As judge and mentor of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018, Anthony Genovese, with two Michelin stars to his name for the restaurant Il Pagliaccio in Rome, is faced with an arduous task: that of selecting, together with five colleagues, the future finalist of the S.Pellegrino international competition and accompanying him or her through the preparatory phases towards the Grand Final.
Anthony Genovese is an Italian-French chef who, after many years spent in the South of France, has found his home and success in Rome. The staff of Il Pagliaccio have just reopened the restaurant after a refurbishment: what can we expect after this interval? "An even greater surge of passion and energy" as well as a new menu.
Can you remember the exact moment in which you decided to become a chef? What inspired it and what hurdles did you get over to make that dream come true?
I have always wanted to be a chef; my career is punctuated with travels, experiences and obstacles, but it is also driven by ambition and an impassioned commitment. This is a job that requires great sacrifice and, I don't believe I am very different from many other colleagues whose work I admire. It is not easy to work around the world owing to a number of obstacles (different languages, traditions and cultures) but what counts most is the opportunity to widen our cultural horizons, which is even more important than our culinary experience. So, the hurdles I have had to address have led me to where I am today: in a position to manage the ownership (and not only the kitchen) of a two-starred restaurant in the centre of Rome.
What was your greatest achievement as a young chef, and what do you judge to be your greatest failure?
The Michelin Star I was awarded at Palazzo Sasso. My biggest failure was certainly that of seeing my new restaurant in Rome close down just a few months from its debut. But I think I have amply made up for it...
As a mentor, what do you expect from a young chef and what do you think you can offer him or her?
I can offer my experience and my passion for this profession, with sincerity and frankness. I expect him or her to treasure my advice, without letting my personality get in the way of their own creativity. It has to be a personal experience and a voyage of discovery. I can only accompany him but not decide the route.
What would it mean for a young chef to win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef award?
A new beginning without a doubt. A great accolade and a feather in the cap for Italian cuisine worldwide. But it will also be a moment of great media exposure which needs to be managed as well as possible, without losing touch with reality, for a start.
Do you enjoy the role of mentor that has been assigned to you?
This is the first time I have “officially” been in this position and I feel both flattered and honoured. However, in recent years at the Pagliaccio, I have fallen naturally into this role, possibly owing to my increased experience, helping many young chefs to grow professionally, I am proud to say, who now run their own kitchens in Rome and elsewhere.
What is your culinary philosophy?
A respect for ingredients is always my first priority. It is essential. Then, I like to make a clear distinction between the various ingredients, while creating a possibility for them to come together with their different flavours. I always focus on creating emotions. We have given a name to this concept of mine. It is called “Parallels”, a trail that leads each diner to enjoy a personal culinary experience, not only influenced by my way of conceiving a dish, but also by the positive impact of the Pagliaccio dining room and the personal background of each guest. Parallels is the new gourmet experience offered by Il Pagliaccio: a surprise that changes and evolves in time, without ever being fully explicated in the menu. This calls for the curiosity of a traveller.
In your opinion, what is the most outstanding feature of Italian cuisine?
What most distinguishes Italian cuisine is that there is no one particular Italian cuisine. It is a multifaceted affair based on different regional traditions rather than one single tradition. This variety translates into culture.
What do you find to be the most exciting aspect of contemporary cuisine?
I love to see how contemporary cuisine is attempting to combine experimentation with the centrality of the main ingredient.
What is the future of Italian cuisine?
The way I see it, the future lies in the synthesis of those elements often believed to be far removed or diametrically opposed: respect and tradition, innovation and modernity. I believe such a synthesis is possible.
Tell us about your work: you have just reopened your restaurant after a few months' closure; what's new and what can we expect to find?
You can expect an even greater surge of passion and energy. After all, for restaurant owners like us, used to an everyday adrenaline charge, a period of forced rest can only translate into an overwhelming desire to experience these emotions once more. Obviously, you can also expect to find the new “Parallels” menu: new sensations and new parallel experiences in the way of flavour. Finally, you can expect to find my own identity coming over loud and clear. That will always be on the menu.