Twenty years ago, if you'd asked Australia's chefs to name the restaurants they'd most like to visit, chances are you'd have ended up with a list that was almost exclusively French. Restaurants in Brazil or Sweden would have been cause for comment, as having a restaurant in regional Victoria make the top three might've been. Things have changed, it seems. Earlier this year we asked some of today's culinary leaders where they'd like to eat in 2013 and their responses revealed some interesting trends.
Out of the 142 restaurants mentioned, only five are in France. North America, Scandinavia, Japan, and the UK are well represented, as is an impressive number of Australian restaurants. France, while still important, is no longer the fountainhead of inspiration for professional cooks in Australia that it once was. Instead, they want a taste of Magnus Nilsson's innovative Nordic cuisine at Fäviken in Sweden, Alex Atala's contemporary Brazilian at São Paulo's Restaurant DOM - and indeed James Parry and Dan Puskas's ambitious modern Australian at Sixpenny in the suburbs of Sydney.
What are we to make of this? The sample is small, true, but it takes into account the nation's earliest adopters and blazers of trails. The cuisines of Fäviken and Restaurant DOM, the two most popular restaurants on the list, aren't well represented on Australian soil. They also take provenance of ingredients more seriously than most. In the case of Fäviken, a 14-seater in the remote province of Jämtland, Sweden, origin is everything. Almost everything on Nilsson's menu is either grown on the estate the restaurant sits on, or sourced from the immediate vicinity. Though it casts a wider net, geographically speaking, DOM holds to a similar philosophy, putting the produce of the Amazon and Brazil front and centre.
Sydney chef Kylie Kwong says it was this approach that attracted her to Noma, René Redzepi's Copenhagen restaurant. "No cook apart from my mother and Neil Perry has had such an enormous impact on the way I sense, think and feel about food and cooking as René Redzepi," says Kwong. "His cooking philosophy, based around using native ingredients - that which literally grows all around us in our own backyards - to express a certain time and place, to reflect the local traditional cuisine, social, historical, environmental and political landscape, completely resonates with me."
The fact that a great many of the chefs named restaurants in Australia as the places they were most excited to visit is also interesting, with Three Blue Ducks in Sydney, Melbourne's Attica and The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, regional Victoria, all polling strongly (our survey took place before chef Dan Hunter announced that he was leaving the restaurant).
If you're looking further afield for stops on your next overseas adventure, there's everything here from Guisados, an east-LA taco joint, to Torihei, an Osaka yakitori bar. The horizons are broad, our chefs are hungry. Dig in.