October 20 is International Chef’s Day and, on the occasion, we look at some of the world’s best-loved chefs and some of the iconic dishes they’ve created.
International Chef’s Day was established in 2004 by the Late Chef Dr Bill Gallagher. Ever since, Worldchefs—the World Association of Chefs Societies—has used International Chef’s Day to celebrate the profession, mindful of their duty to pass on their knowledge and culinary skills to the next generation of chefs. In 2021, Worldchefs are carrying on their theme of ‘Healthy Food for the Future’ by working to prepare children for a healthy life. This year, the emphasis is also on sustainability and the environment to ensure a healthy planet for future generations.
To achieve this objective, chefs around the world are conducting ‘Healthy Food for the Future’ workshops for children to educate them about healthy eating and teaching them how to be creative with food. Worldchefs believes that it’s “vital for us to teach children about the impact that production and consumption of food has on the environment.”
On the occasion of International Chef’s Day, Traveldine pays tribute to some of the world’s most celebrated chefs and the iconic dishes they’ve given us.
Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California in 1971, a restaurant noted for creating the farm-to-table movement and popularising California cuisine. The very fact that the restaurant has endured for 50 years is a testament to its brilliance. Waters is a pioneer of the slow food movement and the use of fresh, organic produce is central to the restaurant’s food philosophy. Her most iconic dish is perhaps the Baked Goat Cheese with Garden Lettuces. “We have kept this dish on the menu every day since we opened. We vary the accompaniment sometimes, according to what’s available, adding slices of ripe pear and watercress in the fall, for instance, or rocket leaves and hazelnut oil…Our goat cheese is made for us in Sonoma County,” says Waters. It was also a salad that bagged her the prestigious James Beard Award, making her the first woman to do so.
After working for the Oberoi Group, Chef Vineet Bhatia moved to London in 1993. In 2001, he became the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star, for Zaika. Bhatia’s contribution to putting Indian cuisine on the world fine-dining map is unparalleled. He now runs a chain of restaurants around the world and has featured on MasterChef India as a judge. While his oeuvre is extensive, one of his most iconic dishes is the Chocomosa which is—you guessed it—a chocolate-filled samosa. Chef Vineet says it is “our most copied signature dish.”
Massimo Bottura is an avant-garde chef who has revolutionised Italian cuisine. Osteria Francescana, his three-star Michelin restaurant in Modena, Italy, has been in the top 5 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list several times since 2010, and twice in the No. 1 spot. His mosty iconic dish is called The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna. Yes, that’s the name. It debuted at the Osteria in 1995 and is now retired from the menu (but now available at Francescana at Casa Maria Luigia). The dish combines Parmigiano-Reggiano wafers and spinach pasta ‘chips’—the pasta is boiled and then baked until crisp—served on top of ragu, bechamel and a piece of tomato terrine.
New York-based Vikas Khanna is an Indian chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, filmmaker and humanitarian and one of the judges of MasterChef India. He worked in leading Indian hotel chains before moving to New York. He eventually joined Junoon, an upscale Indian restaurant in Manhattan that received a Michelin star for six years starting in 2011. In 2009, People magazine voted him as the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. In 2020, Khanna opened Ellora in Dubai, said to be a seasonal culinary experience. Vikas Khanna’s signature dish could perhaps be Kandhari Paneer, as it helped him earn his first Michelin star. It is a dish Khanna spent years perfecting. But it may now have been unseated by a dish he recently revealed on social media which is inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. “If Vincent Van Gogh was a chef,” Khanna wrote on Instagram while sharing a short video clip of the dish, which promptly went viral.
In 2018, Garima Arora became the first Indian female chef to earn a Michelin star. She is chef-owner of Restaurant Gaa, a modern Indian fine-dining restaurant set in a traditional Thai house in the heart of Bangkok, and the all-day modern Indian eatery and bar, HERE. Chef Arora applies traditional Indian cooking techniques to locally available ingredients. In the past she has trained with Gordon Ramsay and at Noma. In March 2019, her Restaurant Gaa made its debut on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list at No. 16 (with the Highest New Entry Award). It’s currently No. 46 on the list. Chef Arora’s mission is to reform the narrative on Indian food through her cooking and her not-for-profit initiative, Food Forward India. Her signature dish is Blue Swimmer Crab, Long Peppercorn, Macadamia Milk, where the crab is paired with luxurious macadamia milk and served in an emulsion of ice and jaggery.
Some consider him to be the greatest chef in the world right now. Certainly, his devotion to his craft is beyond question. The Swiss chef’s cuisine focuses on locally sourced ingredients, simplicity and seasonal flavours. He began working in kitchens at age 14 and earned his first Michelin star at age 24. In 2003, he moved to the United States as executive chef at Campton Place in San Francisco. Three years later, he moved to New York to become executive chef at Eleven Madison Park, and in 2011 became chef-owner in partnership with Will Guidara. In 2017, Eleven Madison Park topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Up until last year, if you had asked us what Humm’s iconic dish was we would have tossed a coin and chosen either the Whole Roasted Duck with Daikon and Plum or the Lavender Honey Glazed Duck with Spices (of the latter, Humm said in 2016, “one of only a few recipes I feel we’ve truly perfected.”). Now, we’re not so sure. This year, Eleven Madison Park reopened on June 10 with a fully plant-based menu. Carnivores are aghast but whoever has managed to secure a table so far has been mostly blown away. Humm’s most iconic dish in the making could well be, um, Cucumber. Or Cucumber with Melon and Smoked Daikon if it helps you visualise the flavours. The labour-intensive dish is not to be scoffed at. Consisting of minutely chopped, compressed cucumbers layered with melon and daikon on an avocado cream base and sprinkled with powdered cucumber, it takes two chefs all day to chop and prepare.
Progressive Indian chef Gaggan Anand is known for his playful and mischievous take on food. He opened Gaggan in Bangkok in 2010 and won a number of accolades over the decade. After a split with his partners, he opened his own restaurant Gaggan Anand in Bangkok in 2019. Anand believes that most food should be eaten without any cutlery, and his signature dish at his former restaurant reflects that. Called Lick It Up, after the famous song from Kiss, the dish, which was a mix of different curries placed on a plate, required diners to pick up the plate and lick it.
The British celebrity chef, who runs The Fat Duck, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, is considered a pioneer of multi-sensory cooking and flavour encapsulation. He first shot to attention with unusual recipes like bacon and egg ice cream and snail porridge. Blumenthal has a scientific approach to cooking and even has several honorary degrees to prove it. One of his most interesting dishes is Sound of the Sea, which requires diners to listen to a recording of the seaside while eating a variety of seafood. But it’s the humble potato that Blumenthal’s most iconic dish is based on—his Triple-cooked Chips. Blumenthal started developing the recipe in 1992, ending up with a three-stage cooking process in his quest for “chips with a glass-like crust and a soft, fluffy centre”. The preparation requires the chips to first be simmered and then cooled and drained of water using either a sous-vide method or by freezing, then deep fried at 130°C and again cooled, and finally deep fried again at 180°C. Blumenthal calls the result “arguably his most influential culinary innovation”. The chips were finally served at The Fat Duck in 1995 but have now been adopted by most restaurants.
Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa is a Japanese celebrity chef noted for his fusion techniques blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. His eponymous restaurants are scattered all over the world. Nobu’s signature dish, of course, is black cod in miso and has spawned many copies.