As the year is drawing to a close, here’s a snapshot of what happened in the world of restaurants over the past 12 months. It’s my round up of the biggest stories of 2013, the year of big openings and closures, in which the food world said good bye to great icons and celebrated new ones. Here’s the culinary year in review.
JANUARY: France wins the Bocuse d’Or
2013 kicked off with the world’s most prestigious culinary competition: the Bocuse d’Or, which takes place every two years in Lyon, France. Founded in 1987 by the godfather of classic French cuisine, Paul Bocuse, this year’s contest saw 24 countries from five continents compete for the title. In the end, Thibaut Ruggeri of France triumphed, with Jeppe Foldager Andreseen of Denmark and Noriyuki Hamada of Japan taking second and third place respectively. Adam Bennett achieved Great Britain’s best ever result, placing fourth and picking up the special award for the best meat platter, while his assistant, Kristian Curtis, won the prize for best commis chef. Richard Rosendale, who cooked for the USA, finished in seventh place.
Looking ahead, Bennett, chef director of The Cross, in Kenilworth, will compete for Great Britain once more at the next Bocuse d’Or in 2015, while Team USA will be represented by French Laundry executive sous chef Philip Tessier.
In other news: UK team disappointed by ninth place in Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie; Gordon Ramsay Holdings returns to profit; Richard Caring’s pilot killed in London helicopter crash; Mackerel deemed unsustainable by Marine Conservation Society
FEBRUARY: Balthazar London fails to impress critics
February saw one of the most eagerly anticipated restaurant openings of the year: Balthazar London. A collaboration between Caprice Holdings owner Richard Caring and iconic New York restaurateur Keith McNally (pictured), it is, of course, modelled on the legendary all-day brasserie in New York. But unfortunately unlike the original, the London outpost failed to win over the local critics. The worst review came from The Times’ food critic Giles Coren, who gave Balthazar a zero rating for food and told diners to expect “the best restaurant in London, but the worst food in Europe”. Not used to such harsh criticism from New York, where he is the toast of critics and celebrities alike, McNally hit back by telling The Independent: “My pet hate is the London food and restaurant community which, with two notable exceptions, is a petty, self-regarding, back-stabbing bunch of narcissists who should be put through a meat grinder and dumped into the Indian Ocean.” Ouch!
In other news: Horsemeat discovered in processed beef products sold by UK supermarkets; Claude Bosi opens Malt House pub; SRA names Café-ODE in Devon the UK’s most sustainable restaurant; Rainer Becker’s Zuma announces plans to open in New York in 2014
MARCH: Noma hit by food poisoning outbreak
It’s a chef’s worst nightmare but even the most highly rated restaurants in the world aren’t immune to it: food poisoning. In March, Noma, Rene Redzepi’s famous restaurant in Copenhagen, made headlines not for winning awards but for a food poisoning outbreak, in which nearly 70 diners fell ill with norovirus, aka the winter vomiting bug. Fødevarestyrelsen, the national food authority in Denmark, blamed “poor hygiene” for the outbreak and criticised Noma for failing to react to emails from diners and a member of staff who had reported falling ill. Its report added that the restaurant did not provide hot water in the taps used by staff to wash their hands and also failed to disinfect the kitchen properly before the virus spread. Fødevarestyrelsen gave Noma an official warning and ordered it to pay for a follow-up investigation. At the time, Noma’s managing director, Peter Kreiner, said: “We are in the business of making people happy and taking care of our guests, so this is the worst thing that could happen to us.”
In other news: British authors triumph at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards; Silvena Rowe quits Quince at May Fair Hotel; Eric Chavot opens Brasserie Chavot; Michelin-starred Crown At Whitebrook closes
APRIL: Big chefs descend on London
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Celebrated chefs from all corners of the globe gathered in London in April for the announcement of S Pellegrino’s coveted list of the best restaurants in the world. A new champion was crowned this year, with El Celler de Can Roca in Spain clinching the top spot and replacing three-time winner Noma. Run by brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, the three-Michelin-starred Girona restaurant was praised for “creating magic without undue theatrics” and offering a “truly uplifting” dining experience, with the warmth of the family dynamic all-pervasive.
Relais & Châteaux’s Diner des Grands Chefs
Just a few weeks later, 45 Grands Chefs du Monde came together in London for French luxury hotel and restaurant consortium Relais & Châteaux’s annual Diner des Grands Chefs. Held at Old Billingsgate overlooking the Thames, the event saw chefs from 12 different countries cook for 600 guests in aid of charity Action Against Hunger, raising more than £100,000.
Here’s a short video of the culinary spectacle.
In other news: Hakkasan Group closes Chrysan; Jason Atherton opens Social Eating House; Roux Scholar Adam Smith leaves the Ritz for Devonshire Arms; Private equity firm LDC buys majority share in D&D London; Mark Sargeant joins Great Northern Hotel as chef director
MAY: EU tries and fails to ban refillable olive oil jugs
The European Union announced its ludicrous plans to outlaw the use of unmarked olive oil jugs on restaurant tables. The proposal instantly provoked popular loathing across Europe, with Dutch PM Mark Rutte calling the ban “too bizarre for words”. So big was the public outcry, it eventually led to the EU making a humiliating U-turn by scrapping the plans altogether. Dacian Ciolos, the European commissioner for agriculture, admitted that the proposed ban had caused “misunderstanding” from the people it had wanted to protect. “It was a measure intended to help consumers, to protect and inform them but it is clear that it cannot attract consumer support,” he said.
In other news: Medlar’s Clement Robert named Sommelier of the Year; Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney open Oblix at the Shard; David Chang and Paul Kahan share James Beard Outstanding Chef award; Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack open Scran & Scallie pub in Edinburgh
JUNE: Anthony Flinn’s Leeds business goes into administration and Chef Jockey leaves the Fat Duck
Anthony Flinn’s mini empire of Leeds restaurants collapsed into administration. The chef-restaurateur, who has widely been credited with putting the city on the culinary map, was forced to shut his flagship Anthony’s, plus Piazza by Anthony and Rib Shakk – all located in the historic Corn Exchange – as well as Anthony’s Patisserie in the Victoria Quarter, with 70 people losing their jobs.
June was also the month in which James Petrie, head of creative development at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, announced that he was leaving the company after more than a decade. The Scottish chef, who is widely known as Jockey and worked with Blumenthal for 11 years, announced his departure on Twitter: “After 11 great years working with Heston Blumenthal, I have decided the time has come to move on to explore other opportunities,” he said. “[I’m] looking forward to many new food adventures ahead.”
In other news: Little Chef drops Heston Blumenthal after six years; Paul O’Neill named 2013 Roux Scholar; French MPs approve bill forcing restaurants to label home-made food; Bruno Loubet opens Grain Store
JULY: David Collins dies and Marcus Wareing hits out at Westminster City Council
One of the most influential restaurant designers of his generation, David Collins passed away in July, aged 58, after a “short but valiant” battle with skin cancer. Credited with putting the taste into Britain’s restaurants, he developed the interiors of some of London’s most celebrated establishments, including Nobu Berkeley, J Sheekey, the Wolseley, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and the Connaught Hotel’s bar. His death marked a huge loss for both the hospitality and the design industries.
Meanwhile Marcus Wareing hit the news after his two-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Berkeley hotel scored just one out of five in a food hygiene rating. However, the chef instantly lashed back at the Westminster City Council report, insisting it highlighted a ‘technicality’ and that he would appeal against the rating. “My kitchen is a bloody Rolls-Royce that has customers in it, on my chef’s table, daily,” he said.
In other news: Simon Rogan wins Chef and Independent Restaurateur Catey; Gordon Ramsay closes restaurant at Claridge’s; Andre Garrett leaves Galvin at Windows to join Clieveden; Shake Shack and Five Guys open in Covent Garden
AUGUST: Can Fabes closes
Can Fabes, the former three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Catalonia in northern Spain, closed after 32 years. Formerly run by iconic chef Santi Santamaria (pictured), who died of a sudden heart attack aged 53 in 2011, the restaurant’s demise marked another blow for Catalonia’s celebrated food scene after the closure of El Bulli last year, which will reopen as the El Bulli Foundation in 2014. Can Fabes, which first opened in 1981, was the first restaurant in Catalonia to gain Michelin’s top accolade of three stars in 1994 and it retained the rating until 2012, when it was demoted to two stars. Its closure came just a year after the Santamaria family shut their restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore, where Santi died after collapsing in the kitchen.
In other news: Hawksmoor sold to private equity firm Graphite Capital for a reputed £35m; chefs Ashley Palmer-Watts, Paul Foster and John Freeman and maitre d’ Paulo de Tarso climb Mount Kilimanjaro; Waitrose becomes new publisher of the Good Food Guide
SEPTEMBER: The month of Tom Kerridge
September traditionally heralds the start of the restaurant awards season and this year, Tom Kerridge, the chef proprietor of the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, was the star of the show. Not only was the Hand & Flowers – the world’s only two-Michelin-starred pub, which the chef runs together with his wife Beth – named both Restaurant and Gastropub of the Year 2013 in the National Restaurant Awards, Tom also picked up the Chefs’ Chef award at the AA Hospitality awards, which is voted for only by AA Rosette holding chefs in the UK. And if that wasn’t enough, Tom became a household name after hitting TV screens across the country with his very own programme Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food on BBC2, which also includes an accompanying cookbook. Go Tom!
In other news: L’Enclume voted best restaurant in Britain by the Good Food Guide; Jason Atherton opens Berners Tavern at the London Edition Hotel; Tramshed, Kitchen Table and the Atrium Champagne Bar among UK winners at Restaurant & Bar Design Awards; Alain Ducasse takes over Le Meurice in Paris
OCTOBER: Michelin awards new stars across the world
Michelin season got into full swing in the autumn as the famous French restaurant guide handed out new stars across the world, including 10 new three-stars. Sadly there were no three-star additions in the UK or the USA this year, but Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the Greenhouse, both in London; Sixteen and Grace, both in Chicago; Quince in San Francisco; and Jung Sik in New York, all celebrated winning their second star. Meanwhile Gordon Ramsay at the London in New York lost both its Michelin stars.
The 10 new three-star additions were:
La Vague d’Or in Saint-Tropez, France
Ristorante Reale in Castel Di Sangro in the Abruzzo region, Italy
Restaurant Überfahrt Christian Jürgense in Rottach-Egern, Germany
Diverxo in Madrid, Spain
De Leest in Vaassen, Netherlands
Bo Innovation and Sushi Shikon in Hong Kong
Mizai and Kichisen, both in Kyoto; and Nakashima in Hiroshima, in Japan
There are now 117 three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, including 33 in Japan; 27 in France; and 11 in Germany.
In other news: Iconic London restaurants Elena’s L’Etoile and the Gay Hussar put up for sale; Angela Hartnett, Neil Borthwick and Canteen founders launch Merchant’s Tavern; BaxterStorey’s Hayden Groves wins National Chef of the Year; Albert and Michel Roux Jr announce two new restaurants; New York’s Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield relaunch Tosca Café in San Francisco
NOVEMBER: Charlie Trotter dies
The food world paid tribute to iconic Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, whose sudden death shocked restaurateurs and chefs across the world. The 54-year-old chef died of a stroke on 5 November. Charlie Trotter was the chef-owner of his eponymous restaurant in Chicago, which he closed last year after 25 years. The restaurant was world-famous for its innovative approach to American cuisine and set a standard for chefs in the USA and beyond. He won 10 James Beard awards and trained some of the USA’s most acclaimed chefs, including three-Michelin-starred chef Grant Achatz of Chicago restaurants Alinea and Next. His restaurant won two stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide to Chicago in 2011 and Trotter wrote 14 cookbooks, a television series and three books that translated his philosophies of excellence into business-world instructionals. Fellow US chef Thomas Keller said of his passing: “Charlie Trotter was a visionary; one who exemplified what a young American chef could do to influence a generation. He’ll be greatly missed.”
In other news: Michael Caines tops Sunday Times Food List; Alan Murchison Restaurants put into voluntary liquidation; Simon Rogan to take over restaurant at Claridge’s; Heston Blumenthal to open restaurant at Heathrow’s Terminal 2
DECEMBER: El Celler De Can Roca to embark on world tour and Oud Sluis closes
Spain’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca announced it is to embark on a world tour next year. Starting in August 2014, the entire team of the Girona restaurant will hit the road as part of the Roca&Roll World Tour 2014. The first destinations will be Mexico, Colombia and Peru. According to the restaurant’s blog, brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca (pictured) made the decision to go on tour as the result of numerous requests for them to open restaurants in other parts of the world. However, the brothers are yet to reveal details on exactly what the travelling El Celler de Can Roca will comprise and where the world tour will take them after South America.
Meanwhile over in Holland Oud Sluis, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Sergio Herman (pictured), is to hold its final service this Sunday (22 December) after 25 years in business. Herman said he wants to focus on “new, fresh projects”, including his other restaurant businesses, Pure C in Cadzand and La Chapelle in Antwerp, as well as his publishing company Minestrone. “I’ve literally and figuratively reached my peak at Oud Sluis,” Herman said in an interview posted on his website. “I’ve spent years refining flavours and perfecting dishes and now feel that I’m at the top of my abilities here; I don’t think I can achieve a higher level of cooking with Oud Sluis.”
In other news: Jamie Oliver could axe Union Jacks; Burger and Lobster plans move to New York; Jean-Georges Vongerichten to open vegetarian restaurant in New York; Steven Edwards from South Lodge Hotel wins MasterChef: The Professionals; Fired chef Jim Knight highjacks former employer’s Twitter account
These are just a few highlights of 2013, which has been a brilliant year for chefs and restaurants across the globe. For me personally it has been a year of big change as I left London and moved to Los Angeles, where I am discovering a whole new and very exciting food scene. I’m taking a few weeks off now to go to South Africa for the holidays. But I will be back writing about restaurants, chefs and the LA food scene next year and hope to see you again then. In the meantime have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year! Kerstin