Taste Festivals

The dinner series begins this week in San Francisco, introducing a new dining audience to some of the chefs leading the charge in Paris today.

Lindsey Tramuta
September 26, 2017

At the 2015 inaugural Taste of Paris festival, Alain Ducasse took the stage and addressed what could only be called the elephant in the room: of all the cities that had been part of Taste International’s domination in marquee culinary events over the last thirteen years, why had Paris been noticeably absent? After an explanation that hinged heavily upon logistics and the approval to host it in the right setting—under the Grand Palais’s great glass dome, which famously welcomes Chanel’s runway show every Fashion Week—Ducasse touched on the question of timing. “French cuisine has never been this diverse, varied and extraordinarily or magnificently represented by chefs from so many generations, old and new,” he said.  

He didn’t have to say it explicitly, but the implication was clear. Other global food cities had been doing it better, for far longer. Dining capitals from Toronto to Hong Kong have embraced a broad range of cuisines, championing chefs of all backgrounds and levels (not only Michelin-grade talent), while the Paris food scene celebrated a somewhat limited view of Frenchness. That’s begun changing more rapidly in the last five to six years, thanks to an influx of foreign chefs, growing culinary curiosity that’s stretched far beyond French borders. By the time the city made it onto the Taste roster, they were ready with a dynamic pool of talent, from chefs to producers.

Now approaching its fourth season in Paris, Taste Festivals is launching an offshoot dinner series called  Tastemaker Collective that will introduce a new dining audience to some of the chefs leading the charge in Paris today. Focused on cultural exchange, the new program showcases international talent from the Taste Festivals around the world, pairing chefs and mixologists together for collaborative one-night-only dinners in intimate environments, somewhat like dinners at the James Beard House. The inaugural dinners kick off this week in San Francisco, a city that Justin Clarke, global head of culinary for Taste International, calls a “gateway of culinary culture in the US” and reflective of the festival’s cosmopolitan focus. “We sought to understand not only the city’s most celebrated chefs, but ones that were open to a cultural exchange,” he said, before adding that the concept will be rolled out in ten additional U.S. cities in 2018.

For the three Paris-based chefs making their way to San Francisco, the dinners will be an opportunity to demonstrate the multitude of flavors informing Parisian cooking today. Sven Chartier, best known for his rigorous sourcing and robust, largely bio-dynamic wine cellar at his Michelin-starred bistro Saturne and Clown Bar, will cook a tasting menu with a wine pairing for eight with chef Dominique Crenn at her award-winning table, Atelier Crenn. “I’m excited to cook somewhere new, to be sure, but it’s an incredible honor to cook in Dominique’s kitchen,” Chartier said. “I think I get more out of it than she does!”

Colombian chef Juan Arbelaez of Nubé and Brazilian chef Rafael Gomes of GrandCoeur will bring their colorful, uninhibited cooking to Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara’s restaurant Cala for a multi-course, seafood-focused experience. For Gomes, who previously worked at New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park before moving to France to work for Mauro Colagreco at Mirazur in Menton and at GrandCoeur in Paris, this dinner à six mains is something of a homecoming. “I left Brazil for San Francisco as a 19-year-old immigrant to learn English,” he said. “I worked my way up there, from a pizza delivery guy to someone manning the FOH. Now I’m returning as one of the headlining chefs. It’s incredible.”

Tastemaker Collective makes its debut in San Francisco September 26-October 1, 2017. For tickets, visit tastemakersf.com.