A tidal wave of international chefs has risen and redefined the culinary art by integrating new skills, innovation, creativity, and social aspects into the profession. The quandary is that there’s no specific way to rank the best chefs/restaurants, and the selection always stirs a hot dispute. In the past, aspiring chefs would undergo intense training to master haute cuisine techniques, before heading to Paris for a series of apprenticeships under the best chefs in the world.
The chef would then incorporate a personal touch into their French repertoire and voila, they were ready to launch their own restaurant. The Michelin Guide would take into account the global culinary aristocracy, with the top restaurants gaining 1, 2, or 3 stars. The culinary world has evolved ever since, and there are only twenty six French-based 3-star restaurants in the world, out of 111. This guideline will form the basis for our selection of the top 5 chefs of 2016. Here they are:
5. Pascal Barbot
Having grown up in Auvergne, a small town in central France, Pascal Barbot developed a passion for cooking when he was as young as seven. Most of his spare time was spent in his father’s garden harvesting vegetables and in the kitchen watching his parents prepare local traditional cuisine. Barbot was an avid traveler and started his hands-on eduction as a young culinary student at some of the best restaurants in Australia and Europe. Some of the most noticeable places he trained at include Troisgros in Roanne, Les Saveurs in London, Clave in Claremont-Ferrand, and Maxim’s in Paris.
He also worked at L’Arpège with Chef Alain Passard, who was his mentor for five years, teaching him the importance of the most basic products. During this time, he was acquainted with Christophe Rohat and they both opened Astrance in 2000. The restaurant turned out to be extremely successful in the Parisian side. It received its first Michelin star within a year. The second and third stars came in 2005 and 2007 consecutively. In 2005, Barbot received the coveted Best Cook in France and contributed to the informative and sophisticated cookbook Dashi & Umami: The Heart of Japanese Cuisine, 2009. The following year, he finally appeared on screen in the French TV series “Inventing Cuisine”.
4. Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse is a world class chef and one of the best in the world, with nineteen Michelin stars to back him up. He is one of the few chefs whose food has actually been savored in space. Ducasse has actually been preparing delicacies such as tuna in lemon sauce and spiced baby chicken for astronauts orbiting the earth on the International Space Station. Some of his dishes, such as spirulina gnocchis, and potato & tomato millefeuilles have been prepared with ingredients that can literally be grown in space.
Spirulina, in particular, is based on a bilious-looking greenish blue alga and is one of the 9 crops that can be grown in greenhouses or aboard spacecraft enroute to Mars, for instance. Some of the other ingredients include spinach, rice, and onions. Alain Ducasse boasts twenty four restaurants in 8 countries, including 2 in London. He plans to open more in London and has a list of accomplishments that could make Gordon Ramsey look like an amateur. For instance, he owns 3 inns and presides, more than 500 restaurants and hotels in sixteen countries, runs a few Parisian cookery schools, and has published numerous cookery books.
3. Seiji Yamamoto
Seiji Yamamoto was born in 1970 in Kagawa, and has been recognized as one of the finest chefs in Tokyo. He is usually based at Nihon Ryori Ryugin, a restaurant with three Michelin stars and that is focused on traditional Japanese cuisine. He employs perfectly mastered skills and flavors with innovative ideas revolving around culinary tradition. The restaurant has just eighteen seats, which offers an intimate setting to savor every meal.
Chef Yamamoto opened Nihon Ryori Ryugin at the age of 33. Since then, he has been invited to give countless lectures, sharing his techniques in different food expositions and academies throughout Europe, Asia, and US. He launched “Tenku Ryugin” as his first restaurant branch in 2012, choosing the 101st floor at Hong Kong based ICC building. The second branch, dubbed “Shoun Ryugin”, came in 2014 at Taipei, Taiwan. He also has a number of achievements, most noticeably taking the number 5 spot in the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia, and being awarded recognized by the Michelin Guide with three stars.
2. Pierre Gagnaire
Like most legendary chefs, Pierre Gagnaire began his culinary career at a tender age of 14. He worked under Paul Bocuse in 1968 as an intern, as well as Alain Senderens in 1974 at Paris-based Lucas Carton. In 1976, he became the head chef of Le Clos Fleury in Saint Etienne, which was owned by his family. When his father retired in 1981, the restaurant closed and Pierre Gagnaire launched his own place in the same town. By 1986, the restaurant had 2 Michelin stars. In 1992, he transferred to a refurbished art-deco house in St Etienne and was rewarded with the third Michelin star in 1993 for his innovative cooking.
Unfortunately, he had to file for bankruptcy in 1996 after the high end business proved hard to manage in a small industrial town in the Massif Central, which was a whole 40 miles south-west of Lyon. This was unexpected, especially for a three-star restaurant. However, he managed to get back to his feet by opening a new restaurant in Paris, which gained back his 3 stars within just two years.
1. Michel Bras
Chef Michael Bras has a deceptively short resume, and it’s primarily because he never left his territory as a master of “la cuisine du terroir”. While most chefs of his peer and caliber who decided to leave their home town, Bras never left his treasured Aubrac, France. He doesn’t have any other restaurants (other than Bras), stages, or apprenticeships under his name. Michael Bras was born in 1946 and was raised by his chef mother and blacksmith father. He spent a lot of time at their family restaurant Lou Mazuc, where he tended his mother’s pots.
Although this is where he acquired most of his training, he was very passionate about photography, literature, and philosophy. He learned to cook and create with intuition, and inherited the inn when he was 33. His creative cooking was soon recognized by Gault et Millau – the renowned French restaurant guide – and Lou Mazuc gained 2 Michelin stars. Bras has written numerous books, most noticeably the 2002 seminal cookbook Essential Cuisine, and was the subject of “Inventing Cuisine: Michael Bras” – a DVD series by Paul Lacoste.