“Young and bold” (Almost) authentic portraits of the chefs revolutionizing Italian cuisine
There is a new generation of young chefs in Italian kitchens that are growing in secret. Hidden among them are chefs who in a few decades will become the next Massimo Bottura or Enrico Crippa.
They are young men and women who thanks to their determination, experience and passion are now doing a job which is very much appreciated. To them tradition is already the future.
From their stories comes "Young and bold", a small, light-hearted book about Italian cuisine of the future with 33 "profiles" and innovative recipes all to be discovered!
We talked about this with Stefano Cavallito, reviewer for ‘La Repubblica’ and the "Ristoranti d'italia" guide from L'Espresso magazine, who wrote the book with Alessandro Lamacchia and lawyer Paolo Vizzari. Since 2010 he has curated together with Lamacchia the Cento guides published by EDT and so far dedicated to Turin, Milan and Rome.
Where does the idea for the book come from?
The book comes from an idea to create a sort of handbook about the “new Italian cuisine”, intended to focus on the generations that follow on from those already set in the Espresso guides, and about how the teachings of the “elders” were assimilated. We then thought to lighten the book by introducing a series of short stories, some of them with ironical and romantic contours. We wanted it to be a fun, sensitive, and readable product, intended to appeal to a wider audience, rather than just cookery fans and foodies. A book that would provide ample tips and food for thought. More than a handbook, I would say that it's a series of short stories.
Based on which criteria were the chefs chosen for the book Young and Bold?
Well, they are all very young chefs under the age of 30. Some are 22, 23 or 25 years old for example. They really are very young if you consider that in this field, gastronomical “maturity” usually comes around the age of 40 or 50. They are 33 “baby cooks” that are just starting out in their job, with experience and determination behind them, already receiving remarkable success. After all, in this profession the chefs start early on in their career. It's one of the few professions where merits still exist on various levels… Another important feature is audacity coupled with a strong dose of irony. They are by no way boring and they all have something very interesting and innovative to offer. New and original. That’s why we thought up extravagant categories through which to subdivide this novelty. Such as “jugglers”, who strive to produce dishes that become an ironic culinary exercise, or “druids” who are inspired by Scandinavian cuisine, with fermentation and herbs and work as alchemists.
What makes a good chef in your opinion? Do celebrity chefs still exist? Can we still talk about this, or do we have to broaden our horizons?
Honestly, to me there's no difference between a chef and a cook, except for the language we choose to express the same concept. I have always preferred Italian terms though! I remember a joke that made me smile. Two people meet and say; “I wake up at night and think of impossible recipes”. “I on the other hand cook them”. The first is a chef, the second is a cook.
Joking aside, there really isn't any difference between these two expressions. If on the other hand we mean celebrity chefs – well, they definitely exist but they are in a different category. They are a television phenomenon. An ability to look good on screen doesn’t necessarily reflect real culinary skills. But my gastronomic evaluation forgets about the television. I don't know for how long these celebrities are going to be around. There is an overexposure of cooks producing a time bomb, and who knows when it will explode. Television food is different from real food.
Out of the 33 chefs with 33 different stories, has anyone in particular struck you the most?
Faby Scarica, a young woman from the Naples province. Her childhood dream was to become a vet and an architect. However, during high school she had unexpected pregnancy and gave birth to a child. Whilst raising her daughter and preparing her meals, she began to discover the joy of cooking and so she enrolled in a prestigious school of international cuisine, ALMA. After she finished school she opened her own restaurant, Villa Chiara, named after her daughter.
The restaurant is open to children and you can immerse yourself in nature through animals. “Now” she tells me, “I'm a little bit architect and a little bit vet. I take care of the animals, the tables and the set-ups”. Another story comes from Chieri in the Turin province. It's the story of Christian Mandura. He had a job as a cook during the winter and summer season, something he had always enjoyed. He was then asked to help his mother who had taken over a restaurant. She was accustomed to a traditional Piedmontese cuisine and enlisted the help of her son for the inauguration. Christian came up with a menu that was quite a shock for his mother and her guests. He prepared an 'acidic' dinner with difficult dishes and almost Scandinavian flavours. Now, the restaurant has become a well-known place. Situated in a motel on the edge of town, it has become a destination for foodies and truckers during the day when his mother cooks. In the evening, when Christian is in the kitchen, it is a place of worship for true culinary gourmets. I appreciate the strong determination in him, and his great desire to dare to unite a little bit of craziness in the kitchen, of which you can never have enough.
Of course behind every story is its own motivation. There is a Neapolitan computer engineer who puts his mathematical precision into every dish, or a former boxer who has realized his dream.
How do you imagine the cuisine of the future will be?
Beyond an approximately global vision of the international gastronomical scene, it seems to me that these chefs are the backbone of a unique Italian cuisine. In the past it was a cuisine linked to local tradition, then thanks to Gualtiero Marchesi and the chefs “over 50” it became unique. Young people are now recapturing this job and taking it to an even higher level. They exchange recipes with each other, and interact thanks to the power of the web… When we think about it, Italian chefs are among the best, if not the best chefs worldwide. Just think about world famous chefs Bottura and Crippa.