While Michelin Star chefs are keeping their gaze firmly fixed on the future, they’re also marking a return to the past. Umami-packed fermented nuts, legumes and root vegetables go far beyond traditional sauerkraut.
Dehydrated foods add soft, chewy, and crunchy textures to edible works of art and unveil a world of upscale jerky and dehydrated meat exploration.
Cured fish gets a modern update with creative ingredients. And open flames – back in vogue since Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann’s episode of Netflix's Chef's Table – give a beautiful char along with a return to nature. The best part is that despite the fine dining approach, most of these techniques can be applied at home – though if you're dreaming of Juniper-smoked pike-perch or Nine-hour slow-grilled rib eye, it might be worth investing in a big backyard (or at least a fireplace). Here's how some of the top restaurants in the world are using the techniques.
What started at Momofuku's test kitchen as an experiment with chickpeas, pistachios and lentils to make homemade misos has taken on a life of its own. At two-Michelin-star Narisawa in Japan, the Bread of the Forest course is a bubbling and fermenting bread dough rising like an active volcano above candles tableside until, several courses in, it's cooked in a hot stone pot for 12 minutes until it's crusty and golden.
And at one-Michelin-starred Al's Place in San Francisco, potatoes are brine-fermented like pickles before being turned into fine dining French fries served with smoked applesauce.
This age-old technique isn't just for preserving fish anymore. It's also great for meat and vegetables, though creative spins on gravlax are a Michelin star trend too. At Mission Chinese in New York and San Francisco, the James Beard Award-winning chef uses Japanese koji to cure chicken, while at the two-Michelin star Le Gavroche in London, the kitchen adds an inventive twist to a more traditional Cured salmon by marinating the fish in lemon and vodka aigre-doux.
It’s one of the oldest food preservation methods and since the beginning of time people have let sun and nature take care of drawing moisture out of foods. For example, Southern Italy is known for drying tomatoes, while India is known for drying mangos, chilies and spices. Now drying food has entered the top cuisines. At two-Michelin-Star restaurant Focus in Switzerland, chef Nenad Mlinarevic intensifies the sweetness of beetroot by dehydrating it and pairing it with trout roe, horseradish snow, and chive vinaigrette. While at Noma, René Redzepi's famous edible dirt is actually dehydrated malt and beer. The whole radish planted in the soil was probably as fooled as you.
At his eponymous Swedish restaurant, chef Niklas Ekstedt only cooks over open flame: either a wood-burning fireplace or traditional stove. His dishes are charred, smoked and slow-baked culinary masterpieces, like chimney-baked Avocado and king crab; Juniper-smoked pike-perch, Sweetbreads baked in hay; and Spring lamb with smoked tomato, herbs and salty caramel.
On the other side of the world, at Francis Mallmann's Siete Fuegos in Argentina, fire is also king. The chef and author of Mallmann on Fire does more than incredible grass-fed rib-eyes, pork steaks and salt-encrusted salmon that cooks in cast-iron in the embers of the flame. He also serves smoky baked Provolone with cherry tomatoes, oregano and basil; Burnt potatoes gnocchi with prawns, bacon, tomato, lemon and basil; and Salt-crusted pear with burrata, prosciutto and lemon peel.