Last week the city of Barcelona was the venue of the third edition of The Best Chef Awards. This edition was dedicated to all the people who work hard everyday in the World of Gastronomy. The winner of the coveted first place was chef Björn Frantzén from the three Michelin stars Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden.
Besides the Food Meets Science Conference and the Gala night, The Best Chef Awards organized the discussion panel Area Talks in collaboration with So Wine So Food. This brand new event was launched for the first time last Tuesday 24th September, and it gathered together 18 leaders of the enogastronomic scene!
The talks consisted of a series of discussions on current topics, as well as testimonials from chefs, experts and opinion leaders of the sector, who shared their experiences and ideas with the public. The discussion was moderated by journalist Eleonora Cozzella and chef Jonathan Zandbergen. At the end of each block, there was space for questions and answers between the speakers and the public.
Cristian Gadau, Creative Director at The Best Chef Awards, explained: “We have created Area Talks to bring our community and the new generation of foodies and chefs closer together by getting them involved in the event program of The Best Chef Awards. Discussions on current topics show that there’s much more to gastronomy than bringing the perfect flavour to the perfect plate. With Area Talks, we want to shed light on for the approach, the motives and the pitfalls that make these top chefs and experts who they are.”
The first topic was about work and life balance when running a top restaurant. The couple of chefs Pia Leon and Virgilio Martinez shared their personal experience working together. In fact, Pia Leon, worked for more than 10 years at his husband’s Restaurant Central in Lima. They mentioned that working with family has many advantages, such as knowing perfectly each other and a great level of trust. But on the other hand, it is not easy to separate personal life from work when a couple work together. The last 6 years, Pia was in charge of the kitchen at Central Restaurant and was by the side of Virgilio at every award ceremony that prized the award-winning restaurant of his husband. And even if Pia learned a lot being alongside her husband, she decided to step out from behind the scenes at Central and express her own ideas and style freely by creating something new. That’s why last year Pia decided to take on a new challenge and open Kjolle in Lima, her own restaurant. Both consider the decision was very positive and now each of them has its own restaurant to express their own (unique) style.
After the talk with Pia and Virgilio, chef Christophe Hardiquest from the 2 Michelin stars Restaurant Bon Bon in Brussels, shared his experience about work and life balance. He talked about his life when his restaurant opened 7 days a week, and how stressful was work not only for him but for the entire team. In fact, Christophe was always busy in his restaurant so he didn’t have much time for his personal life. That’s why he decided to open the restaurant only 4 days a week and dedicate more time to his wife and his 3 children. He confessed he was a bit scared at the beginning because he didn’t know if his decision of closing the restaurant the whole weekend (the most crowded days!) would affect his business. However, he started to open only from Tuesday to Friday and keep closed from Saturday to Monday, and surprisingly the result was very positive. Today his restaurant is always full, his team is much more motivated and the most important thing.. He spends more time with his family.
The second topic of the Area Talks was about tradition and innovation in Gastronomy. The legendary chef Eckart Witzigmann shared his own philosophy, explained how gastronomy has changed over the past 20 years and reminded us that “every future has an origin”. After the speech of Witzigmann, the contemporary chef David Munoz from the 3 Michelin star Restaurant DiverXo in Madrid, spoke about his contemporary gastronomy, his avant-garde philosophy and his obsession to make something unique. David also shared with us the story of how he started his career 20 years ago when, at the tender age of 12, he was dreaming about having a restaurant like the one he has today. David believes that “every chef cooks its own background” and that’s exactly what he does in his restaurant.
The next speakers were Thomas Buhner, chef of the former La Vie, Henrique Sa Pessoa from Alma and Roberto Rossi from Il Silene. And they talked about entrepreneurship and alternative professional possibilities, in addition to the job of Executive Chef in a restaurant. Besides his work as a chef in Alma Restaurant, Henrique started to appear on a cooking show of a small TV channel in Portugal which gained a lot of popularity.
After the lunch break, passion for food, wine and travel was the central topic and Anais Cancino, founder of Wineteller, took the floor. Anais shared the story of how she arrived from a finance background but while she was studying a Master in Business Administration in Paris, she met a famous wine journalist who introduced her to the wine world. Then she decided to start his studies in wine until she became a Master Sommelier ALMA-AIS and started to share the stories behind every bottle of wine on social media. What started only for the passion of telling wine stories, became one of the largest communities of the wine world.
The second foodie to take the floor was Kristian Thomsen Brask, who told us about how he passed from a restaurant sommelier to a professional bon vivant creating a very unique food and wine tour concept. Kristian in fact, organizes “Dining Impossible”, the ultimate luxury enogastronomic tours in a private jet around some of the world’s most sought-after restaurants.. The dream of every foodie!
The last talk was about the role of public relations and the importance of good communication in gastronomy. The speakers were Patricia Dias from Chefs Agency, Floriano Pellegrino, Luigi Partipilo, Daniel Watkins, Sarah de Hondt and Gregoire Berger. And they discussed the importance of having an active social media presence and public relations in the restaurant industry in order to build a business and establish a good relationship with clients.
In conclusion, the Area Talks offered a unique behind-the-scenes view on the daily life in the world of gastronomy. It was a great opportunity to listen to the experiences and ideas of some leaders of the enogastronomic world. All of them have different stories, background, style and ideas. But what all of them have in common, is a great passion for gastronomy and a great desire to express themselves by creating, interpreting, cooking or communicating the beauty of gastronomy.