Surprise! Corey Lee is dropping a new restaurant on the city this spring in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Unlike Benu and Monsieur Benjamin, though, In Situ, as it will be known, is meant as a "food exhibition" and will exclusively feature the famous dishes of top chefs from around the world, WSJ magazine reported. There will be black tie scallops from New York City’s Daniel Boulud, ceviche from Peru’s Gaston Acurio, shrimp and grits from NYC’s Wylie Dufresne, dishes from Daniel Patterson, René Redzepi, Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and more in Hong Kong, Tokyo and farther, just to name a few. And they will all be copycatted exactly, down to weighing ingredients by the gram and plating dishes with the same vessels, flatware and napkins as the original. The idea, Lee explained, is that "no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll get a cross section of what’s going on around the world both geographically and stylistically."
Lee traveled the world to learn many dishes from the chefs themselves, videotaping each step and getting detailed instructions from ones he could not see in person. It’s an ambitious project — and one in which a few "esteemed French chefs" declined participation — but there may be no better person to do it than Lee, according to Momofuku titan David Chang who called him "one of the best chefs on earth." Dufresne echoed that sentiment, saying, "If I had to compile a shortlist of people with whom I’d be comfortable making my food, he’d be right at the top. He’s an amazing talent."
At a time when many chefs are being called out for mimicry, Lee is legitimizing the practice, and even paying the chefs responsible for each dish by offering them a portion of the proceeds for their respective dishes. (Most have decided to donate their share to the museum or charity of their choice.) Boulud called Lee’s concept "the next step in that movement" of "exchange, fraternity and collaboration."
It’s certainly many steps in a different direction than what Lee’s next project was rumored to be (barbecue), but makes sense for Lee’s sensibilities. "Five years ago, I made the decision to tune out international trends, to stay away from cooking conferences and events, all to create an identity for Benu that isn’t easily identifiable," he said. "Now it’s the opposite. It’s all about immersion, building relationships and working with chefs from around the world in a deep and lasting way." Stay tuned for more details on In Situ in the months to come.