Who is Bb?Chi è Bb?

Giving pleasure through taste
by Adrian Dannatt


Forget the glamour, ignore all evidence of this glamorous, well-travelled, pan-international life of cosmopolitan chic, and pay no attention to the list of names and places that ring poetic. Yes, Brendan Becht may travel the world continually, commuting between Japan and Milan, London and Santiago de Chile, Iceland and Cannes, New York and Shanghai, he may always be in motion, organizing grand events for even grander luxury companies or cooking intimate dinners for a handful of famous folk. Becht's existence may seem annoyingly delicious, the perfect combination of two much loved pursuits, food and travel, but all these exotic adventures are based upon one solid, basic, simple desire, that of giving other people pleasure through taste.

Becht may himself have more than enough "taste" to go round, in his sheer elegance of dress, deep appreciation of the plastic arts or musical expertise, but his everyday job is to ensure the utter perfection of what his guests taste, what they put in their mouths. Of course the gastronomic is hardly separable from the olfactory, the tactile or visual, and it is here that Becht's personal taste, his background in contemporary art collecting, design and architecture, museums and galleries, ensures the physical beauty of his largest banquet.

It should not be forgotten that behind all the jet-set froth, the global glitter, Becht is the quintessential hard working, pragmatic, level-headed Dutchman, whose plain values could never be tainted by snobbery or pomp.

After all, as a very brave teenager Becht moved to London to labour in the hardest possible kitchen conditions, albeit the kitchen of The Connaught Hotel, a tough but ideal apprenticeship. Becht believes in "paying your dues" and is well aware that the successful chef not only must work hard physically to begin with but must then dedicate himself to the even harder work of creativity, of new dishes, novel ideas, the forging of a personal aesthetic. Becht has worked with some famous figures and legendary restaurants, whether Pierre Hermé at Fauchon and Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton in Paris or Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan, but he has always retained his own culinary style, one of relatively simple, excellent ingredients then made magical by his own imagination. Thus the great success of Becht's “Italian Sushi” which required the combination of a deep knowledge of the ingredients and traditions of Italian regional cuisine and an expert working familiarity with Japanese methods, as well as a bold sense of experimentation and above all, a perfect visual eye.

With an almost academic expertise in the history of various cuisines, Dutch, English, French, Italian, Japanese, his entirely practical, physical knowledge of those same cooking styles, his unerring aesthetic sophistication and his obsessive drive for perfection, Becht does not need to be "glamorous", does not need to travel at all. The world is already within him.


(Adrian Dannatt, an English writer, curator and artist currently based in Paris, contributes regularly to journals of art and literature.)

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