Behind-the-scenes at a megadinner.
At Puente Romano resort in Marbella, Spain, chef Dani Garcia pulled out his phone to take a selfie with Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm. Garcia, the chef behind the destination’s two-Michelin star restaurant baring his name (as well as his more casual Bibo), was documenting his third annual “A Cuatro Manos” collaboration dinner. The event brings together 18 chefs from around the globe to create a tasting menu inspired by a guest of honor.
In this case: Joel Robuchon. Robuchon is a force. Speaking only French, he occasionally cracks a smile that charms even the surliest of chefs, but cooking for him can be understandably nerve-wracking “It’s the second time of my life that I’ve made a plate for him,” says Garcia. “The first time was maybe six years ago. The hostess told me that there was someone asking for a table and we were fully booked—they said they’re coming with Robuchon. That’s like someone saying I’m coming with, I don’t know, Brad Pitt? Why would Robuchon be in Marbella? I didn’t believe it. I went home thinking it’s impossible it’s the real Robuchon. Three days later I’m in the kitchen and thought I don’t want to create a [new] menu because then it will surely not be real — nothing special for today. At 9 p.m., I don’t know exactly why but I looked and there is Joel Robuchon. I went to talk with him and at the end of the meal he said he had a very good feeling about me. He wrote me a letter and said he didn’t understand why I had only one Michelin star and he was going to call Michelin about this.” Apparently, it worked.
For Garcia’s event, Puente Romano Resort turned into what felt like a chefs’ summer camp. With all the chefs and their teams at a single property prepping, cooking and occasionally getting in a tennis match or two, it’s not out of the ordinary to have breakfast next to megastars like Ferran Adria. Watching chefs cohabitate for a few days was the most intriguing part of the event. The fully open kitchen would have revealed any signs of strife or attitude but the kitchen was meticulously organized, the chefs as precise as their food.
The day of the big tribute dinner, chefs sat down for a proper lunch to catch up and taste each other’s dishes to be served that evening. At dinner, the dishes filed out to 60 guests like clockwork: 18 beautiful tributes to Joel Robuchon with a nod towards French romance and Spanish innovation. Albert Adria’s yuzu merengue pie and beetroot dessert won the hearts of diners as colorful, floral, disc-shaped desserts hit the table and proceeded to be chopped in fours. Guests were encouraged to grab a piece with their hands and bite into the airy, earthy dessert as eyes closed and the table went silent. This action of savoring took place countless times that night. From the clever plating of Dani Garcia’s Spaghetti with Almadraba tuna (caught by nets using a traditional Andalusian method) and turtledove broth, to Paco Roncero’s crispy red shrimp marinated in herbs, or caviar with ham and cauliflower (Daniel Humm’s Spanish rendition of eggs benedict), each and every dish was a love letter from chef to chef, sharing through food just how Joel Robuchon has inspired their way of cooking. A Cuatro Manos is a collaboration dinner series that highlights the true camaraderie of the industry Dani Garcia feels, “It’s events like this that make all the hours spent in the kitchen well worthwhile.
A Cuatro Manos will return in 2017.