Today’s Special tasks 20 well-established chefs from across the globe to select five emerging chefs each and is a sort-of sequel to Phaidon’s oddly-titled 2009 tome Coco. Coincidentally or otherwise, some of the chefs that were tipped by leading chefs back then are now doing the tipping themselves, including our own Skye Gyngell.
The 100 chefs selected are impressively diverse, proving that in 2021 one doesn’t have to look hard to find interesting people from a wide range of geographies and backgrounds creating brilliant food. Even more commendably, over a third of the chefs selected are female (taking into account the handful of woman/man chef duos featured in the book). 50% would clearly be better, but given the lack of representation of women in top kitchens it’s a step in the right direction.
The 20 chefs choosing the talent include the likes of Ana Roš, David Kinch, Marcus Samuelsson and Daniel Boulud. The UK-based leading chefs are Skye Gyngell, Margot Henderson and Yotam Ottolenghi. All three are well-qualified for the job and are well-travelled too, meaning that some of their choices are from outside the UK. The line-up of chefs from these shores is well chosen, highlighting five chefs at the top of their game with highly distinctive approaches.
London is well-represented with Neil Borthwick of The French House, Jeremy Chan of Ikoyi and Tomos Parry of Brat while Inver’s Pamela Bruton and Osip’s Merlin Labron-Johnson fly the flag for great food outside the capital. Each chef in the book is tasked with creating a menu of three or more courses with detailed recipes given for three of the dishes.
With such a diverse array of talent there are a number of different approaches on display but in general the recipes are chef-y, complex and require hard-to-find ingredients. While the audience for the book is certainly intended to be wider than professional chefs, the recipes aren’t pitched at home cooks (weekend warriors should probably start with Borthwick's trio of unfancy but delicious looking recipes).
For anyone looking for an snapshot of what innovative cooking looks like in 2021 Today’s Special is a compelling proposition. In particular, Phaidon and its team of chefs are to be commended for seeking out such a diverse band of cooks.