Thierry Dentice has always been one to enjoy a good meal. Growing up in the cultural melting-pot which is Belgium, he was exposed to a variety of cuisine from a young age. The self-proclaimed foodie sees cooking and eating as a way to truly immerse oneself within another culture. Food is instrumental to everyday life. To understand another’s customs and worldview, you must dine like they do.
Thierry loves eating out at restaurants, and sometimes he and his wife chose travel itineraries based on famous restaurants sourced from the San Pellegrino list of 50 Best Restaurants in the World: Tetsuya in Singapore, Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain, Dal Pescatore in Italy, Epicure at Le Bristol Hotel in Paris, Chez Bruno in Brussels, Schwartz in Montreal and Nahm in Bangkok are just a few examples of restaurants he chose based on his travels.
Or, rather, travels he chose based on those restaurants… Thierry Dentice spends time researching what the best dishes of each restaurants are, and always goes prepared knowing exactly what to order, in which sequence, and which wines are best for pairings. He is known amongst his friends to have surprised more than one waiter with his knowledge of ingredients, even the most exotic ones, and of culinary skills needed to achieve perfection in a plate.
Despite having travelled long and large throughout four Continents, in search of the most perfect restaurants and the most perfect dishes, Thierry remembers most fondly two places not so far from home that he considers amongst his favorite experiences as a foodie so far: Noma, in Denmark and the Fat Duck, in Bray, Berkshire, one hour by train from London.
For the uninitiated, Noma is a two Michelin star restaurant run by Chef René Redzepi in Copenhagen. As mentioned on Wikipedia, the name Noma is a portmanteau of the two Danish words “nordisk” (Nordic) and “mad” (food). Opened in 2003, the restaurant is known for its reinvention and interpretation of the Nordic Cuisine and for having been ranked Best Restaurant in the World for four years by several food magazines and internationally renowned culinary competitions. There are truly no words to describe Thierry Dentice’s experience at Noma, but he often revels in recounting to family and friends the fortunate fruition of his life-long culinary dream.
Being in Copenhagen for a work-related conference, he asked one morning the receptionist of the hotel where he was staying whether he could help him book a table for one at Noma and although the amused receptionist told him that it takes several months’ worth of efforts to secure a table at the best restaurant in the World, Thierry’s gut feeling was that he was onto something magical that day. And Thierry’s gut feelings are almost never mistaken when it comes to food.
He found himself sitting at a table in Noma that night, eating never-heard-before stuff such as reindeer moss, monkfish liver, kelp and beechnuts, nasturtium flowers and aronia berries. He still doesn’t exactly know what they are, and how they look like, but he says that everything tasted fantastic and that the experience was out of this World.
Thierry Dentice lives dangerously when it comes to food, and loves breathtaking, provocative, stimulating food experiences. He wasn’t disappointed when he went to the Fat Duck near London in 2011 to celebrate a major personal milestone with his wife. Heston Blumenthal, the Fat Duck Executive Chef, has been one of Thierry’s biggest hero for a long time: an entirely self-taught chef, Heston learned to cook while travelling, reading, cooking and researching.
Thierry describes his five-hours long evening at the Fat Duck as a sensory wonderland spent navigating through an Alice in Wonderland themed meal between the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – consisting of a mock turtle soup, the pocket watch and the toast sandwich – the snail porridge, and inspirational experiences such as the nitro poached gin and tonic and the jelly of quail and crayfish cream. Heaven on a plate.
When not eating out at restaurants, Thierry Dentice has developed a love for cooking. As a child, he initially learned how to prepare Italian dishes from his grandmother and from his aunts and cousins back home in Italy. He has branched out significantly since then, and experiments with a myriad cuisines.
He recently learned how to prepare sushi and some of his favorite cuisines to both eat and cook include French, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Moroccan. He loves food with a zing, intensity and emotions, fiery with chili and spices, loaded with fresh herbs and he is always experimenting with different flavors and textures, combining sweet, with salty, researching umami – the smooth “fifth basic taste” – and studying different cooking techniques.
One of the best recipe that Thierry often cooks for family and friends is his lovely caramelized pork shoulder, which is cooked in the oven for 12 hours, and studded with star anise and Sichuan black pepper grains. It is truly legendary, flavorful, moist on the inside, and crunchy on the outside, skin slightly charred, meat falling off the bone. A real masterpiece.
And one should not forget his soups: satisfying, with the clearest home-made broth and loaded with ginger, cilantro, chili and always a final squeeze of fresh lime juice to bring it all together. However, Thierry is the first to admit that he enjoys any type of food as long as it is good. As he always says in the end, nothing beats a plate of orecchiette pasta cooked al dente with a fresh tomatoes sauce, basil leaves pick from his garden and lashings of olive oil from his own olive trees.
Thierry loves collecting recipe books: he has dozens, and some of them have been used so often that there are only grease stains to be seen on their pages. He also loves following his culinary heroes on TV. Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Giorgio Locatelli, Kylie Wong and Neil Perry are some of his favorite chefs. Thanks to these chefs’ influence, and to his travels, Thierry’s pantry is always fully loaded with different types of Oriental noodles, spices and sauces from around the World, vinegars, oils, nuts and food he finds in small, local shops during his trips.
While his fridge and freezer are always full to the brim with delicious, but rarely used cuts of meats, fish, smelly cheeses from France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, cured hams, strange-looking veggies and every kind of food one can imagine. And one must not forget that in Bangladesh he is well known for planting his own arugula, Thai basil and several sorts of chili from different Continents.