It's not everyday you're invited to dine with seven of Italy's top chefs, 13 Michelin stars between them, years of experience, each with their own restaurant and each cooking one of seven individual Italian dishes.
Billed as The Lunch of a Lifetime, this is exactly what the team from Identita Golose organized recently at Harrod's in London. A lunch prepared by Carlo Cracco, Gennaro Esposito, Massimo Bottura, Enrico and Roberto Cerea, Davide Scabin and Luciano Monosilio - Italy's fine dining elite, a crack culinary team from across the country.
Held in the fine and grand setting of Harrod's Georgian Restaurant, hundreds of lucky guests - some chefs, some journalists, some lucky public members - all took their seats intrigued by the offering of such an Italian feast.
After all, it's a pretty special lunch when Carlo Cracco opens proceedings with saffron poached egg with zucchini before Massimo Bottura steps to the plate five courses later to lay down his own creation of perfectly cooked, succulent, colorful and playful - psychedelic veal.
For most, it was a great Lunch and for some maybe even the lunch of a lifetime, but for the chefs it was an entirely different affair. For them it seemed to be an important day, one that helped mark a change across Italy, a change they've all been part of and a change they've each encouraged for a long time.
"People come to Italy for the food and we have to start from the beauty of our ingredients and our unique flavors. It's important to be proud and express this", said Massimo Bottura during the lunch.
"I have the feeling that Italy will show how strong it is very soon, we have such a power, energy and potential - we just need help, the chefs are together - we want to do it - the ethic and aesthetic is already there, we just need an instititional force to pull us together."
Bottura is positive that he is part of a strong movement of change across Italian cuisine, something that he says has happened over the past 15-years through a great respect for territory and the building of a brilliant network of shared knowledge between chefs, producers and suppliers across the country.
The chef who runs Osteria Francescana in Modena is positive but warns that Italy must continue to look to the future, "Italy has always been too nostalgic and to project ourself into the future we need to look at the past in a critical way, bring the best from the past but into the future - this is the point...if you look in the past in a nostalgic way you're done."
Bottura's positivity was felt across the chefs, who all stood proud as they presented their dishes to the hungry crowd. Davide Scabin, who made guests shake their own pasta in custom made containers, said: "It's the best time ever for italian cuisine, it's more difficult to emerge but it's a great moment for us. It is paradoxical because we know about the economic crisis but we are working very well.
"There never was a moment so positive for italian cuisine. There are so many chefs who are working well. I'm glad to be a part of this period, it's a positive period for Italy."
And the young side of Italy's emerging talent was also on show in the form of Luciano Monosilio's world famous carbonara. The chef, who is 29-years-old, spoke of his excitement to cook alongside the other chefs and gave himself as an example of someone who has watched the past 15-years of development across Italy's food scene, a chef who has been a direct beneficiary of the sharing of knowledge Massimo Bottura talked about.
"There are more young chefs now and we have some of the most important chefs in the world above us and we can learn so much from them - this is important...Everyone knows the techniques, but the Italians are now putting great ideas on the plate, we have amazing ingredients and our mentality has grown up step by step.
"It's the cycle, now it's the Italian moment, before it was Spanish, then the French and for the next 5 or 6 years Italy is going to be very important in the gastronomy world."
While for some it was a day to enjoy salted codfish salad with codfish tripe and smoked potato mousse starter from Enrico and Roberto Cerea. Gennaro Esposito's white fish in an aromatic herb crust with a chlorophyll reduction and a grand dessert buffet that stretched the length of the great hall. For others, mainly the chefs, it was a day to show the world what's bubbling behind closed kitchen doors across Italy. A chance to explain that very soon those doors will burst open revealing a newer, more toned, refined and stronger Italian cuisine. Food rooted in heritage but with an eye firmly on the future, as Bottura firmly said that, in the future, guests and chefs must "re-start and re-fall in love with Italian cuisine."
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