‘The crème de la crème of the world's culinary masters descend on the Algarve’
The Fine Art of Food
The ‘fine dining’ experience is the chic way to enjoy the performance of a distinguished chef. Across the world, the new celebrities are these highly trained masters of the culinary arts, who conjure a magical orchestration of flavours and textures supported by stylish and exemplary service.
T THIS LEVEL, the creation and presentation of food is a visual feast that has its recognised stars and super-stars, and whose signature dishes are ‘collected’ by gourmets across Europe. And as with any of the creative arts, at the top there is no shortage of temperament, volatility and outlandish egotism.
It comes as some surprise, therefore, to learn that leading chefs now have their own equivalent of the medieval tournament, where the crème de la crème congregate in the Algarve for a spectacular showcase of kitchen gymnastics. Here, Michelin stars are as common as Beluga caviar canapés and guests flood in from all over the world to participate in a unique opportunity to eat at the best kitchens on the planet, yet all in a single location: Vila Joya, where Portugal’s Algarve kisses the Atlantic Ocean.
The year is 2013, and the stage is set for a culinary spectacular at Vila Joya as its renowned chefs, Dieter Koschina and Matteo Ferrantino, host a 13-day gourmet festival that attracts international celebrity guests – and which has put this deluxe resort firmly on the map of haute cuisine.
Once a year, chefs Koschina and Ferrantino bring together some of the world’s finest chefs for Vila Joya’s Tribute to Claudia Festival, which started as a celebration of Vila Joya’s 25th anniversary and to honour the founder of Vila Joya, Claudia Jung. It has now become a 13-day event with many Michelin-starred and award-winning chefs arriving from the four corners of the globe. According to the hosts themselves, the magic and surprise of these dinners are never repeated, not for their guests, or for themselves.
Again this year, a host of world-ranked, three-Michelin-star hotshots descend on Albufeira. Previous VIP visitors have included Hans Valimaki (Chez Dominique, Finland); Joachim Wissler (Andome, Germany); and Normand Laprise (Restaurant Toque, Canada), amongst other such luminaries. Each goes head to head to impress a very discerning international audience. The resident Vila Joya team, Dieter Koschina and Matteo Ferrantino, traditionally host an evening with a gang of Koschina’s famous friends, and this is one of the most sought-after tickets of the whole 13-day event.
For the 2013 extravaganza, some major European masters of the kitchen return once more to join in the fun. Alain Passard (L'Arpège, France) is not just a celebrity chef – he is an institution. He presides at his three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris, once notorious for temporarily turning L’Arpège into a vegetarian restaurant, sourcing raw produce from his own three farms in north-west France. Today, meat is back on the menu, but obtained to Passard’s exacting standards.
One of the most popular is the Royal Dutch Evening (11th November), which will feature Jonnie Boer (De Librije) and Hans van Wolde (Beluga). In Holland, Jonnie Boer is the super-star of cooking and possibly the most popular chef in the Netherlands. Boer’s focus is on purity, whether in ingredients or in interpreting local and regional cuisine. Hans Van Wolde’s creations are classic modern and always contain the contrasts of sweet-salty-sour, a recipe that was soon rewarded with two Michelin stars.
Other members of the international ‘family’ of culinary genius welcomed at Vila Joya for November 2013 and who will participate in the ‘hot-ticket’ event Koschina & Friends (17th November) which closes the Festival, will include:
The fiercely patriotic, Italian chef Massimo Bottura (three star Osteria Francescana). After a summer at El Bulli, where Ferran Adrià nurtured Massimo's vision, Bottura developed his own conceptual food processes to critical acclaim and a star rating.
German-born Sven Elderfeld (three star Aqua) graduated as a state qualified gastronome and master cook in 1998 aged just 30. Maestro of the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Elderfeld has also gained the ultimate accolade: the highest rating of five Fs by the Feinschmecker Guide in 2010. His reinterpretation of traditional German cuisine has marked him as a perennial favourite with sophisticated European diners.
Swiss born, Andreas Caminada (three star Restaurant Schloss Schauenstein) is a firm favourite with the international ski set, being located near the Swiss resort of Laax, and specialises in classic and regional specialities created with the theatrical exuberance for which is celebrated.
The Autumn 2013 events programme – with a sharp contrast to the dull weather across northern Europe – makes Vila Joya a strong competitor to the usual Caribbean getaway enjoyed by the haute chic of Euroland. Here, food is elevated to a fine art and the presentation on the plate takes on the intensity of a work of art itself: abstract, organic and sculptural. There are gourmet holiday breaks on offer in Europe, but a ticket to the Tribute to Claudia festival is most definitely something else altogether.
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