In the global chefdom, there’s only one reason why chefs willingly abandon the orderly comfort of their kitchens for a world of uncertainty, and Gelinaz! is it.
To diners, Gelinaz! is an evening of performance art and culinary extravagance. To chefs, it is a bleary-eyed weekend of collaborative, improvisational cooking where caution and the rules of fine dining are pulverized in the Thermomix. Its organizers Andrea Petrini and Alexandra Swenden throw an event every few months or so, each time with different chefs and themes, somewhere around the world. How it unfolds is never quite certain, and that’s the whole point.
For their July 2016 event, “Walk With Us” in San Francisco, Petrini and Swenden invited sixteen chefs to riff on four ingredients—tomato, egg, rice, peach—to create thirty-two dishes, with a mid-meal promenade through the art at the SFMOMA for two sets of diners to trade seats at Benu and In Situ.
On the Benu side, Dominique Crenn and Evan Rich opened the evening with a savory jelly made from fermented tomato. Riccardo Camanini and Corey Lee took irreverent conversation they’d had about Italian food’s potential Chinese origins and put it on a plate, pairing Chinese mian in a broth of Jinhua ham (prosciutto’s cousin) with Italian burrata (soft like tofu) and tomatoes (Italian and Chinese, by way of the Americas). Later at In Situ, Sean Brock and Brandon Rodgers served abalone and pigtails on a scoop of Carolina gold rice, a rare varietal known in Brock’s parts as “Charleston ice cream.” There were crispy fried eggs with chili jam (Pim Techamuanvivit and James Syhabout), jiggling balut (unborn duck eggs) and congee (by Danny Bowien and Joshua Skenes), a pasta of milled rice dusted with grated albacore (Christopher Kostow and Chad Robertson), and sometime near midnight, peach-flavored tamal (Gabriela Cámara and Blaine Wetzel).
Pretty much all of the dishes made it to the table this round, though in past events, in the chaos of it all, dishes were lost to flames, entire crates of ingredients disappeared. “Why do it if it’s easy? If it’s too perfect then it’s boring,” Bowien said. “It’s the best when something goes wrong.” —Tienlon Ho
Directed by: Christopher Storer
Produced by: Tienlon Ho, Gillian Jacobs
Cinematographer: Andrew Wehde
Edited by: Brian Gannon
Post-Production Supervisor: Laurie Adrianopoli
Colorist: Luke Morrison
Music: Clemens Haas
Chefs: Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese), Sean Brock (Husk), Gabriela Cámara (Cala), Riccardo Camanini (Lido 84), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), Paul Cunningham (Henne Kirkeby Kro), Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), Corey Lee (Benu), Daniel Patterson (LocoL), Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table), Chad Robertson (Tartine), Brandon Rodgers (In Situ), James Syhabout (Commis), Joshua Skenes (Saison), Pim Techamuanvivit (Kin Khao), Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn).
Very Special Thanks to: The Whitehouse, The Mill, Benu, In Situ, and all the cooks and staff.