The Week in Restaurants – news round up

Grant AchatzThree-Michelin-starred chef Grant Achatz (pictured) made headlines this week, after he took to Twitter to question whether a couple bringing their eight-month-old baby to his restaurant Alinea in Chicago was acceptable. His frustrated tweet about the crying infant got such a huge reaction, a national debate erupted and the chef found himself on Good Morning America discussing whether babies should be banned from upscale restaurants altogether.

Here in California, new food safety laws have caused outrage among chefs and bartenders, who are now banned from touching certain foods with their bare hands. While a number of chefs – particularly sushi chefs – have labelled the new regulation ineffective and detrimental to their dishes, bartenders have called it off-putting and less hygienic.

The James Beard Foundation has announced that its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award will go to iconic New York restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, who opened the legendary Le Cirque in 1974. The annual award is given to a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way people in America eat, cook, and think about food.

Trois MecEating out guide Zagat unveiled its list of the 10 hottest restaurants in the world right now, which features establishments from across the globe, from Brazil to Singapore. Among them is French restaurant Trois Mec (pictured) in LA, where pre-paid dinner reservation tickets are about as hard to come by as a comment from President Hollande about his alleged affair. It also includes Story in London, where 26-year-old chef Tom Sellers is serving up his exciting menu inspired by the history of England and his personal experiences with produce; and Joshua Skenes’s incredibly expensive Saison in San Francisco where a special tasting menu will set you back $398.

Lanshu Chen of Taichung, Taiwan’s Le Moût has been named Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2014 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – even though her restaurant hasn’t yet been included in the list. At Le Moût, which opened in Taiwan in December 2008, Chen has built on her experience in some of the top kitchens of France and America and continues to explore the boundaries of haute French cuisine and its place in Taiwan’s growing gastronomic scene. She will be presented with her award next month.

David_ThompsonMeanwhile Thai food aficionado David Thompson (pictured), who formerly ran the Michelin-starred Nahm in London and whose Bangkok outpost is currently ranked number three in the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, is to open Long Chim at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort. The chef will take over a space currently occupied by Guy Savoy, with plans to unveil the Thai street food concept, which has plans to be rolled out as a worldwide chain.

In France legendary chef Paul Bocuse, owner of the three-Michelin-starred L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in Lyon and founder of the world-famous Bocuse d’Or culinary competition, was released from hospital after back surgery. The 87-year-old chef had been hospitalised earlier this month to treat back pains and complications due to Parkinson’s.

Staying in France, the country’s government is aiming to put Burgundy’s vineyards and the entire Champagne sector on the UNESCO world heritage list. The move comes after ministers appeared to snub both wine regions in last year’s nominations round opting instead to put forward 25,000-year-old cave paintings in Chauvet and the volcanoes of the Auvergne.

Gordon-RamsayOn the subject of Champagne, sweary chef Gordon Ramsay (pictured) was stopped by airport customs in Doha after trying to bring a bottle of Dom Pérignon into the Muslim Gulf state. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been stopped by customs,” Ramsay said at a press conference. “The alarm went off and I got called into a little room. So it’s been confiscated – the first time I’ve ever lost a bottle of Dom Pérignon! It was a birthday present from a dear friend.”

In London, erstwhile Ramsay protégé, two-Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing announced that he is to revamp his eponymous restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel into a more informal eatery called Marcus, with a “high-end American” approach to service. “Michelin stars alone don’t fill restaurants anymore,” he told the Times.

Fellow two-Michelin-star restaurant the Greenhouse in London’s Mayfair was celebrating this week after being the only restaurant to be awarded four rosettes from the AA. A further 15 restaurants across England won three rosettes.

White Castle HamburgersAnd finally, back in the US, Time Magazine revealed its list of the 17 most influential burgers, which comes as the result of interviews with burger historians and experts (yes, these are actual jobs) to determine which patties made the biggest impact on the burger industry and the world at large. The top three were made up of the In-N-Out Burger (3); the McDonald’s burger (2); and the White Castle Slider, whose iconic square patty paved the way for the great American burger obsession, Time said.

Beneath the Whites – Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura is the chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, which is currently ranked number three in the S. Pellegrino list of the  World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Undoubtedly one of the foremost ambassadors of modern Italian cuisine, his avant-garde cooking style is influenced as much by the traditions of his native region of Emilia-Romagna as it is by music, art and literature. Here Massimo shares a few thoughts on what inspires his culinary philosophies. 

What’s your earliest food memory?
Hiding, under my grandmother’s table, from my three older brothers’ torments and threats. I found peace at my grandmother’s feet as she rolled out the dough for tortellini, among the smells of broth and roast meats, and silenced by the constant chatting of my grandmother, mother and aunt who prepared meals for the 10 of us every lunch and dinner.

What’s your idea of comfort food?
My grandmother’s tortellini! They are small packages of Emilian flavor perfectly balanced and complete. Traditionally they are served in capon broth but at Osteria Francescana we serve them in a Parmigiano Reggiano sauce made without heavy cream but with water and emulsified Parmigiano Reggiano. We boil the tortellini in capon broth so that they can acquire the flavour of the broth, then dress them with the Parmigiano cream. Delicious! However, we haven’t modified the tortellini just the sauce – I wouldn’t dare change my grandmother’s tortellini filling!

What do you never cook without?
My team. I admire their dedication and loyalty. We are very focused on what we are doing: to achieve pure flavors and long lasting ideas.

Who’s had the biggest influence on your cooking?
Many things have influenced my cooking but of these the most influential are probably my travels, which stain my thoughts and therefore my food; my reflections on my own territory, family and traditions, which influence my choices; and finally contemporary art, which has had a big influence of the way I approach Italian cuisine.

When are you happiest?
Listening to music. I love to listen to vinyl records on my turntable after work. Sometimes jazz, sometimes electronica, and sometimes old classic rock that takes me back in time. The experience of listening to music, especially when you turn out the lights gives me space to think.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
My speciality as a chef is to revisit traditional recipes and ideas and make them contemporary. If I could travel in time therefore, I would probably like to go back to explore our Italian history. History has placed many layers upon the surface of this country and many cross-cultural influences have left their mark on its cuisine. The better you understand your past the more you can use it to influence your future, or in my case my cooking!

Follow Massimo on Twitter @massimobottura