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Bold and Beautiful: The Future of Europe’s Grand Cuisine

Article by Jeff Ficker 07.25.2017

For centuries, European chefs have refined cooking, transforming it into a magnificent art. Now, a celebrated group of modern masters is earning Michelin stars for their audaciously innovative restaurants.

The Michelin Guide’s star selections come with a degree of anticipation, contention and conversation. Many of this year’s standout restaurants have this in common: They celebrate forward-thinking menus and innovative, molecular chefs who turn everyday classic ingredients into works of art on a plate. In Europe, four Ritz-Carlton chefs garnered Michelin’s singular distinction.

Aqua: Germany’s three-starred culinary tour de force

Wolfsburg, Germany

One of only nine restaurants to receive the coveted three-Michelin-star designation, Aqua at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg showcases modern German cuisine. A former pastry chef, Chef Sven Elverfeld has a keen eye for detail and it shows in his complex dishes. He often highlights strong flavors, such as eel marinated for two days with Asian spices before being grilled and served with burnt yuzu kimchi. He also has a predilection for new and creative combinations, as found in ragouts made from ingredients like oysters and pork jowls. “I like surprises, both flavor wise and aromatic wise,” Elverfeld says. “Technique is important but not the focus. I aspire to creating a flavor that stays longest in the mind. I want to create taste memories for my guests.”

LAB by Sergi Arola:  An alumnus of legendary El Bulli celebrates the rare

Sintra, Portugal

LAB by Sergi Arola — a dining experience at Penha Longa Resort that received its first star this year — is representative of Portugal’s noted jump in Michelin recognition from 17 in 2016 to 26 in 2017. At the restaurant, diners embark on a journey guided by Head Chef Sergi Arola, who was mentored by Ferran Adrià, widely considered one of the best chefs in the world. Three exceptional tasting menus are available nightly and include rare, premium ingredients with dishes like blue lobster complemented by fennel cream, smoked king prawns tucked into handmade ravioli and topped with sturgeon caviar, and frog legs glazed with eucalyptus jus.

Enoteca: A Catalan chef emphasizes Mediterranean flavors

Barcelona, Spain

On mainland Spain at Hotel Arts Barcelona, Chef Paco Pérez has an avant-garde approach to the culinary arts at his two-star Enoteca, an intimate, 38-seat dining experience with a view of the sea. He capitalizes on produce and meats from local farms for his imaginative creations, which highlight the purity of Mediterranean flavors. Wonderfully rich Alba truffles appear in traditional shaved slivers on top of rice dishes as well as in tiny sandwich form for amuse-bouches. Ham is manipulated into leaves and jellies, and sea bass tacos are accompanied by sauces made from the coastal barnacles. And everything is prepared with the precision of an artist.

M.B: Spanish-inspired ingredients reimagined by a Basque chef

Tenerife, Spain

The career of Chef Martin Berasategui at The Ritz-Carlton, Abama began when as a teen Berasategui began helping his mother who ran a fish-focused restaurant in the small coastal city of San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country. There, he cultivated a respect and passion for Spain’s distinct flavors, which are reflected in M.B’s innovative menu. For instance, in a nod to the ubiquitous pepper stews found in many Spanish villages, Berasategui serves turbot flatfish with mayonnaise made from a medley of peppers. And local ingredients like hake fish are wrapped in slices of exceptional Iberian bacon — the same bacon you can find transformed into foam alongside calamari.

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