So who would have thought of opening a gourmet restaurant in La Paz in Bolivia, a country with ten million inhabitants, far from the traditional epicentres of global gastronomy such as New York, Paris, London and Tokyo? Yet Gustu opened in a remodelled garage in 2013. Its head chef, Kamila Seidler, presents a cuisine that enhances Bolivian products and traditions, even if this restaurant is not actually Bolivian: the concept and financing stem from Claus Meyer, a Danish entrepreneur.
The capital of gourmet cuisine is Danish!
This isn’t the first experiment for this restaurant owner and television celebrity. In the past twenty years, Claus Meyer has opened over a dozen restaurants in his homeland. His flagship restaurant is Noma, which opened in an abandoned warehouse in the heart of Copenhagen in early 2000. The name Noma is short for Nordic Mad or food of the North, and indicates its mission to promote Danish products and cuisine. Head chef is René Redzepi, a Dane of Macedonian heritage.
“Even though this restaurant can only seat forty at a time, it still receives 100,000 requests for reservations each month!”
Noma’s success has taken it to the summit of the 50 BEST restaurants in the world and earned it two Michelin stars.
Letting national dishes do the talking
The exceptional success of such a model is an inspiration for other countries. They are convinced that word of a dynamic culinary culture spreads beyond national boundaries, tells a warming story and creates a positive effect. Cooking becomes a vital tool of “soft power”, a way to exert cultural influence and assert media presence, while increasing a country’s appeal. This approach is not just invaluable, but highly accessible too, as it requires relatively low total investment. Small countries can, in fact, easily compete with big nations in this global culinary “market”.
Globalisation whets appetites
Innovative cuisine is evolving all over the world, not merely in Bolivia and Denmark. It is no longer just for big countries with rich and venerable culinary traditions such as Japan, China, Italy or France. These are now facing growing competition, some of which is surpassing them. For other nations have since understood the importance of promoting their lively food culture in this digital age of globalisation.
“This decade is seeing a revolution of the established order: culinary culture is being rebalanced between small and large nations, developed economies and those still emerging.”
The beginnings of modern cooking
The foundations for today’s French cuisine were laid in the early twentieth century by French chef Auguste Escoffier. He was the first to apply a modern, organised, documented and systematic approach to cooking. In the years prior to industrial Taylorism, Auguste Escoffier invented the principle of kitchen brigades organised around their duties. Each member had his particular role to play in producing a continuous stream of dishes. Escoffier even organised his recipes in a book, Le Guide Culinaire. His highly rigorous approach gave the elaborate French cuisine its good name in the twentieth century. It was the reason for its success and supremacy throughout the past century.