Inside the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle at Meadowood

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Chef Ben Shrewy and the team at Meadowood
Chef Ben Shewry and the team at Meadowood

Photo Credit: Jesse Kalatachi

What happens when 40 of the world’s best chefs swap restaurants for one night only? That’s what Andea Pertini and Alexandra Swenden wondered when they launched the ultimate culinary experience two years ago. The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle is an international exchange of chefs. Each chef commits to trading kitchens with another chef. When the chefs arrive at their traded kitchen, they have time to soak in the local culture and meet with the restuarant staff. From there, they must create a tasting menu using seasonal ingredients that are reflective of that restaurant’s style and techniques. The chefs do not get to select which restaurant they will cook at, but are assigned a place randomly. Diners are also kept in the dark. They purchase tickets to attend the dinner, but won’t know who the guest chef is until they’ve started eating the meal.

Shrewy explores the culinary gardens at Meadowood
Shrewy explores the culinary gardens at Meadowood

Photo Credit: The Restaurant at Meadowood

On Thursday, November 10, 17 countries were represented at the second Grand Gelinaz Shuffle. Two Bay Area chefs participated: The Restaurant at Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow and Atelier Crenn’s Dominique Crenn. Kostow was sent to Osteria Francescana—currently the world’s best restaurant on San Pellegrino’s list—in Modena Italy. Crenn was sent to Nahm, a restaurant in Bangkok. While we couldn’t jetset around the world to experience Gelinaz, we did head to Meadowood Napa Valley and snagged a table during the second seating of the meal. Before sitting down, guests were invited into the bustling kitchen to catch of glimpse of the guest chef. One of Australia’s top chefs, Ben Shewry of Attica (which is number 33 on the best restaurant list), was in the kitchen. The Melbourne-based chef was one of the six chefs featured in the inaugural season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Shewry grew up on an isolated farm in New Zealand and is known for his incredible use of local ingredients. Shewry is an important figure within the Australian food scene—he’s helped bring the the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards to the Victorian capital, which will take place during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in early April of 2017.

Chef Shewry plates gold leaf with tweezers
Chef Shewry plates gold leaf with tweezers

Photo Credit: The Restaurant at Meadowood

At Meadowood, Shewry was inspired by Kostow’s embracement of all things Napa to craft a delicious 11-course menu. Riches of the Napa Valley featured whipped creme fraiche, caviar, and gold leaf. Housemade seeded bread was served with a decadent vegemite butter. Potatoes that were exactly 59 days and 6 hours old tasted fresh, young, and almost raw, although they were cooked. While Shewry was in Napa, Parisian chef Adeline Grattad, one of five females who participated in the shuffle, took over the Attica kitchen. An American did land in Australia: Seattle’s Blaine Wetzel, who helms the kitchen at Willows Inn on Lummi Island took over Brae in the Victoria countryside. Wetzel cooked in Dan Hunter’s kitchen. Hunter is a good friend of Shrewy’s and together the two acclaimed chefs are putting Australia on the culinary map—one kitchen takeover at a time.

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