Chef at La Maniera di Carlo in Milan, Lorenzo Santi is young and talented. Italian as he is, he loves to give a contemporary twist to traditional recipes.
Lorenzo welcomes me with a big smile while opening up the La Maniera di Carlo’s world to me (Via Pietro Calvi, 2, tel. 0039-02 76024261): he is only 27, but his manners reveal a gentleman who’s very conscious of the importance of his job. Here is what he recounted to Swide.
Tell me about yourself...
I am lucky, I am from a well-to-do family but actually until I was an adult I had no idea it was like that. My Mom would buy my clothes from the market, and would teach me that there were things we could have and some we couldn't, even if maybe we could have had those too. I will never be grateful enough for that because now I know the value of money. My Mom has a degree in pharmacy, my Dad died when I was 10. I remember very few things about him, I consider my family my Mom, my sister, my Grandma...I remember her very well! She was milanese, I would have loved her to see me like I am now, a chef...my Grandfather is the one we owe everything to, he started to deal in leather when no one did it, went in Northern Europe to import it here. A man with a sense of business, you know...
When did you think you wanted to become a chef?
I studied in high school and then did theatre school, the barman…I didn't want to go to university, I wanted to work. There is a big gap between my Mom and me (almost 40 years) and I knew I wanted to have kids young (Lorenzo is 27 and he married Veronique in 2010). I decided rationally. I was always the one who cooked when there was a party, so I thought why not? I ended up interviewing with Giacomo Gallina at Gold, Dolce&Gabbana, and learned everything from him. From the day he let me in the kitchen, as soon as I saw those people, who were a team but at the same time had a hierarchy I knew I wanted to be part of that.
Giacomo is someone who has travelled and worked worldwide but is able to stay behind the stove as well as in front of people. And I think that if you work with someone smart and open and you behave the best possible way things are going to come your way. Or at least I hope so!
How did you get to be the Chef of La Maniera di Carlo?
Francesco (Germani, the owner who named the restaurant after his father) had the clear-headed craziness of hiring me, very young, for his new restaurant. He bet on me and I am grateful for that. We are a great team, we work very well together.
What do you like most about this job?
I love to be in the restaurant room, you have to be able to understand very well the kind of people there are, who is going to want to interact with you or the couple who just want to enjoy that moment alone...if they allow you to, you can give them one more memory to treasure that night, explaining what's behind what you just cooked.
But I also love to create, to cook, of course. You know, now it's cool to talk and be exposed and I enjoy it (he is the protagonist among 20 chefs in a popular TV show, La prova del cuoco) but what speaks for you is the food you cook, that's why I think that humility is everything in this job.
How would you define your cuisine?
I call my cuisine "di gusto", meaning it is very personal. I make up for technique with my heart. I always have an idea as a starting point of course, but maybe it takes me a bit more to get there. It is a traditional cuisine but interpreted with a young key. It's very spontaneous because I never copy anything or look up to anyone, I like to discover things on my own, to "stumble" into them if you know what I mean.
What do you want to communicate through it?
Italy, and my commitment to food.
Can you give us a recipe of yours to replicate at home?
Black Spaghettone in sea carbonara smoked with black Chinese tea and salmon eggs. (nero in carbonara di mare affumicata con te nero cinese e uova di salmone.)
1 package of 500 gr of thick spaghetti
1 tablespoon of sepia ink
60 gr guanciale (kind of unsmoked pig-cheek, ordinary pancetta will do if you can’t find any)
8 red shrimps
1 teaspoon of lapsang, black Chinese tea
4 egg yolks
salmon roe (eggs)
extra virgin olive oil
You can either buy a package of plain spaghettoni and use the sepia ink in the sauce-making process or buy sepia—ink spaghettoni (or whichever kind of long pasta you find).
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the guanciale (pancetta) and brown it. Turn off the heat and add the shrimps, cut into pieces. Meanwhile prepare an infusion with the tea (immerse the tea for 5 minutes at 95 Celsius degree), filter and let it cool. Whisk the yolk with an electronic mixer and add 2 teaspoons of the infusion, keep whisking until a foam consistency forms. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain it and pour it into the pan with the guanciale and the shrimp. Sautee for a minute making sure the sauce doesn’t dry. Turn off the heat and add the “smoked zabaione”, which is the yolks and the tea whisked. Cream without letting it dry too much and add the salmon eggs as embellishment. Serves 4.
Interview by: Elisa della Barba