It's intriguing to see just how quickly our tastes in food have evolved in recent years. I remember not so long ago, when no true epicurean could rest until he or she had made the pilgrimage to Catalonia to sample the foams and caviars being created in the lab-cum-kitchen of chef Ferran Adrià’s el Bulli in Spain. Tasting menus of Olympic proportions became the measure of a fine-dining establishment.
Then came the foragers. I first heard about this development when west coast chef Kobus van der Merwe started gathering greens on the sand dunes and then René Redzepi in Copenhagen sealed the deal with his seasonal fare and reinvention of Nordic cuisine. Soon Noma was the next must-try on every foodie’s itinerary. It was the first sign that sustainability was moving up on the menu.
Next came the nose-to-tail discussion, and now there’s a restaurant in Cape Town called La Tête, where you can literally eat everything from the cheeks to the the brains of an animal. But by far the most interesting evolutionary move in the world of fine dining is the fact that high on the list of this year’s best restaurants in the world is an Italian restaurant called Osteria Francescana that prides itself on serving leftover meals to those in need. (They are number two this year; number one in 2016.)
This is a world I am happy to live in: a world where we celebrate excellence and can rejoice in the skills of one of the world’s finest food craftsmen such as Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, but also a world where the realities of our existence are confronted and addressed, and where everyone gets to benefit from success. During the Rio Olympics last year, Bottura invited 65 international chefs to help him turn 15 tonnes of salvaged food from the city’s restaurants into 10 000 meals for charity.
South Africa’s most famous culinary export and Michelin Star star, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, thinks the fight against food waste is the most important food trend of the year and I salute that. Read more from Jan himself on page 24. Bon appetit!