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Ready, Set, Forage: How the World’s Best Chefs Cook Raw

Every year a semi-secret society of top chefs gathers to cook the most inventive meals around the globe

Four years ago, 11 chefs were set loose in the wilds of Denmark. Their goal wasn’t to perfect an entrée for their menus or dazzle a food critic. They had to prepare a dish entirely new to them for a multi-course dinner, with two caveats—they couldn’t use any energy and had to rely only on what they could forage and find.

Apparently collaboration (and beer) begets inspiration. Although stripped of kitchen gear, the men served what many called the most memorable meal of their lives. This gathering was the birth of Cook It Raw, an annual event founded by culinary consultant Alessandro Porcelli. Since then the world’s culinary experts, from Momofuku’s David Chang to Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, have gone on excursions armed with self-imposed new directives: to embrace creativity in barren Collio, Italy; to live off the frigid land of Lapland, Finland; to fuse modern gastronomy and traditional cuisine in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan; and to explore culture in the melting pot of Suwalki, Poland.

Now the illuminating book Cook It Raw—part art project, part travelogue, part cookbook—lifts the lid on the semi-secret gatherings. “I think there is a spiritual thing that brings us together,” Noma’s René Redzepi says in its pages. “Nobody is pretentious. People are quite open—they don’t feel they’ve finished learning. None of these guys see themselves as artists.” Cook It Raw captures the avant-garde nature of the enterprise, combining regional maps, ingredient lists (everything from liquid nitrogen to bags of squid ink) and even a recipe for baked beets that urges: “Kill a reindeer. Save the blood.”

The meals are also meant to inspire creativity back at the participants’ Michelin-starred kitchens. Besides future meet-ups, Cook It Raw’s next goal is to identify and encourage other like-minded chefs. Those with a taste for adventure are encouraged to apply.