I received an e-mail from Steve Plotnicki of Opinionated About Dining a few weeks ago while I was traveling through India. He was surveying various people in the food industry, and asking them all the same two questions:
1. What was your best meal of 2009?
2. Name the chef that showed the most potential in 2009?
Unfortunately, when I received the initial e-mail I was deathly sick from some unidentified virus and in the midst of receiving my painful initiation into Indian travel. Yes, I know that everybody who goes to India gets sick at least once, but after surviving 7 healthy months in the deep African bush, I didn’t think that it would happen to me. In any case, being asked such important heavy-weighted culinary questions during a 5-day vomiting marathon was pretty tough. I take these questions seriously, and I wanted to give him my best answers.
I had many fantastic meals this year, but in the end it was L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris, France. There’s a reason why he’s been named ‘Chef of the Century’ and continues to expand his global empire. His food is fantastic and flawless. Nobody can argue with that. Every dish was executed with perfection and grace, and there wasn’t a single dish that disappointed. Egg cocotte with morel cream sauce was a divine masterpiece, grilled ribeye was dripping with flavorful juices and roasted beef marrow never tasted so luscious. It was a magical evening of excellent food and wine in the trendy neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés. The evening ended with a crazy impromptu night tour through the deserted streets of Paris with a friendly taxi driver named Michel. Gazing up at the enormous steel structure of the Tour Eiffel at 2AM, still drunk on Savigny-les-Beaune reds and high on the succulent veal liver with crispy onion rings, it now remains a happy memory that will always make me smile.
As for chef showing the most potential? I chose local celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre, as his 2 successful LudoBites events have created quite a sensation here in LA. Unlike traditional restaurants, LudoBites is a temporary pop-up event held in other restaurants that are normally only open for breakfast and lunch. It’s a new style of dining that completely breaks free from the traditional and stuffy molds of restaurant bureaucracy. During the limited engagement events at both the Breadbar and Royal/T, I saw a very energetic and happy Ludo shine in an environment where he could be free to express himself and his creativity without being bound by any chains. In true Ludo style, his food was bursting with radical flavors and concepts. The rich and smoky chorizo soup, topped with a dollop of tangy cornichon sorbet and tempered by the sweetness of the juicy cantaloupe cubes, was epic. Black foie gras croque monsieur, grill pressed to a perfect crispy exterior to contrast the buttery foie gras treasure inside, was inspirational with the cherry amaretto sauce. Escargots got a break from their standard corkscrew coffins to bathe in a warm bowl of aromatic yellow ginger curry. I really feel that these limited time pop-up restaurants are the next wave of the future. It’s a fresh new way for chefs to express their ideas and inspirations, and it’s an exciting avenue for diners to experience novel flavors and menu concepts. Chef Ludo, you have potentially started an incredible culinary trend- and for that, I named you for this survey.
Check out the interesting OAD Best Meal of the Year 2009 survey, and see what the other 75 participants, which include Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, Thomas Keller and Jay Rayner, named in the survey. This wonderful website is also a great reference for any of you gourmands looking for exceptional eats all over the world.
What was your best meal of 2009?