"The buffalo mozzarella from Campania needs celebrity chefs, just as celebrity chefs need to measure themselves against important ingredients like buffalo mozzarella." This is how Enzo Vizzari from L'Espresso introduced the first event of the 2015 edition of Le Strade della MozzarellaItaly's much-anticipated haute cuisine congress dedicated to buffalo mozzarella. The event, which literally translates to the 'Roads of Mozzerella,' was held in the scenic town of Paestrum in Southern Italy.
Chef Pino Cuttaia, who two years ago wowed the crowd in Paestrum with his iconic Caprese Cloud, was there on opening day. On this occasion, the chef didn't cook with mozzarella, opting instead to work with ricotta cheese made from buffalo milk. His deconstructed dish looked like a fried egg topped with "nature" thanks to herbs, beans, peas, wild asparagus, roe and anchovies (pictured above). "This is a plate that could easily be reproduced at home," Cuttaia said. "With time I've understood the importance of simplicity, when you have that you have everything."
Cristina Bowerman, chef of the Glass Hostaria and Romeo restaurant in Roma, had a more high-tech approach: "Every time I'm invited to speak at a congress I ask myself 'what can I do that is different and innovative?" The result was homemade seitan bathed in buffalo mozzarella 'water', which acted as a ragu for a dish that recreates the flavors of baked pasta. Her chosen pasta was ziti, which she stuffed with a mozzarella gel.
This was chef Giuliano Baldessari's first time at Le Strade della Mozzarelle. The chef of Aqua Crua played with the concept of illusion serving a nugget of buffalo mozzarella followed by it's 'twin' which concealed a frozen tomato capsule.
Ernesto Iaccarino took a more challenging route with his Souffle of Mozzarella Over Snow, while Matias Perdomo had a more playful approach. Perdomo, chef at Milan's Al Pont de Ferr, served Contraste, a cocktail made with mozzarella 'juice', mezcal, green papaya, smoked salt, coriander, a little tabasco, papaya juice and lime. The cocktail was served in a small glass of sake next to mozzarella nigiri.
Perdomo also offered us Muffarella, mozzarella aged in chestnut and another aged in ashes, a technique he researched with the help of an artisan cheesemaker. The chef served the two varieties together with fresh buffalo mozzarella and with different combinations.
From Rome we have Heinz Beck with a very Italian tricolor dish: Stuffed Tortellini Caprese dressed in buffalo butter and served on a bed of freeze-dried buffalo.
Perhaps the bravest chef was Luigi Taglienti, who developed two dishes. The first was a Mozzarella Mousse with Almond Milk Pesto and Foie Gras. The second was the surprisingly difficult but beautiful Creamed Oysters with Hare Sauce served with Mozzarella à la Royale, which was left to soak for three days in liquid made from cucumbers. This process yielded mozzarella with a delicate aroma and unexpected flavor. The dish was further complemented with the addition of salmon and coffee powder, which was used as a spice.
Conviviality was the name of the game for chef Rosanna Marziale, who surprised everyone with Tzim Tzum, a dish that was a bit of a social experiment and will be served at her restaurant Alle Colonne. Tzim Tzum features three bowls on the table with toasted mozzarella, tomatoes and pasta. Each diner composes their own dish after consulting with their dining companions - all while being glued to their smartphone. More than a recipe, her dish is a social victory.
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