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29 November 2012 @ 10:44 pm
Why I’ll be going to Chicago three times next year (Next year … get it?)  

Originally published at Scott Edelman. Please leave any comments there.

The Chicago Tribune broke some news today that’s of intense interest to foodies everywhere—the three Next restaurant menus for 2013. I’ve already told you about Next, and how its chefs will serve a particular cuisine for just a few months, then shut down briefly before changing over to a completely different menu, so that if you miss one, you’ve missed it forever.

Think of it as the Brigadoon of restaurants, there, but not there.

It was announced earlier this month that 2013 would start off with The Hunt (that is, wild game), with a Vegan menu rumored to follow … but now we know for sure what next year has in store for us.

First up, The Hunt, for which we are told, “expect to see bear jerky and venison heart tartare.”

Then, Vegan, about which Chef Dave Beran says, “”Don’t think of fake proteins, think of actual vegetables.”

And finally, Bocuse D’or, the most fanciful of the three, which Kevin Pang, the Tribune reporter, explains as follows:

A menu dictated by the rules of the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition. In many ways the Bocuse d’Or is Iron Chef meets the Olympics: The same proteins are assigned to each of the 24 international teams competing (Irish beef, turbot and European blue lobster in the 2013 competition), who then have five hours and 35 minutes to present 14 plates and three garnishes (one of the garnishes must represent the national team’s heritage). The rules are all highly regimented and confoundingly precise.

No one’s quite sure exactly what that will turn out to be in the capable hands of the Next team. All I know is … I want to be sitting in one of Next’s difficult-to-obtain seats whatever happens.

I was lucky enough to experience Next’s Sicily menu in August, and its Kyoto menu last weekend. The latter meal solidified my resolve to never miss one of the restaurant’s incarnations again. (And this is even though I’ve never voluntarily eaten a vegetarian meal, and the few times I’ve gone along to a vegetarian restaurant so as to be accommodating with friends, I’ve usually eaten a bloody burger on the way home so I’d feel satisfied. But even though I’m about as far from a Vegan as you can imagine, I’d love to see what chefs working at the caliber of Next could do with such a cuisine. For the first time, I’m looking forward to Vegan!)

Some might think it silly to make a special trip just for a meal, but when it comes to Grant Achatz and Dave Beran and their team, it’s not just a meal. It’s art. Would you have hopped a plane without embarrassment to hear Pavarotti sing, or Nureyev dance, or Bernstein conduct? Of course you would. Well, that’s the level of creativity at work here.

And so, in 2013, you’ll find me eating bear, or turnips, or European blue lobster, or … whatever Next decides to put in front of me.

See you in Chicago! (If we’re both lucky, that is.)