Fine Dining Lovers interviewed him to better understand which is the relationship between the territory, local ingredients and culinary tradition.
How does territory influence your style of cuisine?
Mine is a cuisine of both tradition and territory, but tradition as seen from 10 thousand kilometers away. This means that I don’t believe traditions should be taken and placed in a sealed glass jar, or in a museum. Tradition is actually the result of successful experimentation, which is why traditions should be constantly evolving.
I personally try to support the ingredients from my territory as much as possible, and they should support each other. And this requires implementing a kind of self-supporting system. This is really important to me, being able to make a “system” from the territory, shortening the network to provide a solid image that is characterized by our land.
What local ingredient could you not live without, and why?
Humility, passion, and dreams.
How do you combine combined tradition and innovation, when you revisit traditional recipes?
I’m obsessed with the flavors from my childhood. But instead of trying to replicate those dishes, I transform the memory into concepts and try to make something new, like this “compression” of the classic bean and pasta dish, pasta e fagioli. In this instance, I took one of the favorite dishes of many Italians and, using different techniques, I compressed it into 4 spoonfuls of pure taste. A taste in evolution, a taste that expresses the cuisine of the last thirty years: from Rubochon’s crème royale to my grandmother’s own Parmigiano crisp; from a very classic local preparation to that of Ferran Adrià—a kind of rosemary “air”.
Which of your recipes best expresses your connection with the territory, and why? The Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. We’ve built a dish around a single ingredient, but all of Emilia’s culture can be found within it. There’s time, there’s maturation. There’s what changes after 24, 30, 36, 40, or 50 months. Everything changes between 24 and 50 months. You perceive this on the palate, and in the process, you begin speaking about territory, about silence. Because maturation happens in silence, not in words. Here, you are speaking about a kind of magic.
Still curious about traditional Italian dishes and flavours? Download the Live in Italian On the Go free app for a virtual tour of Italy's tastes and destinations!
Now a three-Michelin-star restaurant, Noma has changed, but not necessarily on the plate. According to Kenneth Foong, it's all about the way the team works, which is closer to a tech company than a traditional restaurant. Read our exclusive interview with Noma's head chef.