4 Michelin Chefs Changing the Way We Think About Food

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Chef Thomas Keller is famous for being the most decorated chef in America with six Michelin stars (Deborah Jones)

To many, the Michelin star is the highest and most recognized honor among the culinary arts industry. Across the world, 2,817 restaurants have at least one Michelin star, with 414 having two, and 113 have three. Every restaurant aspires to earn its rightful place on this list, and prove that its level of culinary power is enough for even the most discerning food connoisseurs. 

Among the elite of the elite, four Michelin chefs have changed the way we think about food. Whether searching for the nearest Michelin-rated restaurant, or simply curious to know which chefs have achieved the sought-after honor, the fares of these culinary masters are worth remembering.

The seasonal menu at Fouquet’s Montreux, a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant, rotates weekly.

Pierre Gagnaire

Inspired by everything from earth tones to perfumes, Pierre Gagnaire has created his own flavor of genius. By the time he opened his first restaurant in 1980 at age 30, Gagnaire had already been awarded a Michelin star. By 2015, when the owners of 2- and 3-star Michelin restaurants around the world voted for the year’s best chef, Gagnaire was the winner. He currently holds 12 Michelin stars across his restaurants. While he respects classic French cuisine, Gagnaire earned his fame by breaking free of its rules. In one special Gagnaire dish, duck is marinated in cacao for two days and presented at the table under a bell made of chocolate. The duck is then smoked at the table with herbs and wine, the chocolate bell is broken, and the duck is taken to the kitchen to be cooked. The guest is left with a unique combination of duck and smoked chocolate, leaving one to imagine what else the dining experience has to offer.

The Mille-Feuille is a featured dish at Anne-Sophie Pic’s eponymous restaurant in Valence.

Anne-Sophie Pic 

Anne-Sophie Pic holds more Michelin stars than any female chef, with eight across her five restaurants.  Known as the queen of French cuisine, Pic brings glamour to dining. Her home kitchen at the Maison Pic in Valence, France ― beautifully decorated in all white, looking out onto a courtyard with floor-to-ceiling windows ― shattered the norms for cold, dull restaurant kitchens. Like the food itself, it’s a blend of the new with the traditional. This keeps Pic’s menu relevant and rooted. She emphasizes the emotions behind each dish, infusing her creations with personality. This means constantly experimenting with flavors. Pic uses modern recipes to create something different, such as fermenting ingredients in combination to create kombucha, or distilling alcohol to use in sauces. She reportedly spent six months creating a pepper and berry combination. Also an eco-conscious chef, Pic places a strong emphasis on vegetables and locally sourced ingredients.

The beef and asparagus is featured at Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry in Yountville, California.

Thomas Keller 

Chef of what has been deemed the best restaurant on the planet, Thomas Keller is famous for being the most decorated chef in America with six Michelin stars. Keller is also the only American chef to hold all six stars simultaneously. Trained in classical French cooking, Keller combines that training with what he calls modern, yet humorous American flavor. Case in point: The French Laundry, Keller’s flagship restaurant in California’s Napa Valley, is best known for its signature salmon ice cream cone. The unique dish combines Atlantic salmon with sweet onion “crème fraîche.” While it may look like an ice cream cone, it is much more than a dairy delight. The inspiration for this distinctive dish? A cross-country move, Chinatown and Baskin-Robbins were among the sources of inspiration for Keller’s most iconic dish. Treats like this are only the beginning of a whimsical and unforgettable dining experience. 

Giardino d’acqua is a featured dish at Heinz Beck’s La Pergola in Rome.

Heinz Beck

German-born chef Heinz Beck is the man behind Rome’s only three-Michelin-star restaurant, La Pergola, where the technology has been described as “excessive.” Beck is also known as one of the first chefs to recognize the importance of balancing healthy and delicious dishes. For more than a decade, Beck has worked with international scientists and Italian universities to understand the proper balance between health and food. His studies focus on the effect food has on our body and how our organs metabolize food ― information that informs beautiful dishes bursting with unique flavors. In a 2018 interview, Beck explained that the presentation of a dish is a secondary concern: “I would never sacrifice one of the important cornerstones – taste, lightness and health – for the beauty of a dish.” This approach also requires the utmost attention to detail when it comes to quality ingredients and innovative flavors. In collaboration with 10 other chefs, Beck founded The Order of the Knights of Italian Cuisine in 2010, seeking to promote a better understanding of gastronomic culture.