(G)astronomy: A Study of the Stars

by Kathleen Culliton and Jessica Dukes
Vicky Wasik
September 2010

From the Old World and the New, we bring you up to date on ten modern-day Columbuses of cuisine. Each has been lauded both at home and abroad as a pioneer of contemporary gastronomy and each presented at the StarChefs.com International Chef's Congress. All of them nurture passion for their homeland and its time-honored traditions, yet each of them is a star-walker of innovation, charting the boundaries of their native cuisines.


Andoni Luis Aduriz

Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz – Errenteria, Spain

Recipe: Vegetables: Roasted and Raw, Sprouts and Leaves, Wild and Cultivated

Rising through Spain’s top kitchens, Andoni Luis Aduriz has worked his way up to the firm footing he now enjoys on the world stage. Since opening his hidden mountain temple Mugaritz in 1998, Andoni has been heralded with a litany of accolades for his innovative cuisine. He has also published prolifically, including scholarly works on the use of ingredients. Aduriz coined the term “technomotion” to describe his work, which refers to the interplay of technology and emotion, perception and reality that is present in his playful creations.

Alex Atala

Alex Atala, D.O.M. – Sao Paolo, Brazil

Recipe: Filhote with Tucupi and Tapioca

Last year he famously took foie gras and truffles off the menu, arguing that they weren't native to Brazil. Currently he's experimenting with priprioca, a plant plumbed from the depths of the Brazilian rainforest, previously exploited solely for perfumes and cosmetics. His restaurant D.O.M. (Latin acronym meaning God, the Best and Greatest) won the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in South America 2010. He's the first chef to become well-known outside of Brazil, and he's done so by staying true to its heart.

Pacal Barbot

Pascal Barbot, Astrance – Paris, France

Recipe: Verjus-Marinated Foie Gras with Champignons de Paris Galette

In his ten years as owner and executive chef of the hardest reservation in Paris, Pascal Barbot has never missed a shift. It’s not that he has become a part of Astrance, more that the essence of the restaurant is him. Rather than let French cuisine traditions such as butter, cream, or menus restrict his vision, Barbot creates a new “surprise degustation” each night defined by the foods of the season and the palate of his guest. Each night he works to form a nouvelle cuisine that challenges how France regards fine dining.

Shannon Bennett

Shannon Bennet, Vue de monde – Melbourne, Australia

Recipe: Five-Minute Bouillabaisse with Toro Tartare, Buffalo Milk Skin, and Aromatic Herbs

Shannon Bennett’s surfer ‘do and rock-star résumé are reflected in his kooky culinary experiments. Inspired by the heat-extraction vacuum in a 1960’s coffeemaker, Bennett developed the Five-Minute Bouillabaisse that started people talking. Though classically trained in the kitchens of many of France’s premier Michelin-starred restaurants, he returned home to dedicate himself to putting Australia’s story on a plate. By the time he was 24, his restaurant Vue de monde had put Australia on the culinary map. He is currently charting the Antipodes’ culinary outward bounds as part explorer, part botanist, part-entrepreneur, and part crusader for sustainability.

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck – Bray, UK

Recipe: “Sound of the Sea”

Chef Heston Blumenthal has long been known for consulting neuroscientists and magicians on his experiments with food and the senses. His recent explorations have taken him down proverbial rabbit holes to reveal Britain's banquet halls of centuries past. Recent items on the menu at The Fat Duck include Powdered Anjou Pigeon (c.1720) with Blood Pudding, Potted Umbles, Spelt and Pickles, as well as a whimsical tribute to the Mad Hatter. He continues to spearhead haute-cuisine worldwide, embracing food-wizardry and multi-media to offer the diner a chance to interact with what they eat.

Carlo Cracco

Carlo Cracco, Ristorante Cracco – Milan, Italy

Recipe: Seafood Sheets with Vegetables

Italian chef Carlo Cracco boasts a resume of culinary experience that almost glitters. Perhaps this is the result of the sheer number of Michelin stars that decorate it, more likely it's the high quality of Cracco's innovative Italian haute cuisine. Cracco's genius lies in his ability to modernize classical Italian. Each kernel of risotto on the Ristorante Cracco menu is hand rolled from dehydrated potato based edible paper. Whether genius or insanity, it is certainly star worthy.

Enrique Olvera

Enrique Olvera, Pujol – Mexico City, Mexico

Recipe: Robalito “Al Pastor” with Pineapple Sauce

Chef Enrique Olvera has won international notoriety for mapping the modern palate of Mexico, and for redefining a cuisine that is largely misunderstood abroad. He brought home the concept of the kitchen laboratory and relies on farmers' markets like the Mercado San Juan (a feature of his new book, UNO), to source indigenous ingredients. At Pujol, Olvera harnesses huitlacoche (corn smut, coined by the James Beard Foundation as Mexican truffle) and aboriginal produce such as nopal, or prickly pear cactus, so integral to Mexico it even appears on the flag.

Rene Redzepi

Rene Redzepi, noma – Copenhagen, Denmark

Recipe: Mashed Potatoes with Lumpfish Roe and Crispy Chicken Skin

Chef Rene Redzepi rightfully claims a host of world famous restaurants, including The French Laundry and el Bulli, as the source of his flawless technique. But for inspiration the executive chef of Copenhagen's noma turns instead to his natural surroundings. If anyone understands a need for fresh and local ingredients it's Redzepi, whose first ten years were spent in Macedonia, without even a refrigerator. Copenhagen winters provide quite a challenge to haute locavore cuisine but Chef Redzepi has proven himself equal to it. In 2010, noma was named by S. Pellegrino as the best restaurant in the world.

Joan Roca

Joan Roca, El Celler de Can Roca – Girona, Spain

Recipe: Iberico Suckling Pig Confit with Shallot and Orange Sauce

A third-generation restaurateur, Joan Roca is a chef who, along with his brothers and a handful of his compatriots, revealed Spain to the world as a culinary discovery. He experiments with color, aroma, and texture to surprise his diners with sudden irrepressible emotions, such as nostalgia or childlike joy. Recent offerings include grilled king prawn on a sandy “beach.” A third Michelin star for El Celler de Can Roca in 2010 has Catalonia shouldering above the Basque Country, for now, as the starriest region in Spain.

Seiji YamamotoChef Seiji Yamamoto, Nihonryori RyuGin – Tokyo, Japan

Recipe: Chateau RyuGin

Whether on the road promoting Japanese innovation or in the kitchen of Nihonryori RyuGin Chef Yamamoto never fails to experiment. At the root of Yamamoto's culinary philosophy is pride in his nation's culinary traditions. For eleven years Yamamoto worked to master the techniques of kaiseki and now he devotes his life to promoting its evolution. And while it's his innovation that is gaining Chef Yamamoto international recognition he is sure never to forget his roots.