Header: Chefs Gaggan Anand, Eneko Atxa, Joan Roca and Farm Africa CEO Nicolas Mounard
The Basque Culinary Center was host to the latest edition of #50BestTalks, presented by Miele, part of The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 events programme. With a line-up including chef superstars Joan Roca, Gaggan Anand, Dan Barber and Clare Smyth, it was a day of thought-provoking conversation, delicious food and drink and a global gathering ahead of the big reveal of the 2018 list. Here are some of the highlights.
Basque Culinary Center
The sun came out in San Sebastian on the Basque Culinary Center, which was designed by Spanish architecture practice Vaumm to resemble a pile of stacked plates.
#50BestTalks was attended by chefs, restaurateurs, foodies and media from all over the world. In something of a role reversal, Will Guidara, co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, No.1 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2017, came along to support his wife and #50BestTalks speaker, Christina Tosi.
Three chef-owners from The World's 50 Best Restaurants – Gaggan Anand, Eneko Atxa and Joan Roca – were joined by Nicolas Mounard, CEO of Farm Africa, 50 Best's official charity partner, to introduce the organisation's Chefs for Change initiative.
"When there is no culture of preservation techniques, natural life is wasted. But it doesn’t have to be that way," said Joan Roca, chef-owner of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. "We believe that we can cook the world you want, we can cook the world that we want."
"Gastronomy is a universal language that speaks about us," said Eneko Atxa, chef-owner of Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, near Bilbao. "We are not only cooking ingredients, we are cooking other things in the kitchen – we are cooking a better future."
The 2018 elit Vodka World's Best Female Chef, Clare Smyth from Core by Clare Smyth in London's Notting Hill, talked about the challenges of opening her own restaurant and going it alone after 13 years working with Gordon Ramsay. She cooked her signature dish, Lamb Carrot, and handed out delicious Lamb Buns for the audience to sample.
"At Core, we are really trying to change the way people think about cooking," Smyth said. "In the most humble ingredient, I find the most flavour… We want to relax the dining experience, to create a sense of spontaneous luxury when people come to the restaurant."
In a live interview with 50 Best's Laura Price, the chef-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns talked about his latest project, Row 7 Seed Co. He also gave out packets of seeds for his Badger Flame Beets.
"Chefs are way ahead of the curve when it comes to using vegetable and ingredients, but instead of going back to heirloom crops, we need to look to the future and breed for flavour, for disease resistance and for productivity," said Barber.
"The differential between the taste that you imagine a dish to have and what you actually taste, that’s where we work," said Paul Pairet, chef-owner of Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai, China. "At Ultraviolet, we try to create that differential, that grading, and we play with atmosphere and sensorial stimuli to create a new taste."
The Basque Culinary Center students cooked a fantastic lunch that included squid in its ink, kokotxas pil pil, long-finned tuna stew and these juicy slices of grilled T-bone chuleta.
The Milk Bar founder and Chef's Table Pastry star ended the day on a sweet note with an interview with 50 Best's William Drew and a live on-stage bake of her Confetti Cookies.
"At the beginning of my career, I was often the only woman in the kitchen and for this reason I stood out, but that was my point," Tosi said. "I decided to wear this bright bow on my head because that’s who I am, even in a male kitchen, I didn’t feel the need to fit in. I was going to be myself and show it."
Cooking school success
With thanks to the Basque Culinary Center students, who cooked for some of the best chefs in the world at #50BestTalks.
Watch the full video of the talks below – and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content from #50BestTalks, presented by Miele, coming soon.
Now stay tuned for the next #50BestTalks: Voices for Change, to be held in San Francisco on September 12. In the mean time, catch up on all the highlights from The World's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, by following 50 Best on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.