If the 2015 edition of the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino event has set out to amaze us, it is already well on its way to succeeding – at least judging from the outcome of the first evening. Not a futile competition as to who cooks the most imaginative dishes or presents the most unusual pairings; more than the food and wine being served up or the excellence of the ingredients used, what most arouses our amazement is the capacity to present a format year after year (this being the ninth) in which different chefs gather in Switzerland to share and express their art.
How can different heads and hands, unknown to each other until the day before, be catapulted into an alien kitchen and still manage to create such delectable treats for the palate? The protagonists of this year’s event will be 8 top-ranking international chefs (here is the full programme): 30 Michelin stars and dozens of Gault&Millau points.
The first dinner celebrates the marriage between Ticino’s fine food tradition and the best 5-star establishments of Switzerland united under the Swiss Deluxe Hotels brand: we are gathered in the Hotel Splendid Royal in Lugano, and this evening is the equivalent of a delicious appetizer introducing the rest of the event.
With the sunshine of Ischia in his DNA, Giuseppe Colella is chef of the Grand Hotel Park di Gstaad where he supervises as many as 4 restaurants. He has worked with Sergio Mei and Ernst Knam. "Respect the nature of each product and its original taste" is his mantra. Melon is a predominant theme. His dish, "Blue lobster in court-bouillon with Cantaloupe melon and caviar" plunges us straight into summer while providing a perfect example of horizontal plating. The ingredients are spread out on the plate like colours on an artist’s palette. The blue lobster rests on a “fruit salad” of tiny melon balls and a spoonful of Imperial caviar seems to have turned up accidentally. But, everything comes together beautifully on the palate. Especially with a sip of Bellavista.
At Les Saisons in the Grand hotel du Lac in Vevey, 37 year old Thomas Neeser is in charge, having learned the trade from some of the most outstanding names: Herbert Langendor, Peter Liebold and as a sous-chef at the mythical "Auberge de L’Ill" under Paul & Marc Heaeberlin before becoming executive chef at the "Lorenz Adlon" restaurant. An expertise that transpires from his lacquered black cod with black bean sauce served with cauliflower presented in three versions with sweet pepper jelly.
The third dish is signed by house chef Domenico Ruberto and is endowed with an Italian personality only ravioli can confer. For his filling, he has selected braised beef cooked at 63 degrees for 48 hours and then morel mushrooms as a tribute to French cuisine with a puree of fresh fava beans to celebrate spring. Topped by a sprinkling of Roman pecorino cheese shavings.
Our attention is immediately drawn to two 12 litre bottle of Galatrona from the Petrolo Tuscan estate. It is a single-varietal Merlot and a worthy companion for the king of haute cuisine, the Bresse pigeon. This was the courageous choice of Dominique Gauthier, chef of the Beau-Rivage in Geneva. The inevitable difficulty involved in cooking fowl has been solved in this case by initial steaming, after which the pigeon flesh was lightly truffled and left to rest in the oven for a few hours. The dish was served with asparagus prepared in three different manners: as a mousseline, stewed and finally, in the form of delicious chips. The meal drew to a close on the notes of a great Sauternes Sigalas Rabaud and a dessert by the chef of maison Ruberto: a triumph of fresh fruit and vegetables. A composition of stewed carrot with two scoops ice-cream quenelles of different flavours, celery and mango.