Raw kingfish with green ants and finger limes is unlike anything that chef Mehmet Gürs cooks at Mikla, his restaurant in Istanbul, yet it led a sequence of eight ambitious dishes he served at Orana in Adelaide for the Grand Gelinaz Shuffle last night. But then, that's the magic of the Shuffle. This international chef exchange had 37 chefs secretly planted in other restaurants for five days devising new menus for a globally orchestrated showcase dinner. Australian diners snapped up tickets in May for dinner at the two local participants, Orana in Adelaide and Attica in Melbourne, not knowing whether they'd get Alain Ducasse, Alex Atala, René Redzepi or David Thompson. Attica got Tokyo chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, and Adelaide got Gürs, champion of contemporary Turkish cooking.
Gürs enthusiastically embraced Orana's pantry of local indigenous ingredients, especially after visiting a marron farm and a specialist indigenous nursery. His inspiration took shape in dishes such as kangaroo tail in manti (aka Turkey's favourite dumpling) with smoked labne and kutjera sauce. Diners were also wowed by marron tail in macadamia milk infused with mountain pepper.
"There's a lot I will take home - mainly ideas and inspiration from how the Orana kitchen operates," says Gürs. "This was hardcore - lots of pressure to deliver, but also lots of excitement." Orana's Jock Zonfrillo, meanwhile, was at David Kinch's Manresa in California, where he served geoduck clam, kombucha and broccoli, and a version of Kinch's signature of abalone with abalone custard and seaweed.
A grand experiment, and one we'd gladly embrace a second time around.