The twelfth edition of LSDM, the Italian haute cuisine congress by Barbara Guerra and Albert Sapere and sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, has come to a close following two days of inspirational talks and speeches by chefs, chefs, pizza masters, pastry chefs and maître at Hotel Savoy in Paestum in Southern of Italy.
This year's event gave both Italian and international industry experts a platform on which to share their ideas presenting their views this edition's theme on the future of cooking, ethics, sustainability, aesthetics.
During both days of the conference, many protagonists took turns on stage. Much was said about sustainability, with it widely being acknowledged that sustainability doesn't start and stop in the kitchen but also with man. In addition there were reflections on the improvement of working conditions in the dining room and in the kitchen, on respect for raw materials, on the fight against waste as well as thoughts on the future, youth and education.
Here's a snapshot of some of the highlights from two days:
Training the Cooks of the Future
"Being a chef is a political act." An emblematic opening statement was made by Alberto Sinigaglia, general manager of Alma - The International School of Italian Cuisine, on the subject to the responsibility of the chefs towards the planet. He also emphasised that the planet can only be saved by training. "The maximum of training has a name and is called education. It's something that changes your life: knowing how to do a job saves your existence."
It's no coincidence that Alma was born to create "the thinking cook", as Gualtiero Marchesi called it, who was also its patron. "We wanted to bring original Italian cuisine into the world, and there was no academy after hotel management. The school opened in 2004: in the first year they only had 17 members, then 24, then 30. Today we have 1200 members year, 25% of guys come from 65 different countries in the world ". An important activity, for which Alma was awarded today the Pastificio dei Campi Prize Forming the Future in the context of 50 Top Italy.
(Alma is also responsible for shortlisting the chef contestants for S.Pellegrino Young Chef global talent competition.)
Pizza and Sustainability - The Future is always greener
Pizza was also explored as an area in which there is increasing experimentation in terms of sustainability, confirmed by the The Future of Pizza debate, which saw the participation of some of the biggest names in the world of leavened products.
Denis Lovatel, who will also represent Italy at the Food on The Edge congress in Galway, in a couple of weeks and winner of the 50 Top Pizza Award for Sustainability kicked off the proceedings. He described his pizzeria Da Ezio in Alano di Piave as is a happy example of a circular economy in a mountain village. His described research into toppings with short-chain ingredients and herbs reflecting his passion for nature, "I struggled to recover a breed of local sheep that was dying out, with an agreement with the farmers and the butcher."
He also reflected on the importance of training, with which he began: “The word sustainability has broad facets in my opinion. In recent years there has been a great explosion in the world of pizza, but we pizza chefs have not been united to bring pizza to a state recognition, as a subject of study and address in hotelier institutions: it would be important to train pizza chefs with their own identity."
Young, but aware and sure of what he wants for the future, Lorenzo Sirabella from Milan's Dry restaurant and Young Top of the Year at 50 Top Pizza commented: "In the future of pizza there will be so much territorial identity: I believe in the strength of tradition, but I also believe to the small changes that personalize the processes and the mixtures. Pizza is enhanced even more by the work that is done with the guys in the room: every day we have 40-minute briefings. Another important aspect is the search for the raw material and respect for it: to cut the mozzarella well, to break a tomato by hand, for example ". As for the future he was convinced that there will always be more vegetables on pizza, "which we will use in all parts, without throwing anything away."
The pizza podium was complete with Ciro Salvo, whose 50 Kalo London restaurant is first in the Top 50 Europe Pizza as he highlighted the chemical-physical properties of pizza. "Let's focus first on the flours and on how they are produced, not on how they perform, let's focus on transparent labels". Inevitable references were made to his popular local in London, which fully reflects his pizzeria which is located in Naples. "A place that started years earlier, with meticulous staff training". Leaving nothing to chance.
Italians Chefs Abroad
Italy outside of Italy: a specific moment was dedicated to "Italian chefs abroad," an opportunity to present a new project: 50 Top Italy, a new guide which lists the best Italian restaurants abroad. The guide's first edition will be presented on December 2nd at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome, where all the prizes will be awarded.
Some special awards were presented during LSDM, starting with Umberto Bombana, chef of 8 ¹⁄₂ Otto and Mezzo Bombana from Hong Kong, who was awarded the Olitalia Premio d'Ispirazione Award. His restaurant remains the only Italian restaurant with three Michelin stars outside Italy, and also appears in the top 20 of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list.
The chef, ambassador of the white truffle of Alba, is particularly sensitive and attentive to the sourcing of raw materials. "We need to work with importers and producers to get the best that we can have. The most important thing is the ingredient, I take care of the technique: from Japanese fish to Australian beef ", he explained. A winning model, that of Bombana, who also has signature fine dining restaurants also in Macao, in Beijing and in Shanghai. He closed his talk with some news "One month ago we opened Nove, a small Chinese restaurant, dedicated to dim sum; it's inside a market, more approachable, I make a popular Chinese cuisine, but always of high quality."
Massimiliano Sena, a native of Vico Equense, chef of the Michelin starred restaurant Il Lago at the Four Seasons in Geneva emphasized the importance given to the customer. He emphasised that the customer should be at the centre of the choices, as well as the importance of human well-being in the workplace: "For six months now we have worked hard even on staff, we are creating a different concept: just 15 hours in the restaurant, the guys have to do the right hours and have a living space. We are trying to create a sort of 'two-brigade formation': one in the morning and one in the evening. He also has 3 days of leave per week. Consider environmental sustainability, but also human sustainability: the chef also acts as a buffer for the organization ".
Nicola Fanetti, from Brescia, is instead the chef of the Brace restaurant in Copenhagen, among those included in the 360 Eat Guide that rewards the 80 sustainable restaurants in Northern Europe out of 250 that uses local ingredients and Italian techniques, with a green approach.
Fanetti's testimonial on the Danish way of life offered an integrated approach to sustainability: "Sustainability in Copenhagen is not a fad, because the concept of organic is also included in school programs: they educate children in this approach - to anti-waste and organic - to starting from the school desk, "he said. Once again, the accent has fallen on working conditions: "In Denmark there is a high quality of life, there is a law for the quality of work: we ourselves have divided the moments of vacation, we stop every three-four months, "he said
The Future of the Art of Italian Cooking
Many young chefs came on stage to present their sustainable approach to cooking. The youngest was Andrea Leali, a 26-year-old chef - the youngest at the congress - and chef at Casa Leali, a restaurant on Lake Garda which he opened with his brother Marco. They decided to enhance their territory, with an ethical zero-waste dish: pasta and onions. "We went to look for three varieties of onion, we created a cream with which we maintain the dough, the waste is dried and toasted and we get a broth where we cook the pasta. We keep it with oil flavoured with burnt onion peel and herbs, "he explained. He also cites his studies on products, from Garda lemon and tomato, to which he has dedicated a themed menu.
From Lake Como, we entered the kitchen of Davide Caranchini, a young Michelin starred chef from Cernobbio with his Materia. The chef emphasized the problem of extinct fish, sustainable fishing and the territory. "The lake itself has become a cemetery, with no regulations on fishing. For example, the arborella has disappeared, because it was fished when shouldn't. The cook must take a step back and know how to adapt to the environment, otherwise only four species will remain", he said." I created a menu divided into seven acts - each act is dedicated to a territory - which wants to help the whole territory, and to do so we had to expand the views. We have the fish that is the agone, with which the famous missoltin is made. The agon is most similar to anchovies due to its organoleptic properties and we use the same procedure so that they can be eaten when not in season.
Karime Lopez Kondo, the Mexican-born chef of Massimo Bottura's Gucci Osteria in Florence, shared the story of the modus operandi of Bottura's multicultural brigade and the inspiration that comes from art, to create dishes where great impact visual, where aesthetics plays a big role. "We work with people of many different nationalities because in this way we create a mix of cultures. Art is a great passion of mine, I studied plastic arts and the Italian Renaissance became a source of inspiration to build the menu. Gucci Osteria is not just a restaurant, but a privileged look towards the past within the Gucci Garden. The kitchen is very stimulating, we must find the courage to break the barriers of tradition and look to the future: a step that can become a break with the past, " she said.
Even Chiara Pavan, in the kitchen at Venissa, accentuated the importance of art. "The kitchen is technical, it is creativity, but it is also a great responsibility towards the world around us and it is this responsibility that makes it a form of art. The kitchen can convey a message of commitment and awareness: we cooks have a social role now, we have the task of empowering others. I don't think that using the product of the territory can change the global environmental development, but we can be an example, we can act as a category, be united and convey a message ", she said.
Alain Passard - "The most beautiful cookbook has already been written by nature"
The highly anticipated Alain Passard from L'Arpège from Paris was the last to take to the spotlight and close the congress. "I already had three stars at L'Arpège when I chose to meat from the menu. As a cook I had reached the limit of animal cuisine and I felt a much larger space with this new cuisine and more to put into practice than before. We lost a lot of customers, but I didn't go back. In this kind of adventure you always have to look ahead."
"I opened a door, that until then I did not know, and I have a particular emotion starting from the colours and from this emotion I decided to build my cuisine, because we are producers of everything (two vegetable gardens and an orchard) - all the vegetables are 100% natural and cultured every morning, this type of cuisine certainly has a very creative potential: there are no Arpège recipes, there is no menu: every morning the menu is the basket of my garden that I offer to my chefs. Every cook has his basket and can organize his/her kitchen. When the basket is respected, the agreement is already made: the most beautiful cookbook has been written by nature, I always say ".
The chef won the Chef’s Choice Award at The World's 50 Best Restaurants this year, voted by fellow chefs. "You never expect to get prizes like that, it was the best compliment they could have made me." The future of Arpège? "Working and continuing to move forward as a painter, who paints his canvas every day, finds a new recipe". A message to the cooks of the future? "You have chosen the most beautiful craft in the world and, if you respect nature and the seasons, every day will be the first".
Images ©Alessandra Farinelli for LSDM