Invited by consultant Alessandro Porcelli to explore sustainability through food for an event coinciding with the 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen, the group of innovative chefs behind Cook it Raw—the ultra-exclusive organization that evolved out of that initial dinner—have gone on to explore culinary issues like environment, collaboration, creativity and tradition in an array of correlating locations. The current team of 27 chefs include industry elites like Renzo Redzepi, Magnus Nilsson, David Chang, Daniel Patterson, Inaki Aizparte and Albert Adria to name a few, with a dozen selected to participate in each annual edition, which sees the forward-thinking group meet with local experts and explore the land before finally preparing a course that reflects their experiences.
Until now, Cook It Raw events have remained largely unshared, serving chiefly as a way for like-minded chefs around the world to come together exchange ideas. With Porcelli's new book of the same name as the conference he founded, now everyone can gain from their understanding.
Published by Phaidon, the book is teeming with first-person narratives and never-released images, offering glimpses into the chefs' experimentation with different traditional and regional techniques and wild ingredients. The ultra informative tome is a dynamic resource for those well-acquainted with the conference, and a stellar introduction for the unfamiliar.
Encased within a playfully short jacket, the book's sturdy and unusual cardboard construction gives off a gloriously unfinished vibe like an instructive, working project. The text is organized by event leading the reader through the conference's history in a loosely chronological fashion. Split into four sections that correspond with the group's four previous trips to Copenhagen; the Lapland of Finland and Sweden; Iskikiawa, Japan; and Collio, Italy (in 2012 the chefs traveled to Suwalki, Poland), "Cook It Raw" simultaneously tracks the evolution of their collective developments and the individual journeys of each participant.
"I wanted the book to be a reflection of what I did. What we did. I wanted it to read like a lab book, a scrapbook, a work in progress," Porcelli tells us. "I wanted our book to convey the raw spirit and roughness of this conference. So, for me, the separate chapters weren't necessarily about creating a linear story but instead a structure that enabled us to share the essence of what we achieved in each destination we visited."
Porcelli's thoughtful inclusion of original materials like recipes, email threads, invitations and even some of the chefs' personal scribbles contribute to the intimacy of what feels like a journal, punctuated by delectable, full-page spreads of original photos and chef-authored stories. "There were a thousand stories to tell, so when we began putting together the book, we knew we wanted the chefs to be our authors," says Porcelli. "They were the ones that lived those experiences. It wouldn't have been an authentic account any other way."
Images of the book by Kat Herriman and courtesy of Phaidon