Best described as an international mystery chef swap, the Grand Gelinaz Shuffle is a project like few others in the food world. It has a clear agenda: to politely shunt some of the world’s leading chefs out of their comfort zones, explore the bounds of cross-cultural culinary collaboration and thrill lucky diners along the way.
This year 40 chefs from 17 countries will pack up their knives and leave their native kitchens to step into the shoes (and family homes) of a fellow participating chef.
It’s not well known, but in the space of a year the Grand Gelinaz Shuffle has become the zenith of cultish underground food events for international food nerds. Now in its second year, it’s the kind of boundary-pushing creative challenge chefs get pretty excited about, too.
Allocated at random, each chef will discover his or her new restaurant location several weeks before the event. They will then work with the host kitchen’s staff, produce and local culture to come up with a unique, eight-course menu – which will be served at a one-off dinner on November 10.
For diners who scored a ticket it’s a deliciously speculative affair; the surprise chef and menu is a secret until the day of the event. Given the standard of chefs involved it’s unlikely anyone will be disappointed with the outcome.
For last year’s inaugural event Alain Ducasse, Alex Atala, René Redzepi and David Thompson were in the mix. Locally, Melbourne's Attica hosted Yoshihiro Narisawa from Tokyo, and Mehmet Gürs from Istanbul’s Mikla landed at Adelaide's Orana.
Attica and Orana are back again this year (both events are now sold out). Sydney's Momofuku Seiobo (tickets still available) and Victoria's Brae (sold out) have been added for the first time.
Brae’s Dan Hunter is clearly excited about the prospect of finding himself in a random part of the world for four days.
“There’s really nowhere on the list that you wouldn’t want to go. The choice of restaurants is incredible,” Hunter says. “I could end up at some small, 25-seat bistro in Paris, or somewhere in Russia.”
Hunter adds that while outsiders see the restaurant industry as highly competitive, there’s also a great sense of camaraderie among chefs. “As big as the world is, it’s a pretty tight-knit community. Whenever I travel overseas to cook, I feel nothing but warmth and hospitality from other chefs.”
“An event like this provides an even playing field for chefs – we’ll certainly all be on our toes,” says Hunter. “It’s a really nice way to bring like-minded people together in a way that celebrates the restaurant industry’s amazing talent and diversity.”
The Grand Gelinaz Shuffle dinner takes place on Thursday November 10.
Limited tickets are still available at gelinaz.com.