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Portraits: Crème de la crème

While most eat to live, we have been known to live to eat — and thus appreciate culinary artists. Here are portraits of some of our favourite chefs who have influenced how
we cook, eat and live

Marco Pierre White

The enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene is known for his uneasy relationship with the gastronomic bible, the Michelin Guide. At the age of 33 his eponymous restaurant in London was awarded three stars, making him the youngest chef to achieve that feat. But he rescinded the stars five years later when he hung up his apron to become a restaurateur. He also told the Guide not to visit his latest restaurant, The English House in Singapore.

White has trained a number of notable chefs, including Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali.

Julia Child

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure,” she’s been quoted saying. “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Child is credited with popularising French cuisine in the US through cookbooks such as Mastering the Art of French Cooking and TV programmes such as The French Chef. Meryl Streep earned an Oscar nomination portraying Child in the film Julie & Julia. 

Paul Bocuse

The father of nouvelle cuisine, Bocuse was the descendant of a long line of chefs that can be traced back to the 17th century. He built a career of almost 50 years based on regional fare with a focus on fresh, quality ingredients and simple dishes, and didn’t shy away from innovation. The Culinary Institute of America named him the Chef of the Century in 2011. He also created the Bocuse d’Or, referred to as the gastronomic Olympic Games.

Auguste Escoffier

Often called “The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs”, Escoffier was the top French chef at the start of the 20th century. He was heavily influenced by Marie-Antoine Carême, and is recognised for modernising and simplifying Carême’s methods, including classifying the five mother sauces still in use today.

The chef, restaurateur and writer enjoyed an illustrious career of more than six decades, during which he created more than 10,000 recipes. We’re also indebted to him for the à la carte menu.

“A good kitchen is the basis of true happiness,” he’s been quoted saying. 

Ferran Adrià

The father of molecular gastronomy is often described as the most influential chef in the world. Inspired by the likes of Michel Guérard, Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel, the Catalan chef has spent the years since his revolutionary three-Michelin-star elBulli closed in 2011 (with some 3,000 people still on the waiting list) building a foundation, writing a gastronomic encyclopaedia and mentoring the next generation of culinary superstars, including Joan Roca, Massimo Bottura and René Redzepi. 

René Redzepi

This culinary visionary is the chef behind the restaurant voted the top eatery in the world four times. Many critics of the Michelin Guide point to this aspect as proof that the red book is out of touch, as Noma hasn’t been awarded a third star yet.

Redzepi is the face of new Nordic cuisine, focusing on seasonal themes, and is known for foraging in the wild for ingredients. 

Jamie Oliver

The British chef and restaurateur became known for his rustic approach to cuisine, captured by the moniker The Naked Chef, also the name of a programme that made him one of the biggest stars on television.

Over the past few years he’s fronted a campaign to introduce children to healthier food, and to improve the nutritional value of school meals. 

Vineet Bhatia

The man who introduced London to more authentic Indian flavours is also known for playing with foreign techniques and ingredients in his exploration of regional Indian cuisines. His restaurant Zaika in Chelsea was awarded a Michelin star in 2001, making Bhatia the first Indian chef to achieve that accolade.

Marie-Antoine Carême 

Born to a destitute family and abandoned during the French Revolution, Carême went from working as a kitchen boy to creating magical feasts for royals and dignitaries.

He cooked for the likes of Napoleon, George IV and Russia’s Tsar Alexander I. Widely regarded as the first celebrity chef, he enthralled commoners and high society alike with his creative pastries. Carême wrote bestselling cookbooks, and introduced the chef’s uniform as we know it. 

Nobu Matsuhisa

Many rate Japanese restaurants by their black cod — in the UAE, at least — and we have Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa to thank for that. The celebrity chef moved to Peru in his mid-20s, leading to the fusion cuisine he’s now known for.

Actor Robert DeNiro was an early fan, and partnered with the chef to open Nobu restaurants around the world. Nobu’s signature dish is black cod in miso. 

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