Russia may be the black sheep of the world at the moment, what with their oppressive legislation against the LGBT community and the crises in the Ukraine, but the culinary world saw fit to welcome them to the table at the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup. Given the chance to shine an exciting glimmer of Russian creativity and ingenuity appeared at the finals of the competition in Venice on 14 June. Maybe we just need to invite Mr Putin to dinner? Panti Bliss can be the hostess.
Sergey Berezutskiy, the Russian chef from ‘As eat is’ restaurant in Moscow, scooped the prestigious Panna & S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year Award 2014 in Venice. Competing against talent from across the globe and judged by chefs with restaurants which rank amongst the top 50 in the world the young Russian delivered two dishes which set him apart from all the other competitors.
The competition is based on a 50/50 division of marks between a dish created on dry land, with the young chefs using home ingredients, and a dish made on board the racing boats of the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup Regatta. The race dish is created using ingredients gathered in the morning at the Rialto outdoor market and then assembled in the galley kitchen of the racing yachts.
On the previous evening Sergey Berezutskiy’s dish of mackerel with watermelon, crispy beetroot ‘risotto’, and chechil, a traditional Russian cheese, had wowed many including the critic’s table where I sat. In the end the Critic’s choice went to the talented young Israeli chef Ahmad Salameh. You may have noticed by his name that he is in fact an Arab working in the kitchen of La Regency Restaurant of the King David Hotel, in Jerusalem. His evening dish, served up in the Hilton Stucky Hotel, was black garlic cannelloni filled with duck rillettes with soft polenta, roasted pumpkin, pearl shallot caramelised in pink lady juice and saffron with cracker tapioca, liquorice powder, verbena leaves and demi-glaze sauce.
Other highlights included Tim Maslow of Ribelle Restaurant in Boston, USA. His offering was a dish of sweet roasted carrots and buttered nuts, with two jams, one of yellow and brown mustard seeds with nigella seeds; the other of buckthorn berries and turbinado sugar.
The following day the Venetian Lagoon was the spectacular setting for the combined regatta and cooking race. The international jury sat in some majesty on the Missoni boat Timoteo, moored off the historic Venice Yacht Club of Compagnia della Cela. As each racing yacht passed the finish line they headed to the Timoteo where the jury received the culinary offerings of the sea-chefs. The jury was surrounded by staff, crew and the international press as they ate – a sort of modern day version of Sun Kings dining as the courtiers watched. The young Giacomo Missoni was at one end and the culinary giant that is Gastón Acurio, of Astrid & Gastón in Peru, was at the other end so it was difficult to work out which emanated the most sun.
The cooking environment for the chefs was somewhat less regal. If you’ve ever seen how yachts lurch and dip when spinnakers are lowered or ruffles quickly tightened from jibs, it’s hard to believe any of the ten young chefs delivered anything other than scrambled eggs. Yet despite several ‘mise en place’ not remaining, well, ‘en place’, the most extraordinary dishes emerged from the tiny galley kitchens. A special mention for poor Tim Maslow, the US entrant from Rinelle in Boston, who watched his entire prep lift into the air as the yacht rushed into the trough of a wave, and then watched all his prep land on the floor. Still, he didn’t get this far in the competition without forethought and managed to reproduce the entire meal with extra ingredients he’d brought on board.
But for all the ten young chefs hard work it was Russia’s Sergey Berezutskiy’s dish, created from fresh Venetian ingredients, which won the international jury’s hearts. The dish, called ‘two ways’ consisted of Carpaccio of langoustines with artichokes smoked in birch bark with zucchini and tomatoes and ravioli of vegetables in a langoustine broth.
My personal favourite was sadly not placed but it has only made me more determined to visit Jacob Davy’s ‘Est. Restaurant’ in Australia. His shellfish tea with langoustine tartare, semi-dried tomatoes, ink silk and lemon verbena with rice was a stunning combination of umami, high sharp notes and blasts of sea spray.
Second place went to Belgium’s Thomas Troupin of La Menuiserie Restaurant with his egg yolk 63 degrees with brown butter, mushrooms and sherry cream and Colonnata lard. Third place went to Germany’s Kirill Kinfelt of TrüffelSchwein Restaurant with his guinea fowl and calamaretti with potatoes and tomatoes.
The gaping hole for we Irish was the lack of entries from the Republic and even a cursory glance of the last few years of the Irish Eurotoque Young Chef of the Year Awards is evidence that we absolutely deserve a place here. There was much creativity in the dishes I tasted at the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup but I have seen this matched and exceeded by our young chefs at the Eurotoque annual awards. As this year’s judge Elena Arzak said to me of her culinary experience in Dublin: “You cannot imagine how many things I have seen in just two days, I knew it was good but I am really impressed. Dublin is a gastronomic destination. People who like food should come to Ireland.” When the holder of the title ‘San Pellegino Best Female Chef 2012’ and co-proprietor of Arzak, The San Pellegrino number 8 restaurant in the world, says people need to take notice of Irish cooking, it’s probably time the San Pellegrino judges for both The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the Young Chef of the Year award started to listen. They won’t be disappointed.
The international jury included chefs who rank in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Andreas Caminada, Schauenstein Schloss Hotel Restaurant, Switzerland, ranked number 43.
Davide Scabin, Combal.Zero, Italy, ranked number 51.
Gastón Acurio, Astrid & Gastón, Peru, ranked number 18.
Helena Rizzo, Mani Restaurant, Brazil, ranked number 36.
Ivan Li, Family Li, Imperial Chinese Restaurant, China, ranked number 46 (Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants).
Umberto Bombana, Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, ranked number 10 (Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants).
Paul Qui, Qui Restaurant, USA, Winner San Pellegrino Cooking Cup Young Chef Award 2013.
Charles Reed, Jury President, William Reed Business Media, UK. www.william-reed.com/markets-products/hospitality/restaurant-magazine
Francesca Barberini, Young Chefs Coordinator, TV host, Italy.
Franco Favaretto, Jury works coordinator, Baccalàdivino, Italy.
Giacomo Missoni, Missoni Fashion House, Italy.
I’ll be publishing profiles of the young chefs over the next few weeks and I’ll be including their recipes too so keep visiting www.rossgoldenbannon.com