was beautiful.
A rare chance to watch creativity in action
The event, however, was not without criticisms. Few had the stamina to endure eight full hours of octopus. Some of the dishes -- like Italian chef Davide Scabin’s (Combal Zero) octopus pâté in Pisco Sour “soup” -- fell flat. But perfection isn’t the point of the events, says Mr. Petrini, who was recently named one of the “13 Gods of Food” by Time Magazine. Rather than presenting a polished experience of fine dining, Gelinaz offers the chance to watch some of the world’s most creative culinary minds at work, in real time. Whether or not it’s worth the hefty price tag is debatable (tickets sold for as much as $750), but one thing is clear: Mr. Petrini knows how to throw a good party.
The next Gelinaz is scheduled to take place in New York City in 2014, and the organizers hope to bring the event to Tokyo in the future.
text by Melinda Joe / photographs by Santiago Barco