Osteria Francescana takes No1 at World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Massimo Bottura entrance doorway OF © Paolo Terzi

Massimo Bottura standing in the doorway to Osteria Francescana. Portrait by Paolo Terzi.

“Cooking is not only about the quality of the ingredients but also the quality of the ideas” Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura opened Osteria Francescana in Bottura’s hometown of Modena in 1995. From early on, the restaurant engaged in a profound exploration of territory and tradition, the expression of which can be found in the absolute concentration of flavours guided by Bottura’s definition: “Tradition seen from 10 kilometres away”. Today Osteria Francescana continues to redefine Italy’s rich gastronomic heritage, ingredients and culinary traditions with the benefit of critical distance, contemporary cooking techniques, and a great desire to see the Italian kitchen evolve.

Osteria Francescana faced years of criticism even after receiving the first and second Michelin stars in 2002 and 2006. When Osteria Francescana entered the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at 13th place in 2009, it was met with an Italian television scandal accusing them of threatening the Italian kitchen. These challenges reinforced the restaurant’s contemporary approach to the Italian kitchen. Today Osteria Francesana is considered the best restaurant in Italy and one of the most influential in the world. Osteria Francescana was awarded a third Michelin star in 2011 and is currently ranked no 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

“The artworks on the walls are the landscape of our ideas.”

Massimo Bottura

Osteria Francescana © Paolo Terzi 3.jpg

Photo by Paolo Terzi

Osteria Francescana is situated in a century-old osteria that has been transformed over the past 21 years into a laboratory of culture, art and design. Storytelling enriches the dinning experience and the kitchen never shies from making references to art, music and history to provoke emotion, memory and taste. Guests at the restaurant’s 12 tables are able to choose from the à la Carte menu or from two distinct tasting menus.

Art has had a fundamental role in the evolution of the kitchen, not only from an aesthetic point of view but also a conceptual one. Over the years, the restaurant has collected contemporary art with paintings, photographs and sculptures from acclaimed Italian and international artists all of which have helped to define the restaurant’s iconoclastic style and poetic interpretations. The most recent addition to the collection is a Duane Hanson sculpture of a security guard named “Frankie” who silently greets guests at the restaurant’s entrance.

“If you live an incredible moment of happiness, that happiness is much deeper and bigger if you share it with others.”
Massimo Bottura

Osteria Francescana is more than a restaurant. It is an extended family of professionals, many of who are central to the restaurant’s identity. Beppe Palmieri has lead the front of house at Osteria Francescana as both maître d’ and sommelier over the past 16 years. His open and intimate approach to pairing has followed the evolution of the kitchen. This is expressed in the wide range of wine producers, artisinal beers and juices he weaves into the pairings as well as his signature cocktails. The kitchen staff features the complimentary talents of Davide di Fabio from Abruzzo and Takahiko Kondo from Tokyo who both arrived at Osteria Francescana in 2004. Davide possesses the unique ability to manage the irrational while Takahiko applies obsessive rigor to his strive for precision. Their loyalty has contributed to the distinguished solidity of our team.

“Cooking is a call to act.” Massimo Bottura

Boundlessly energetic and enthusiastic, chef and agitator Massimo Bottura has established his voice both in and outside the kitchen. He is a speaker, author and charismatic leader.

2014 saw the release of Bottura’s first English language book Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef with Phaidon Press. The book shares twenty years of recipes, stories and ideas and has been translated into Dutch, French, Spanish and Italian. In 2015, new audiences were introduced to the world of Massimo Bottura through the work of director David Gelb in the Netflix documentary on Osteria Francescana from the series Chef’s Table.

Most recently, Massimo Bottura has been examining the role of the contemporary chef, calling for social responsibility among the culinary community and addressing the issue of food waste. During Expo 2015, the chef created an off-site Expo project in collaboration with the Vatican to address the problem of food waste and hunger in our cities. During Expo over sixty chefs from around the world joined him at Refettorio Ambrosino to cook for the homeless and develop innovative recipes for reducing waste in the kitchen. A documentary entitled Theatre of Life was filmed there and follows the efforts of Massimo Bottura as he and other chefs strive to bring dignity back to the table through working with salvaged food. It will be released in late 2016.

On April 3rd this year, at the MAD SYD symposium in Australia, Bottura introduced to the public Food for Soul, a no profit organization spurred on by the success of the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Founded by Bottura, Food for Soul envisions a world where communities fight food waste in the interest of social inclusion and individual well-being. Food for Soul is currently working on the opening of a second soup kitchen, Refettorio Rio, during the Olympic games in in collaboration with the Brazilian organization Gastromotiva. A book of recipes called Bread is Gold based on the Refettorio experience is to be released in 2017.


Press Contact:
Sarah Canet, Spoon PR. Telephone: +44 207 610 9821 Email: sarah@spoon-pr.com

“In my future, I see more future.”

Massimo Bottura

Osteria Francescana is closed on Sunday & Monday. Reservations are essential. Osteria Francescana, Via Stella 22 Modena 41121 Italy http://www.osteriafrancescana.it/reservations/

Osteria Francescana will be closed for its annual vacation between August 7th-Aug 22th 2016 and January 1st-January 17th 2017

Food for Soul
Via Rua Muro 85, 41121, Modena, Italy http://www.foodforsoul.it

Posted in 50 Best, Massimo Bottura, Osteria Francescana, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Massimo Bottura & Facebook Live

On Wednesday 25 May 2016, Massimo Bottura had his first ever Facebook Live Experience. He was sitting in Montreal at the time, talking to a group of assembled journalists at the Phi centre but if you were “tuned” in to Facebook at the time you could have seen the event as it happened. Well over a thousand unique viewers watched the event and now you can too as it is still accessible on the Phi Centre Facebook page. Click here to view.

Massimo Bottura 2© Paolo Terzi

Portrait by Paolo Terzi

Here are a few images that the Phi Centre events team have sent through to Spoon HQ.


Massimo Bottura explains about Food for Soul in Montreal. Photo courtesy of Phi Centre.


Massimo Bottura listens intently. Photo courtesy of Phi Centre.


Massimo Bottura serves up a meal from “wasted” food at the Phi Centre Montreal. Photo by Martinel.

Massimo Bottura entrance doorway OF © Paolo Terzi

Massimo Bottura standing in the doorway to Osteria Francescana. Portrait by Paolo Terzi.


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Lunch and a little Chit Chaat Chai


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A time long ago my job was outsourced and I was made redundant. Ironically my next destination was probably where it was outsourced to. I left the organised routine and structures of London life, for the somewhat chaotic streets of Bangalore. As soon as I arrived I fell in love with the colourful flavours of Indian cuisine. In Britain we think of Indian food as chicken Tikka Masala and a pint of Cobra – this is far from the truth, I never once saw a Cobra beer or in fact much that resembled our beloved Saturday night takeaway.

Now what I did see and what brings me to Chit Chaat Chai, was street food vendors galore serving a multitude of foods in all different shapes and sizes each one unique to that region of India. Vendors usually specialised in just one item – now at Chit Chaat Chai they have made a restaurant focusing on these energetic flavours.

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My boss and I popped over for a quick lunch on Tuesday last week during their soft launch. We ordered a collection of dishes to share and sat in the newly decorated upstairs perching on the long benches. We perched for a while, actually quiet a while, but we will excuse this as I suppose this is what soft launches are for.

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Pani Puri

The food arrived and it most certainly was the scoff I had recalled in imagery from the cogs above. The flavours of Northern India were capsuled in a terrific Pani Puri that had an explosion of tangy water encompassing the sweet flavoured chickpeas. This was a true delight as it is something so very unique in texture and flavour too.

Keema Pau that was described on the menu as an Indian sloppy Joe is something that I had never tried before. It had a rich buttery flavour that worked in tandem with the evident flavours of Masala and what I believe was a mixture of minced chicken and lamb. Similar to this dish was the Pau Bhaji, although it was vegetarian it paraded a very similar flavour and texture to that of the Keema, both of these dishes were served with a couple of soft white breads and a miniature salad of cucumber, onion and tomato that added that extra desired texture. A little bit of bite.

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Chilli Paneer

Our fourth dish was a Chilli Paneer, I don’t know if my boss noticed but I will now admit to hogging this dish just a little. The origin of the dish is unknown to me – I would imagine up in the Northeast around Calcutta or even in the mountains of Leh. I do adore the texture of fried Paneer as it squeaks across your teeth, the chilli and pepper sauce gave it an abundance of flavour. It has a strong Chinese influence, this is a fusion dish that has been around a long time before Wolfgang Puck decided to put Wontons on top of a chicken salad. Influenced most defiantly by the Sichuan region this dish was by far my favourite.

All in all it was a nice trip, but they must work on the speed of service as our quick lunch took well over an hour. I would recommend it as it something very different to what us Brits think is Indian food. This meal reminded me of the true flavours of India rather than having myself ponder in wonder how they achieved that nuclear orange colour.

By Oliver Ivey


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Breaking the bread mould


Photo credited to Modernist Cuisine

Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Cuisine team’s latest exploration is into one of the greatest human creations. Bread. Throughout time this marvel has taken on numerous different shapes and sizes, these have been dependent on the resources and technology of the time. Recent archaeological discoveries now suggest that humans were harvesting grain 100,000 years ago. We originally believed it to have been just 10,000. Bread has been integral to our species; if you take a quick glance across the world you will see hundreds of different variations of our humble loaf, from Injera, the sourdough-risen flatbread of Ethiopia, to Damper, the traditional Australian bush bread cooked over hot coals, we have utilised what has been available to us to make our humble loafs.

The announcement of Modernist Cuisine’s new book on bread has been meet with an enormous amount of excitement. In just one day over 110,000 people were reached with the news. The Modernist Cuisine website had almost 6 times it’s daily views. Bread is something that has been portrayed to so many of the general public as evil – how can this be true, when we have been reliant on it for so many years. What is evil is what we have done to our beautiful bread and the sedentary lifestyle that a large number of us live that results in our expanding girths – our waist lines are not a result of this develish bread (I sit here on my high horse, the plumpest I have ever been). But I digress; the social media has been RISING, Modernist Cuisine received over 800 likes on their Instagram account on the day they announced the title, name and release date. Modernist Cuisine is currently gaining over 1000 new followers a week on Instagram alone.

Chefs, bakers and home cooks have all been sending over reams of questions regarding what the book will entail; “Will it include gluten free recipes?”, “Will it have information on baking at altitude?”. These questions will be answered on release, but there is no point in denying the fact bread is not evil. We love bread.

Something foodie with the real Willie Wonka


Photos credited to Modernist Cuisine 

Modernist Cuisine have now moved from their refurbished Harley Davidson showroom, to their new state of the art kitchen. Questlove’s tour of the new home of Modernist Cuisine and discussion with Nathan Myhrvold has been published in his new book Something to Food About, which was released in the USA this week.

In the chapter of Questlove’s book, Nathan and this music star discuss the development of food around the world and what has been the catalyst in this. Nathan believes that the discovery of the New World made a gigantic change to the food we ate and eat today, the explorers returned with tomatoes, chocolate, corn and revolutionised our diet. This has now been accelerated with air travel being so common; now for lunch our ever-expanding palate’s desire things such as Sushi or Thai food, nations have become melting pots for cuisines. On average, the world knows about all the world’s foods and hence why Nathan now believes the only way we shall fix our thirst for variety is to invent.

Art Culinaire also had the privilege of touring Modernist Cuisine and to sample some of the mystically marvellous things the modern moment’s Willie Wonka had to offer. The article can be found in Art Culinaire’s issue number 118, that is soon to be released.

By Oliver Ivey (The Plump one)

Posted in Baking, Modernist Cuisine, nathan myhrvold, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling out for a Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Mac and cheese variations

Mac and cheese variations. Photo credit Modernist Cuisine LLC

Mac ‘n’ Cheese, it’s everywhere! It’s almost impossible to go anywhere that isn’t serving some version of it, or be online and not be bombarded with lists of the best mac ‘n’ cheese here, or there, or to try before you die, or even to die for; yet more lists came out last week, this time in The Handbook and yet another from the ever generating source of such things, Buzzfeed.

It’s not that I dislike mac ‘n’ cheese, in fact I think some of the things being done with it are remarkable, not just for the flavour combinations, but also the uses – grilled mac ‘n’ cheese toastie anyone? How can you not drawl over the idea of mac ‘n’ cheese with truffle, or Hawksmore’s mac ‘n’ cheese with lobster, or even The Don Macaroni (basil oil, fresh basil and bacon) by Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese?

However, the problem comes, or so I find, after the first few mouthfuls. My mouth starts to dry out and become claggy from the thick and slightly dry sauce. What’s worse though is that I get bored, and I hate being bored by my food, there are few things that annoy and depress me more. When it comes to mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve never not been bored and it’s thanks to the repetitive flavour profile, which is usually so rich, that not long after you feel sick. I may love it for the first few bites, but as soon as that boredom hits, that’s it I’m done; and I remember why I so rarely bother to eat the stuff.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about mac ‘n’ cheese, just as I know there are plenty that will defend it to their final breath, Sarah Canet the boss here at Spoon PR HQ is one such person. Nathan Myhrvold and his Modernist Cuisine team however have come up with the perfect mac ‘n’ cheese that is sure to get all doubters to love it and all lovers of it to fall head over heels for the cheesy coated pasta once more.

The Modernist cuisine website is a veritable goldmine of interesting facts about food and the science of it. It turns out that the claggy texture, and indeed over richness, I so dislike, comes from how the cheese, milk and flour react with one another when heated to create the Mornay Sauce. For instance did you know the reason that the flavour can be lacking in your mac ‘n’ cheese is that the starch in the flour inhibits the release of the flavour in the cheese? I’m willing to bet that this leads many a mac ‘n’ cheese cook to add extra cheese, meaning the sauce becomes thicker and drier, hence the claggy effect I dislike so much.

The other issue when making mac ‘n’ cheese is the sauce splitting as the fat molecules and water molecules separate. This happens because the fat and water molecules, that hold together when cheese is solid, can’t hold their bonds when heated, leading to the splitting of the sauce.

Modernist Cuisine presents a solution to both these issues, and it’s based on a 1912 discovery by one James L. Kraft. Kraft, he of the famous food company, discovered that adding sodium phosphate to the cheese and liquid mixture enables the molecules to hold together, allowing the cheese to melt but not split, and thus processed cheese was born.

Modernist Cuisine use sodium citrate rather than sodium phosphate, but it produces the same results. It really is the perfect way to make mac ‘n’ cheese. It consists of just 4 ingredients: sodium citrate, milk, cheese and pasta. The swapping of the flour for just a small amount of sodium citrate is brilliant, it means no time consuming roux, no split sauce and no flavourless or claggy sauce. You can then adapt it to any cheese you could want, nor does it prevent you from using other ingredients for additional flavour, put simply, you’re on to a mac ‘n’ cheese that it’s hard not to love. It might be molecular gastronomy and that might put you off trying it at home, but it really is as simple as adding a pinch of the sodium citrate to the milk as it heats up, what could be more simple.


For more on Modernist Cuisine’s perfect mac ‘n’ cheese, including the recipe, click here.

by Joss Bassett

Posted in Modernist Cuisine, nathan myhrvold, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The future of food is in our trash

Massimo Bottura unveils new Food for Soul organisation.

Refettorio Ambrosiano 3 ©Paolo Saglia

Refettorio Ambrosiano Milan – copyright Paolo Saglia

On Sunday 3 April 2016, chef Bottura was one of the key speakers in the new chapter of MAD symposium. This was the first time that MAD had been held outside of Denmark. The Italian chef joined chef René Redzepi, young Zimbabwean, campaigner-farmer Chido Govera, the American chef-restaurateur David Chang, chef-author Kylie Kwong and other great, culinary thinkers.

Massimo Bottura, the chef-patron of Osteria Francescana in Modena, spoke about the social responsibility of chefs in a talk entitled, “Cooking is a Call to Act”. During his discourse, chef Bottura introduced his new Food for Soul, a non-profit, cultural project to fight food wastage through cooking. He quizzed the assembled crowd: “could hunger be relieved by creative management of daily food wastage?”

Food for Soul is the continuation of Bottura’s off site Expo project Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Here he was able to transform an abandoned theatre into a contemporary soup kitchen, inviting 60 chefs from all over the world to cook with the waste from Expo. Bottura insists that this was not a charity project but a cultural endeavour. Outside the building a neon sign by artist Maurizio Nannucci bears testimony to Bottura’s conviction: NO MORE EXCUSES. Artists, architects and designers contributed to the project to create a unique space. During the 6 months of Expo, 100 volunteers washed dishes, mopped the floors and served over 10,000 healthy meals cooked from 15 tons of salvaged food. Long after Expo has left the city, the Refettorio Ambrosiano continues to serve meals 5 days every week to the homeless people of Milan.

Bottura_Colagreco_Refettorio Ambrosiano 2 ©Emanuele Colombo

Massimo Bottura and Mauro Colagreco cooking together with team at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photograph copyright Emanuele Colombo.

The Food for Soul organisation is Bottura’s response to the many chefs who have asked to open a refettorio in their city. The team will raise funds to renovate and rejuvenate spaces in areas that have been neglected, as well as support already existing soup kitchens in improving their service.

In June, Food for Soul will be collaborating with an established soup kitchen in Bologna in order to welcome more guests, including refugee families. Then it hopes to leap over an ocean. The city of Rio has donated an empty lot to create a Refettorio Rio. If sufficient support is committed, this Food for Soul project could open during the Rio Olympics. Besides working as a soup kitchen, the space will be used to give free tutelage and training to its guests to empower young people from the favelas through gastronomy.

The recovery of food, places and communities is aimed to give back dignity to the table. Food for Soul wants to provide an enriching environment where nourishment is not only meant to be for the body, but also for the soul.

Chef Bottura believes:

We NEED MORE places that UNITE people at the table

We NEED MORE places that REVIVE neighbourhoods

We NEED MORE places that RESTORE the body and the soul

Donations to the non-profit Food for Soul will be directed to specific projects in Italy and abroad.

Bottura_Ducasse_Refettorio Ambrosiano 3 ©Emanuele Colombo

Massimo Bottura and Alain Ducasse cooking together at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan. Photograph copyright Emanuele Colombo.

Website Links

Food for Soul


Sydney Opera House & MAD

Social Media handles

Twitter: @foodforsoul_it

Instagram: @foodforsoul_it

Facebook: Food for Soul

Here is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about Massimo Bottura and his view on the future of food being in your trash.


You can leave a message for Sarah here and she will pass it on to Massimo Bottura or for pictures and further information contact

Cristina Reni

Food for Soul

Telephone: +39 059230071

Email: creni@foodforsoul.it


Massimo Bottura in Refettorio Ambrosiano Milan. Photograph copyright Caritas.


Posted in Food & Art, Food for Soul, Massimo Bottura, Osteria Francescana, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New blaze of creativity at Michelin starred fire pit

Tree Ekstedt landscape_DSF3567_meck_2 ©PA _Jorgenssen

The Ekstedt Tree. Photo by Per-Anders Jorgenssen

Busy and exciting times continue in full swing at EKSTEDT, not least with the arrival of Rod Pérez (previously at Esperanto) who has been recruited by chef-patron Niklas Ekstedt as the restaurant’s new head chef. With experience deeply rooted in the traditions of Nordic gastronomy, Pérez is poised to take the EKSTEDT restaurant experience to new heights. Whilst continuing in the restaurant’s renowned tradition of high temperature, open fire cooking and smoking, in much the same way as the ancient Scandinavians employed, changes have made their way onto the menu. New plates include pumpkin cake, sour cream and flambéed blood orange from the wood-fired oven. 

Rodrigo Perez Ekstedt colour_70A2145_2 ©PA _Jorgenssen

Rodrigo Perez by Per-Anders Jorgenssen

Meanwhile, chef Ekstedt himself is keeping all cylinders burning even beyond the kitchen with a Swedish TV show aimed at a child audience. Shooting soon there will be an episode in a new Amazon TV series which will be recorded in English and several more guest appearances on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. There is also the upcoming release of his first British published cookbook to look forward to. It is set for arrival on our bookshelves in the fall of 2016.

On a daily basis, chef Ekstedt, chef Pérez and their team, show astonishing creativity as they produce elegant food using long-lost cooking techniques and burning wood as their only source of heat. Precisely the opposite of molecular, modernist or futuristic gastronomy, the extraordinary restaurant experience delivered by the brigade, was reaffirmed in the new Nordic Michelin Guide this year. It has held a star since April 2013.

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Oysters cooked with a Flambado. Photo by Per-Anders Jorgenssen

Further to its opening in November 2011, Restaurant EKSTEDT has received numerous awards for its way of presenting and preparing food. It is not an easy task managing the right amount of wood to maintain the perfect heat for each exquisite ingredient. From bone marrow cooked in one of Ekstedt restaurant’s essential cast iron pans and served with butter milk and vendace roe to wild duck from the ashes with truffled cabbage and tarred vinegar, everything on the menu is cooked over the restaurant’s magnificent fire pit, in the wood-fired oven or on top of the wood burning stove. There are no electric cookers nor any gas-burners. The chefs’ also only use Scandinavian wood in order to give the food a truly unique character – one you can’t get anywhere else in the world.


Niklas Ekstedt table by PA Jorgensen

Niklas Ekstedt by Per-Anders Jorgenssen

Two set menus – one four courses, the other six – include seasonal offerings of the region’s finest meat, seafood, fish, game and vegetables. Trademarks of the Nordic palate such as lingon berries, wild herbs, pine and wild mushrooms are transformed as ancient traditions meet modern Swedish cuisine. The wine list is just as ambitious – unique and as organic as possible to match the natural flavours of the food.

Situated in the heart of Stockholm, the interior is Scandinavian design at its best and takes inspiration from Niklas Ekstedt’s roots in both Jämtland in northern Sweden and Skåne in the south. In the restaurant’s warm and inviting atmosphere, guests can watch the chefs work by the magnificent fire pit where every order is prepared à la minute.

Dinner at EKSTEDT is sizzling hot.

Click here for the Ekstedt website and more information about booking details and the current menu.




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Ekstedt’s return to the past continues to make it a must visit dining experience.


‘Flames, high temperatures and smoke’. That’s how Niklas Ekstedt describes the cooking methods at his Michelin stared Stockholm based restaurant Ekstedt in the German food programme Kitchen Impossible. Exhibited through the time Kitchen Impossible spends at the restaurant is Niklas Ekstedt’s driving idea of cooking as Scandinavians did before electricity.

This idea of a return to the past grew in Ekstedt’s mind as he became increasingly tired of the growth of technology in the kitchen. The chef’s work place was beginning to look like a gadget factory. Ekstedt’s desire for a more analogue style of cooking led him back to the use of elemental cooking techniques like open flames, smoke, wood heated stoves and a Flambadou Iron, a cone shaped cooking tool for searing meat and fish with flaming fat.

Simple as cooking in such a raw way can sound at times, it’s clear from the TV programme just how complex and exacting it is, as Ekstedt says, it’s not a grill house in the style of the low and slow cooked American BBQ. It’s rough, hot, fast and precise so that what the brigade produces can be clean, delicate, contemporary plates of food that’s made up of local ingredients endowed with the qualities of the cooking processes they have been through.

PA Jorgenssen Montage

Photos by Per-Anders Jorgenssen

As the new Wallpaper* Guide to Stockholm notes, the restaurant is full of the pleasant smell of burning birch wood as you eat your way through the four or six course tasting menus among the timber, leather and copper surroundings that were inspired by Ekstedt’s childhood in northern Sweden.

Cooking and flavouring our food with wood and smoke is an ancient technique that we still love today. As Nathan Myhrvold explains in the new Netflix series “Cooked, the flavour the food takes on when cooked over wood comes not from the wood itself burning, but from the incomplete combustion of the gaseous compounds given off as the wood burns. Other flavours can also be imparted to the meat, such as the fat dripping from it onto the wood, then burning and releasing smoke back up to the meat.

Enjoy it if you can.


For more on Ekstedt restaurant see here 

Ekstedt Restaurant website

Wallpaper* City Guide to Stockholm

Posted in Ekstedt, Modernist Cuisine, nathan myhrvold, niklas ekstedt, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Restaurant Reviews that got Spoon PR HQ Excited this Weekend

the weekend papers

Flicking through the food and restaurant review pages of the newspapers, and their assorted accompanying supplements, as I invariably do each weekend, one things struck me in particular: that Scandinavian inspired food is still alive and well, if metamorphosing.

Jay Rayner in his Observer review of Shoreditch based Rök (it means Smoke in Swedish) made great play of the fact that his cloths smelt like some deliciously smoked meat the following day thanks to the vapours emanating from the open kitchen. But while the restaurant is clearly Scandi in nature with it’s smoking, pickling and fermenting adorning both plates and walls evoking the idea of a long northern winter, it also uses ingredients from far sunnier climes including the charcuteries of the Med. As Rayner puts it, the plates are made up of ‘lots of different dialects being spoken at once, but still making sense’ as I think is best reflected among the dishes he refers to by the scotch egg made of a quails egg encased in ‘nduja (a spicy Italian spreadable pork salami) and presented sitting on mayonnaise with a Dijon kick to it.

This was not the only evidence of this development to the Scandinavian restaurant scene. Having flicked through rabbit recipes in The Independent on Sunday, and the list of the must have trendy ingredients in The Sunday Telegraph on Sunday, I came across a review of a Bristol restaurant by Tom Parker Bowles. While, admittedly not a Scandinavian restaurant, his review of Adelina Yard made illusions that pointed that way in its style. Apart from the, to use his phrase, ‘Scandi blanc’ decore as opposed to Scandi Noire, the clean modern dishes used lots of smoke. And when I see clean modern cuisine and smoking of ingredients, I can’t help but think that there has been some Scandi influence. Though again like Rök ingredients came from all over, in this case as far afield as Japan.

It wasn’t all Scandinavian related restaurant reviews though; there were two other reviews of note. Nicholas Lander in the FT Weekend Magazine reviewed the Japanese restaurant Yoshino in Piccadilly. This review was more about the amazing front of house Lisa Maitland than the food itself, though Lander didn’t fail to cover it and mention both the extreme quality and the reasonable prices. What was so lovely about this review was the fact that it did focus so heavily on the front of house experience provided by Lisa, reminding me just how much front of house can make or break a dining experience no matter the quality of the food.

As to be expected a more light-hearted and amusing review was that of AA Gill on Brunswick House in The Sunday Times Magazine. After his entertainingly well-developed views of markets, you got to the review itself. What he found was a short yet hearty home cooked style menu based on simple main ingredients that have been given a twist and a lift with other zingy contributions to the plates. Despite the good review he did seem a little flat on the food, there was nothing particularly wrong with it, but at times it needed more of hit to it. His love for the setting and the way the restaurant fitted into the business was palpable though. Certainly it’s worth bearing in mind next time I’m in the area as there are few decent places round there.

Sarah Canet, Spoon HQ’s boss, tells me that at Ekstedt restaurant in Stockholm, although everything is cooking via the use of burning wood, be it within the flames, in the ashes, hanging over the fire or hot smoked, no-one comes out smelling of smoke, but instead dreaming of the elegant power of fire that Niklas Ekstedt’s team have captured. Meanwhile Sarah is now day dreaming about her wedding meal which Brunswick House hosted but Greg Malouf, then the Michelin starred winner for Petersham Nurseries, kindly cooked for her and her husband’s guests.

by Joss Bassett

Posted in Restaurant Reviews, Spoon Blog 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sweet Success for Thailand

Swapping Poppies for Agricultural Sustainability. World`s great international chefs travelled to Northern Thailand to pick Chinese chive flowers and cape gooseberries.


A very short video showing the international chefs in Thailand

I hope you enjoy watching this video. It was certainly a great joy working with Joan Roca, Peter Gilmore and Ashley Palmer-Watts. They dealt admirably with the cameras who wanted to capture their every waking move….almost.


Top of their game, Joan Roca, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Peter Gilmore embraced temperate crops in former opium hot spots when they travelled to The Royal Project in Chiang Mai.

On the 29th February 2016, three of the world’s best chefs travelled to Thailand for the first in the 50 Best Explores series, a gastronomic global food safari in search of culinary inspirations and humanity.

World-renowned Chefs Joan Roca, Chef-owner of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, No.1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list; Ashley Palmer-Watts, Executive Chef of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, No.7 on the list; and Peter Gilmore, Executive Chef of Quay in Sydney, No.58 in the world ranking, first visited Bangkok to attend the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 awards, before heading to The Royal Project in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.

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Ashley Palmer-Watts, Peter Gilmore and Joan Roca on last day in Chiang Mai.

During the five-day food safari Joan Roca, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Peter Gilmore – accompanied by leading chefs from Thailand , Chef Chumpol Jangprai, Iron Chef of Thailand, master Chef Nooror Somany Steppe of Blue Elephant and Chef Nan Bunyasaranand of Little Beast – explored and experimented with exquisitely humane temperate produce from Thailand’s unique rural and agricultural initiative, The Royal Project. The first of its kind, and most successful in South-East Asia, the initiative encourages sustainable agricultural practices in places of deforestation, poverty and opium production.

During the time of 50 Best Explores the chefs met hill tribe farmers from around Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Chef Joan Roca appreciated the humanity of the Royal Project as he was able to see the initiative in action. While at Teen Tok, Roca saw each stage of coffee from plucking off the plant to the drying and right up to grinding and drinking. It came full circle, seeing the produce in raw form at a farm in Chiang Mai and then returning to fine dining establishments back in Bangkok. “I’ve seen that there are high quality crops and Royal Project products are consumed in the best restaurants in Bangkok. This trip has allowed me to know better a fantastic country that is Thailand.”


Without the support of Thailand’s Department of Tourism 50 Best Explores would not have been possible.

Chef Palmer-Watts and Chef Nan will never forget their time with a trench full of sturgeon, a monstrously big fish. They both caught a sturgeon with their bare hands and saw them taken away for sale by the Royal Project team. Meanwhile the highlight of the trip for Palmer-Watts was cooking in a tribe chief`s house where together they boiled taro root before adding a chilli paste which the international chef pounded heartedly with wild garlic and local herbs. To the pot the chief and his new “assistant” added a small amount of bok choi then the two visiting chefs squatted on the floor with the chief to scoop the root and greens out of the same bowl that had a minute before been hanging over the fire. The broth was simple but hot, tasty and amply served by some plain white rice. The next meal that the chief might enjoy could well be a TV dinner for Ban Muang Ang, only received electricity the night before the Royal Projects team of chefs arrived.


Ashley Palmer-Watts cautiously man-handles the Royal Project’s carefully raised sturgeon before Chef Nan (to his left) did the same.

As Palmer-Watts recalled “we witnessed first hand how the project is working so very tirelessly to help the hill tribe people eradicate opium production. He urges people back home to consider coming to this area and staying in one of the incredible home stays within the Royal Project areas.


Hill tribe villager cooking at home. Photograph taken by the chef that cooked with her – Peter Gilmore of Quay Restaurant in Sydney

One of Chef Peter Gilmore’s best experiences was watching and participating when a local hill tribe woman cooked over a charcoal fire in her traditional teak house, in Mae Saab. She slaughtered a “house chicken” (a chicken that lives around the house) chopped it into pieces and then cooked it in a very hot metal pot, over a clay charcoal stove. After searing the chicken in some oil, Chef Gilmore added an intense paste of herbs, chilli, garlic, and ginger. They steamed and roasted the dish at the same time, adding fresh Thai herbs at the end and a roasted chilli relish. “It was pretty simple but really tasty,” said Gilmore. Chef Nooror’s highlight was discovering more herbs she can use in her cooking thanks to the Royal Project. “In future (dishes) I think I’ll use rosemary and Italian basil,” she said.


This exploration culminated in a Gala Dinner on Friday 4th March at the Blue Elephant, Bangkok, with host chef of the house, master chef-owner Nooror Somany Steppe.


L-R: Chef Nan, Chef Nooror, Chef Roca, Chef Gilmore, Chef Chumpol, Chef Palmer-Watts, Chef Ping at Blue Elephant

The menu at the gala dinner was chosen by the individual Thai Chefs who accompanied the international chefs on this inspiring five-day gastronomic journey. Joan Roca, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Peter Gilmore, stood proudly alongside Thailand’s leading chefs – Chef Chumpol, Chef Nooror and Chef Nan – as they described the ingredients that they had encountered and the hill tribes they had met. Chef Roca, Chef Palmer-Watts and Chef Gilmore described the wonders they had encountered and having tasted the dishes already were able to assure the assembled diners that they could expect a stupendous five-course menu. Each course was introduced by the collaborative pair of chefs. The international super star chefs talked enthusiastically about the produce, techniques and practices they had picked up during their epicurean-adventure. The Thai chefs spoke graciously of the influence that the international chefs had brought to bear. The passion and energy of the Roca, Palmer-Watts and Gilmore inspired the partner chefs when cooking the Thai chefs favourite dishes. The dinner came to a perfectly sweet conclusion with Chef Ping’s dessert which he presented to all four international chefs at the start of their 50 Best Explores Thailand adventure.

Black Bone Chicken, Caviar and Chinese Chive flowers all from the Royal Project helped to make this a most memorable feast.

“The Royal Project has a very important social implication,” said Roca. “Around the kitchen and food we can transform a society.”


This trip was made possible thanks to the kind support of Thailand’s Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.


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