He is the chef of Dopolavoro Bicocca, a good food enthusiast who is willing to educate while experimenting and creating. Here are his thoughts on food, Italy, and the future...
Tell me about yourself and how everything started...
My family had a restaurant but I actually wanted to be a graphic designer (in advertising)! Then I understood I could actually do the same job my grandparents and parents had done and at 16 I started to work in the kitchen. I studied with Bottura and many others, learning other ways of cooking. I was looking for places where I could express my creativity. The last experience before Bicocca Dopolavoro was the fish shop/restaurant Da Claudio. I planned the kitchen myself, I chose the suppliers, the kitchen team. After that, I started to manage the Dopolavoro Bicocca with Cesare Battisti. I love the direct link between food and the art space (the Hangar Bicocca), and the space in itself is beautiful. I really want to affirm the playful way of eating small dishes, starting a new creativity through them where the menu is not stuck, but constantly changing. This work inspires passion and high-end cuisine. What I want to do is to create an even more direct link with the artists involved in the Hangar and the dishes on the menu. I am very happy so far with it.
How would you define your cuisine?
Personal. I started to follow the motto of the "avant-guarde movement" that says "Remember while forgetting". I like to treasure what I have learnt but at the same time I like to create new things. It's a very personal way of cooking. I would not define it as creative, as sometimes I draw from the most traditional food. I feel that all together Cesare Battisti (chef and owner of Ratanà), Alice (Delcourt, chef of Erba Brusca) and me can make the difference, can build something good.
I think the times are gone when the chef was trying to get the best fish, to be the best. We share much more amongst each other, also thanks to events and organisations like Identità Golose. What matters, also, is to pick the right people. There is no spirit of sacrifice in many young men today and they think it is all about being famous. I used to work 14 hours a day, without even looking at the watch. Now it's difficult to find the right people, even if the best school teach them right, they might be the wrong people to teach. First comes humility and willingness to work hard. They are rare.
What do you see in the future of Italian cuisine?
I am optimistic. Today it's a challenge being a chef because the clientele is much more educated about food, which is good because you can fully express yourself knowing people are open and they will understand you, but at the same time it's hard because using top quality ingredients costs a lot. Most of all I want to keep doing this for a long time…
Also, what I want to do with Cesare is fighting the idea of the happy hour in Milan, with bad quality food and bad drinks. Basically, we want to educate people. At the Hangar, for example, you get 6 “rubitt” and a drink for 18 Euros, which is the same amount of money you would spend for 3 bad cocktails at a “cool” bar. At the Hangar, you end your evening feeling enriched by what you have tasted, whereas drinking and eating badly you treat your stomach poorly! In this way, the happy hour became a bad habit. And is leaving the economy in really bad conditions because it doesn't help the restaurants.
Food it's like fashion: you research the best possible quality food (like the best fabric) and then you shape it just like you would shape a dress...this is how it should always be, for every place that’s serious about food.
What do you like about Italy?
The ingredients! It's our best part. It's like being a gold digger in El Dorado. I love how our job is becoming more on more open to cross fertilisation, although bureaucracy is still too heavy. High cuisine is an art, and Italy should recognize that.
The ingredient that’s always in your fridge?
Being hungry! Seriously, I love to cook lamb so it is often in my fridge.
Can you give us a quick recipe?
I'd say Pinzimonio. You buy the freshest vegetables you can find in the market (therefore seasonal ones), you clean them and cut them so that they can be eaten with hands and place them on Ice, sprinkling them with water. You then create a cream with by Philadelphia, minced anchovies (acciguhe), tabasco and paprika.
Interview by: Elisa della Barba