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Social magic at an evening of Culinary Mischief – B Beyond spoke to head chef Gabriele Bertaccini about his creative approach to curating dining experiences

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to an evening of food, fun and frivolity at chef Gabriele Bertaccini‘s roving international pop-up dining experience – the delightfully named CULINARY MISCHiEF. Hosted by the Marriott’s County Hall Hotel in Westminster, London, Gabriele and his team turned the stunning and imposing location into a familiar setting for a remarkable seven course Italian meal. Inventive, gregarious and charming, the head chef managed to conjure an evening in the image of himself – some feat considering that the meal was attended by a group of total strangers. Brought together by a mutual appreciation for good food, however, this evening did not disappoint any of the guests. Indeed, the Spring themed menu was a triumph, balanced beautifully by a wonderful ebb and flow to conversation and accompanied by exceptional individual wine pairings and introductions from Gabriele to each course.

We caught up with head chef Gabriele to discuss his approach to creating a cultural dining experience, rather than just another pop-up restaurant:

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Gabriele – first of all, congratulations for organising such a spectacular event (CULINARY MISCHiEF: Primavera) in London this April! I understand that this was only the second time you had organised an evening of ‘CULINARY MISCHiEF’ here in the UK – what took you so long?!

Gabriele: Well, thank you guys! The pleasure was truly all mine as the evening is only as good as our guests, so YOU really ended up making the evening, not me.

To go back to your question, CULINARY MISCHiEF has been the premier roving underground dining event in the United States for the last five years now and we were ready to expand oversea. London especially has been going through a change when it comes to food and beverage offerings including a more underground food scene -which is the category into which CULINARY MISCHiEF falls. People are hungry for more experiences where food and wine is, yes the center of the attention, BUT it is also – and most importantly – a tool for new and old friends to connect, to create memories together, to go back to a simpler and more experiential life. London has been amazing and the welcome we received is exciting and inspirational.

All the guests were raving about your menu that night – six courses including a superlative pea soufflé, specially made hand-rolled gnocchi that looked and tasted out of this world and an incredible meaty main course of veal. All were cooked to absolute perfection. Perhaps you could talk us through your process for deciding upon your menu for each event?

Thank you for your kind words. The menu was indeed a good one and like everything else in life it becomes even better when you know you will not be able to enjoy again and anywhere. That is also why all our menus are a one-time-only culinary creations. We never repeat a dish once. Never a menu one. Each experience is truly unique to its location, inspiration, time of the year and overall theme.

How do you replicate this concept all over the world to such a high standard when using a different team each time?

I take a lot of joy and pride in teaching and sharing my culinary and entertaining skills with the different people I have the pleasure to work with. For me, it is all about passion. You can teach skills, you can’t teach passion. I can sit with you and walk you through a recipe, but the love you put in it IS in fact perceived by your guests – and that I cannot control. It takes a lot of preparation, and it is important for me to make them (my team) understand that the success of the evening is mostly due to them.

At the Primavera meal, the wine was selected by the head of F&B at the Westminster Marriott Hotel, your location partner for the evening. How involved are you with choosing the wine pairings for the meal?

Very involved indeed! We usually select the wines after I craft the menus and we go through a tasting to make sure that the ones we selected are going to work and if not, what we can change. The relationship food and wine have together is comparable to being married. It is important that both elements are in harmony and that they know when to balance each other. The sum is greater than its parts.

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Do you have any go-to sources for your ingredients? Or does this change depending on location, time of year, the type of menu etc?

It absolutely changes as the location and availability of ingredients change as well. One thing is always the same though: we outsource and look for only the BEST ingredients available, when possible locally sourced so that there is a story behind it. It is important for each ingredient to have its own reason to exist.

When did you first learn to cook, where did you train as a chef and are the two events directly linked?

I have always been fascinated by food and what food represents for me, for my family and for our society. The power that food and wine have in creating memories is quite inspirational to me. Of course, my nationality has a lot to do with it. We (Italians) define ourselves based on what we eat and what we cook. The dinner table is the place where everything happens, where our dreams are discussed, where our life happens. It is a metaphor for something much more important like relationships and personal growth. This understanding led me to enrolled into culinary school at the age of 13. For five years I studied the basics of Italian cooking and the art of hospitality. It is important to note that nobody trains as a Chef. Although the word is nowadays is loosely used we all start as cooks. A chef is and has been a cook. A cook may become a Chef if enough leadership skills, passion and understanding of the industry is present.

Tell us about your inspiration for starting CULINARY MISCHiEF. There are obviously a lot of people organising similar pop-up dining events at the moment; was CULINARY MISCHiEF a way of capitalising on that trend or designed to be something a bit different?

CULINARY MISCHiEF was one of the first pop-ups in the U.S.A. When I started, there weren’t many chefs doing what I did and, I do have to say, there still aren’t. For me it was important to create an experience that was so unique that it couldn’t be replicated, and that came with the understanding that location, theme, wine pairings, music, set up of the dining room and invitations [the guests] were as important as the food we were presenting our clients. Many of our guests have never experienced anything like it before. It is very decadent yet comfortable, not stuffy and fairly informal. My ultimate goal was to create an event that replicated the same feeling of me inviting friends and family over for dinner. Some of the best dinners are created spontaneously and although these events are very well planned, once the dining room is open and the candles are lit the atmosphere is friendly, engaging and you do not want to leave the table…sometimes for hours and hours!

We love the name CULINARY MISCHiEF – it captures the sense of theatre in what you do. The events are about more than just food, they are about social interactions with like-minded people, and, primarily, an evening of entertainment. Do you think that, with a growing number of themed restaurants and pop-ups appearing (particularly in London!) that people have come to expect this level of entertainment in addition to a purely gastronomic experience when eating out?

Everything I have done and I do is about much more than food. It is experience-driven. And so is CULINARY MISCHiEF, which marries the art of entertaining with the one of cooking, and guests have come to expect that from their ‘nights-out’. They want to be entertained, they want to be surprised, and they want to feel special. It is the host’s job (whether is the Chef or not) to do so, to make their experience unique.

How do you pick the themes and menus for each CULINARY MISCHiEF event?

The inspiration comes from many different elements but location has to be #1 on my list. The place where the event is held often dictates the type of menu, set up and overall feel the dining experience is going to have. Seasonality is my second most important inspiration as food has to adapt to its surroundings.

Your company, Il Tocco Food, offers what appears to be a combination of catering and event management services. Do you specialise in catering for private dinners, then, or do you ever do events on a larger scale for private clients?

iL TOCCO FOOD was born with the idea of replicate the same feel of a CULINARY MISCHiEF in the comfort of our client’s residences and other locations. My team and I specialize in creating private dining experiences that focus on relationship building rather than just plain catering services. We meet with our clients and over a glass of wine understand their needs, what they are looking for, what they occasion is and how we can assist. We craft personalized menus that are unique to our guests’ tastes and expectations, paired the wines and take care of the overall theme when needed or asked, and then we execute the whole dining experience start to finish for them and their guests on site. No food is prepared ahead of time and we have to accommodate to the logistic of the location. We do events from 2 to 500 people, but because we are very detailed oriented each event takes a much longer time to organize and execute thus we can only accommodate a small number of private dining events each month. I am very proud to say that nobody does what we do and that private dining events like those ones often lead to become friends with our clients for life.

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Understandably you have a penchant for exciting, creative Italian food but have you ever considered offering different culture’s cuisines or mixing up your approach with different national cooking techniques or styles?

I have not and I know I will never do that. I believe it is important for a Chef to have an emotional connection to the food he/she cooks so that there is a story behind it. It is all about sharing with the guests your journey (professional and private alike as they often cross paths) and make them part of it.

What has been your most memorable event so far?

Each event is memorable in its own. Every event unique to its location, guests, foods and wines. Each dinner a one-in-a-lifetime-experience. I carry with me many memories from each event we have shared with our guests and clients and that is the most precious part of what I do.

You have already grown CULINARY MISCHiEF internationally to Phoenix, LA, NY in America, Florence in Italy and London in the UK. Any plans to expand further? Either way, what lies in store for you and Il Tocco – what can we expect to see next from you?

As a Chef I am always on the hunt for new and exciting ways of sharing my passion and love for food and wine with the greatest number of guests possible. Of course, iL TOCCO FOOD & CULINARY MISCHiEF will keep going and going strong in the USA, UK and ITALY. I am however, working on creating a different and more permanent experience both in the USA and UK. You may want to get your calendar open, as it will be my pleasure to soon host you at our first brick and mortar concept….!

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Thanks Gabe – we’re looking forward to it already!

You can book yourself in for Gabe’s next evening of CULINARY MiSCHIEF in London on June 1st and 2nd by emailing Gemma Waters for ticket inquiries

The Primavera dinner menu included:

Light pea souffle with carrot juice vinaigrette and salsa verde;

Silky asparagus soup with quail egg yoke and parsley infused croutons;

Cloud-like squash gnocchi dressed with brown Italian butter and Treviso Radicchio;

Grilled veal chops marinated in fresh thyme and served with a ‘Sicilian caponatina’;

Sharp tasting palate cleanser with notes of Campari and Lemon

…and a Lavender cannolo with lemon thyme sauce.

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Ship ahoy! The Monaco Yacht Show 2011

What: 21st Monaco Yacht Show 2011
Where: Port Hercule
When: 21 to 24 September 10am to 6.30pm

The big draw of the coming yachting season is without doubt the 21st annual Monaco Yacht Show, With over 80% of visitors coming from abroad, and forty countries exhibiting, the show remains one of the most international of all the great displays of the nautical calendar. Last year’s show posted excellent figures, and similar, if not higher, numbers are anticipated this year, flocking to see boats of all shapes and sizes ranging from the latest 30/40s and sailing yachts to exclusive superyachts of 25 to 90m in length.

Forty new designs are making their worldwide debuts here (ten more than last year) and what stands out this time is the remarkable range of yachts, attracting many different kinds of owner.

For the explorer, there are two yachts of particular note: the dramatically-designed Big Fish – who since her launch last year has already explored great swathes of the world’s oceans and visited Antarctica – and Galileo, the latest exciting design from Vitruvius Yachts: a blue-water, global explorer yacht also designed for Arctic and Antarctic conditions.

The collector and aesthete will come to admire the new 39-metre Snowbird, a veritable floating art gallery; while for sportsmen and women, all eyes will be on Shooting Star, a superfast 38-metre superyacht from the drawing boards of Danish designer Espen Oieno.


The Amels 212 ‘Imagine’

One of the biggest, yet most appealing yachts on show is the high-volume 64-metre Imagine, a spectacular craft built in Holland by Amels. Her graceful hull and gull-wing mast arch will certainly be turning heads, as will the 50-metre sailing vessel Zefira, winner of this year’s Sailing Yacht of the Year title at the World Superyacht Awards. But it’s not just the big yachts that are exciting press attention. Already many compliments have been paid to the excitingly designed Mugler Spire  – a tiny 9.5 metre superboat based on the Batmobile, capable of over 90 knots.

It’s perhaps no surprise to see such a wide range of new builds. Many of the world’s superyacht shipyards are operating below capacity, and there are half-finished hulls and new projects just waiting to be snapped up by discerning owners or speculators. In the opinion of Hein Velema, CEO of Fraser Yachts and former marketing manager for Feadship, ‘Now is the time to build… shipyards are still operating well below capacity and my recurring message to all our customers for the last 18 months has been build, build, build and start now!’

Luxury

This is the event which more than any other sets the tone and the standard for prestige yacht shows, with royalty and millionaire yacht owners mingling with visitors to the Principality over a four day period fuelled by great weather and great entertainment.

But of course this is principally a meeting and market place, and as well as admiring the boats, visitors have the chance to meet representatives of the international luxury yacht trade: over 500 brokers, builders, charterers, designers and equipment manufacturers will be on hand to demonstrate their wares and – who knows – maybe even persuade you to part with your money. Despite continuing economic uncertainty, the general mood is that the market is picking up again – not too fast – but definitely showing signs of positive recovery.


Dark Knight: Thierry Mugler’s’ Spire’ superboat

As in previous years, organisers have pledged their continuing support for the Monaco Association against the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a local charity. Last year the Association received a donation of €51,500. Helping the cause this year will be the Only Watch charity auction. which will take place at 4pm on 22 September at the Hotel Hermitage.

In the lead up to this year’s show, CityOut will be providing comprehensive coverage of latest developments from exhibitors, as well as a guide to key companies and events.

Additional events

20 September 2011

The Captains’ Hideout
plays host to all professional captains and crew during the Monaco Yacht Show, with complimentary refreshments and internet access throughout the day. The Hideout is the perfect place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the show. Please note that the Captains’ Hideout is open only to professional superyacht captains and crew living on board the yachts participating in the show.

22 September at 4pm
Hotel Hermitage

Only Watch 2011 – auction of one off and limited edition luxury timepieces on behalf of charity

23 September at 7pm
Monte Carlo Beach Hotel

Captain’s Party for yacht captains and yachting industry representatives taking part in the show. This event organized jointly with Informa Yacht Group and backed by The Yacht Report and Ascoma Maritime is an opportunity for guests to socialize in a convivial ambiance while admiring the view over Port Hercule. By invitation only.

To find out more, please visit

http://www.cityoutmonaco.com/monaco-yacht-show

© CityOutMonaco 2011

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The Royal Courts of Europe

What: The Splendour and Grandeur of the Courts in Europe
Where: Grimaldi Forum
When: 11 July to 11 September
Entry: €12/€8
Contact: +377 99 99 30 00, 12-7pm, Tue to Sat.

For many hundreds of years, the history of Europe both in war and peacetime has been determined by a handful of elected and hereditary monarchs and the courts which surrounded them. Now, to coincide with the wedding of the Prince of Monaco, the Grimaldi Forum is hosting an impressive exhibition covering the history of the twenty royal courts of Europe from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.

More than seventy private and public collections, including items from the royal palaces themselves, have been brought together for this unique occasion. Curated by Catherine Arminjon, Monaco’s Director of Heritage, the two-month-long exhibition covers the life and times of some of the greatest names in European history and sets the context for the celebrations of the current generation of Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi family.

Portraits, sculptures, objets d’art, furniture, porcelain, silver and gold, costumes and jewellery – some 700 exhibits in all – bring to life the individuals and couples who left their mark on the histories of their dynasties and countries. Many were not simply rulers, but contributed widely to the fields of the arts, history and science, and these areas will form a large part of the display, as well as archive film, both documentary and dramatic.

Among the royal families represented in the exhibition are those of

  • Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland
  • Frederick I, first King of Prussia, and Queen Sophia Charlotte
  • Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, and his grandson, Ludwig II
  • Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth of Austria
  • Christian IV and Christian IX of Denmark
  • Philip V of Spain, grandson of Louis XIV, and Elizabeth, heir to the fabulous Farnese collections
  • Napoleon and Josephine and the first French Empire
  • Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, a great collector and Joseph Haydn’s patron
  • Luís I, King of Portugal, and Queen Maria Pia
  • Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and her consort Prince Albert
  • Gustavus III, King of Sweden
  • Tsar Alexander II who launched the vogue for imperial Russian holidays on the French Riviera
  • Leopold I, first King of the Belgians
  • Haakon VII, first King of Norway following the dissolution of the union with Sweden
  • John III Sobieski, elected King of Poland, victor over the Turks at Vienna
  • Charles, King of Naples, who launched the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii
  • Victor Amadeus II, King of Sicily and of Sardinia
  • Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
  • Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
  • The Grimaldis, Princes of Monaco

To complement this ambitious exhibition, the Grimaldi Forum will offer educational workshops for young people from 6-14 years from July 11.

This article originally appeared in CityOut Monaco