New York hosts 'Fooding' extravaganza

For 52 hours this weekend, a mid-sized art space in New York's Chelsea neighborhood became a nonstop pop-up restaurant for star chefs in a battle of creativity and mouth-watering technique.

Thirteen top chefs from Europe and the United States embarked on four-hour, round-the-clock shifts to feed night owls and gourmets at Exquisite Corpse, an event hosted by French group Le Fooding.

The chefs are a mix of rising stars and culinary sages rounded up by Andrea Petrini, an Italian journalist and consultant who's spent the last 25 years in France. He created the three-day matrix that blends different countries, experience levels and styles.

"Building this is like creating alchemy - finding people who will play off of each other and are flexible enough to work with the format," he said, also explaining the surrealists' idea of the "corps exquis," where every chef's first course has to feature an element used by the chef in the preceding shift.

"If (French chef) Jean-Francois Piege - a perfectionist - came in here, he'd blow a gasket," Petrini says, gesturing at the residential-style kitchen and the zany idea of Exquisite Corpse as a whole.

Piege would not, however, have his feathers ruffled by the venue, where the centerpiece is a table for 40, bedecked at every meal with hundreds of candles and further lit by a great chandelier made of dozens of glass jugs.

Beneath it sits an ever-changing group of customers, ranging from the young and hip at 5:00 am to other chefs and foodies who fill the table at all hours.

For chefs, the tricky part is throwing together a meal that is representative of their style at a table thousands of miles away from the home kitchen, and where none of the purveyors are familiar.

"I brought a lot of stuff with me," said Blaine Wetzel, chef at The Willows Inn on Washington state's Lummi Island.

"Stuff," as it turns out, required an industrial-sized Igloo cooler packed to the gills with dry ice. The cooler threw off airport security so much that Wetzel and his crew, who arrived to the airport three hours early, were forced to take a later flight.

"Some of the food we do here doesn't make sense out of context. If you're not on the islands, it might seem pretty gimmicky," he said, citing a Native American kelp and herring roe dish he's currently featuring on Lummi Island.

What's in his cooler? Sockeye salmon caught by Willows Inn owner Riley Starks - fish featured in Wetzel's dish with celery and watercress.

"With the kind of food I make, if you order salmon from the wrong place, God knows what you'd get."

Listening to him talk, one gets the sense that, in part, chefs are here to show their cuisine to the rest of the world. Working alongside a group of high-ranking peers, they don't want to leave anything to chance.

So put that pressure together with the fact that they only get four hours to use the kitchen and the task of feeding the forty-odd guests several courses becomes a praise-worthy feat in itself.

"It's perilous," said chef Armand Arnal of La Chassagnette restaurant in Arles, France, whose plane arrived only four hours before his 1:00 am shift started on Saturday. He and his crew literally ran into the kitchen with their cooler.

"It's always hard to export your feeling, your cuisine," he said.

Ana Ros of Hisa Franko restaurant in Kobarid, Slovenia, cooked one of the most surprising meals of the weekend, thrusting her tiny country into New York's limelight.

"When you travel to New York City, you expect globalized food," she said. "But when you come from a small country like Slovenia, you should try to tell a little story about it - you want something from there."

Over four courses, she featured native ingredients like figs, goat's milk, trout and deer, and her black cod with black truffle foam and asparagus was one of the weekend's best dishes.

The cod held its form yet yielded under gentle pressure from a fork and the truffle foam vaulted each bite into the ether.

"In the countryside, it's not globalized, you move with the seasons and cook what nature gives you," said Ros. The recipe for her egg foam, for example, is based on a version her grandmother made for her as a girl, minus the truffles.

"It's made from egg yolk, vegetable broth, a little salt and some truffles. Stop. Nothing else."

Over the course of the weekend there were inevitable kitchen disasters.

Miscommunication could send entire courses into oblivion, chefs' egos grated, and there were broken glasses galore.

Yet there were also perfect and unexpected dishes, beautiful meals and the feeling that at five in the morning, or at any other time in the event's 52-hour stretch, you and your entourage could eat the finest food anywhere in the Big Apple, made by some of the best chefs in the world.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions