Gelinaz! – the world’s coolest chef collective

Gelinaz! – the world’s coolest chef collective

by Tom Shingler 15 February 2016

Tom Shingler talks to Andrea Petrini and Alexandra Swenden to discover more about the global collective as they get ready to host their latest event in London.

Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Back in 2005, Italian food writer Andrea Petrini teamed up with chef Fulvio Pierangelini to start putting on a few small, local events with a few other chefs. Their first event saw major chefs such as Massimo Bottura, Petter Nilsson and Andoni Luis Aduriz take part. This collaboration – called Gelinaz! – was the start of a series of events with a punk rock feel that brings together the world’s best chefs to cook one-off dinners across the globe. There are now over seventy chefs involved in the collective, including René Redzepi, Magnus Nilsson, Alain Ducasse, Albert Adria and David Chang. Events have taken place in Lima, Ghent and New York, and last year saw the first Gelinaz! Shuffle, where thirty-seven chefs from across the world swap restaurants – all on the same night.

This year it’s London’s turn to get the full Gelinaz! treatment. The latest event is called Walk With Us and brings together fourteen chefs to cook in two Shoreditch-based restaurants, Lyle’s and The Clove Club, creating a sixteen-course menu for 100 diners. However, it’s much more than just a one-off dinner. ‘We hope to give guests the opportunity to be part of a never seen before performance,’ says Andrea. ‘We’re shedding a different light on what is perceived as a typical dining experience and reinterpreting a standard menu.

‘We’ve decided to hold a second version of the Shuffle at the end of 2016,’ adds Alexandra Swenden, who joined Andrea in 2012 to help develop Gelinaz! further. ‘In order to ‘walk towards the Shuffle’, we decided to set up four pre-events in some of the main cities where it will be held, the first of which is London.’

The food at Gelinaz! Walk With Us will showcase the participating chefs’ raw talent. They are divided into pairs and tasked with designing a four-course menu together. Every one of the duos, however, will have to use identical ingredients, showcasing the different cooking styles and methods of each chef. ‘The chefs are primarily responsible for organising themselves,’ says Andrea. ‘They’re working in pairs and won’t get any assistants, so it’s an exhausting but hopefully rewarding experience for them. We’ve already matched them up and they’re currently in the process of designing their menus together.’

Alexandra and Andrea
Alexandra and Andrea organise all the Gelinaz! events themselves
Enrico Crippa
Enrico Crippa is one of the Italian chefs taking part in Walk With Us

Natural selection

‘The chefs are selected through our own knowledge and experiences of their restaurants,’ adds Andrea. ‘There are two phases to us approaching chefs we want to join Gelinaz!; we try the food and then we meet the person behind it. If we like both, then they’re in.’

Many of the details surrounding Walk With Us are still shrouded in secrecy; at some point guests will be expected to leave the tables and ‘walk’ somewhere, with many more surprises no doubt planned for the evening. The chefs taking part are travelling from Italy, Belgium, Austria, France and Sweden, while the UK will be represented by Claude Bosi, Margot Henderson, Andrew Wong and Lee Tiernan (as well as the head chefs of Lyle’s and The Clove Club, James Lowe and Isaac McHale). Every one of Andrea and Alexandra’s events so far have pushed the boundaries of the traditional dining experience – but where do they get their ideas?

‘When we work together we bounce ideas off each other like a game of ping pong,’ says Alexandra. ‘We’ll often go to some sort of spiritual retreat together to think about our next event, and we’re constantly working to build up the future of Gelinaz! by introducing new talents as well as already established chefs to the collective.We are always working towards the creation of future Gelinaz! events and we’re already working on what’s happening in 2017. Let’s just say that people can expect something entirely new for next year, something that takes Gelinaz! in an entirely unexpected direction.’