The Story Behind the Incredible Food Event, Grand Gelinaz

The Story Behind the Incredible Food Event, Grand Gelinaz

My first thought when I heard about The Grand Gelinaz—or as it is called this year, The Grand Gelinaz Shuffle—was how do more people not know about this?! The event is, for lack of better words, gastronomically badass.

What is The Grand Gelinaz, and why is it called a Shuffle this year?

The Grand Gelinaz is actually the name of an event as well as a group of brilliant, visionary chefs. Verbatim from the founders themselves (that Try The World was lucky enough to interview last week), Gelinaz is a collective of chefs that is made by chefs and for chefs.

Some of the founding members were Fulvio Pierangelini, Massimo Bottura, Petter Nilsson, and Andoni Luis Aduriz. The event is a traveling annual celebration of culinary talent, passion, and mutual respect for others’ work. Past events have included topless women in Peru and a surprise takeover of Wylie Dufresne’s restaurant. This year, the event is slated to last over a 24 hour-period, during which multiple restaurants around the world will present a foreign chef’s dishes interpretation of that establishment’s cuisine.

Gelinaz started around ten years ago, and has since grown from a band of chefs that met once or twice a year to create their own expressions of one traditional dish to a culinary inner circle with chefs from around the world hoping to be accepted into the Gelinaz family. This year, 37 chefs will be shuffled across the world, with just three days notice of their assigned destination. The masterminds that manage the operations of this incredible event that brings together the most innovative culinary talent from around the world are, amazingly, just two: Andrea Petrini and Alexandra Swenden. Try The World had the great pleasure of Skyping with them just a few days ago. We are already looking forward to next year and hoping to score a ticket (dinner and plane) to the 2016 event slated for Istanbul.

Tell us about the history of Gelinaz. How did it first start out?

Andrea Petrini: In our very first event, the chefs only met once or twice a year and they would do a dinner where they took a recipe from one of the members of the chefs involved. They took this recipe and made their own remix of that dish. A few years ago, for example, they did a veal tongue braised in Barolo wine. The diners ate a version of that dish eight times. Another year, it was a goat milk ice cream and everyone did a version of that dish.

Alessandra Swenden: In 2013 we organized a huge version of this eight-course dinner with even more chefs and decided to incorporate contemporary performing artists. Each chef was told to do a version of an 18th century traditional chicken dish with a vegetable jelly. Performers of all kinds—dancers, classic violinists, etc.—broke up the meal that lasted over eight hours!

It must be such an incredible experience to attend one of these dinners. How would you describe the spirit of Gelinaz?

AP: The spirit is the collective of chefs where it is made by, run by, and executed by chefs. Last April in New York City, the collective wanted to surprise Wylie Dufresne. The 25 chefs were hiding and prepping in Brooklyn and then they took over Wiley’s restaurant before he arrived and prepared a huge dinner to honor and surprise him.

AS: Gelinaz is a small community made of very well known chefs as well as those that are less high profile. It is more of a spirit than anything else. Gelinaz is not a competition, but rather chefs admiring and showing respect for each other. They consider everyone equal. You become a member when the other chefs accept you and see the same spirit within you.

What inspired the theme for the Shuffle this year?

AS: The concept was to keep the identity and destination of the guest chef a secret in the spirit that everyone is equal. This way when a chef cooks, he isn’t going to cook his own food but he isn’t going to be replicating a recipe either. The chef must interpret the recipe through his own personality. What is important is that the chef is moving from his kitchen. Normally, when a chef travels, the staff stays behind while the chef goes to the food conferences and other restaurants. With the shuffle, the staff gets to learn from and work with the new chef who is taking over the kitchen. So it isn’t just an experience for the chef; it’s also very much for the team.

How are the chefs chosen each year?

AP: If you’re are an asshole, you have no part in Gelinaz! You have to be a good, decent human being. We have a group of founding chefs, and every year they try to introduce other chefs that they respect for their cooking. The first chefs who joined are the ones who decide if the new chefs will be officially adopted into Gelinaz. These guys are all different, but what links them all together is they are good human beings.

What’s the craziest thing that has happened in The Grand Gelinaz?

AS: Definitely when the chefs in the prep kitchen took over in New York to honor Wylie Dufresne. Twenty five top chefs from around the world were prepping in one kitchen. It was such a mess afterward that the owners had to clean it for a week! It was like a kitchen after a Rolling Stones concert.

Have there ever been any struggles or particularly terrible dishes in Gelinaz?

AP: In Lima, the base recipe was with octopus, and we had 29 chefs cooking. For Italians, Americans, and South Americans, octopus is a relatively common ingredient, but people who came from the north were new to working with the ingredient, so their dishes were not the best ones of the evening.

The Gelinaz group is founded on a deep principle—and a clever twist on Nietzsche: “beyond food and evil.” They demonstrate the transcendence of dining into an experience that showcases artistry through the medium of cooking. I must now come back to my original question: how do more people not know about this? How has this brilliance been kept so quiet for so long? It is brilliant to celebrate brilliance. Vive Gelinaz!

Chefs participating in The Grand Gelinaz Shuffle this year are Albert Adrià, Alex Atala, Alexandre Gauthier, Ana Ros, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Bertrand Grébaut, Ben Shewry, Blaine Wetzel, Carlo Mirarchi, Claude Bosi, Colombe St-Pierre, Daniel Patterson, Danny Bowien, David Kinch, David Thom, Davide Scabin, Alain Ducasse, Fulvio Pierangelini, Jock Zonfrillo, Kobe Desramaults, Massimiliano Alajmo, Massimo Bottura, Mauro Colagreco, Mehmet Gürs, Paul Cunningham, René Redzepi, Riccardo Camanini, Rodolfo Guzman, Sean Brock, Sean Gray, Virgilio Martínez Véliz, Yannick Alléno, and Yoshihiro Narisawa.

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