"Are we ready for change?". This is the question that bounces back and forth between one Dolomite mountain peak and another. The location is Upper Badia valley and the event is Care's The Ethical chef Days: the first edition of a concept founded by a group of visionaries led by chefs Norbert Niederkofler and Giancarlo Morelli flanked by communications expert Paolo Ferretti. These mountains and its inhabitants are keen to look after us in the name of Care's; in return we are asked to question ourselves and provide answers regarding the world’s main food philosophies.
Every day, the thirty chefs from various countries staying here take it in turn to hold master classes but, above all, to take part in roundtables also attended by food writers. The topics discussed are centred on catering systems around the world, which are increasingly associated with economic, environmental and research factors. The time is ripe for change but here is the question posed by Norbert, chef of the Sant Hubertus, which echoes among the participants: "are chefs ready for change?". Norbert spurs on the guests of Care's to put their theories into practice. Any change aimed at making the chef’s profession a more ethical one has to be based on an everyday commitment.
"Is all about protecting your surroundings"
Armand Arnal of La Chassagnette in Arles admits that keeping a kitchen garden is not always an easy task and that change has already taken place to a certain extent: many have given up foie gras and lobsters in favour of seasonal vegetables. Luca Fantin from the GinzaTower in Tokyo recounts that the image of Italian cuisine is still associated with pizza and mandolin. But things are changing. The wisdom of Pino Cuttaia gives us food for thought, “When you start out, you are obsessed by ingredients, then you gradually acquire manual skills with experience. Being an ethical chef is all about protecting your surroundings” says the chef from La Madia in Agrigento.
Many here talk about their gardens and vegetable plots, in which they grow kitchen vegetables but chef Davide Scabin retorts: "It’s not sufficient to grow carrots at the back of the restaurant to become ethical". This concept seems to be shared by most of those present. "As far as my team is concerned, sustainability means fighting for a fair waste recycling system and saving as much energy as possible, even though it is not always possible to install solar panels", says Rafa Costa e Silva, chef of the Lasai restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.
Care's also offers an opportunity to get to know the chefs and wines from this part of the Upper Badia valley, blessed by the god of foodies, with their infinite interpretations of the Traminer varietal. Or to taste the gutsy flavour of yak for the first time, the large bovine raised on a farmstead of Trentino. Care's is about letting yourself be contaminated by the enthusiasm of the new generations as you look into the eyes of Mark Moriarty and Paolo Griffa, respectively S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 and the Italian finalist. Or being amazed by the dessert prepared by Sasu Laukkonen, a chef from Helsinki, who seduces the palate with a sequence of balsamic notes, meringue and juniper. Not to mention the way Massimo Bottura shapes a wild duck so that it almost becomes an emblem of his beloved Tuscan Emilian Apennines.
However, Care's also offers a chance to establish a physical contact with the mountains and get up at dawn for a communal breakfast at the Lagazuoi refuge located at an altitude of 2700 m. The temperature may be minus 15 degrees centigrade, but everyone shows the warmest enthusiasm and excitement when they see butter forming gradually as it is hand churned by an expert dairyman. Only to recognize its unique fragrance on rye bread as they look out onto the Dolomites, and the background chatter in many different languages suddenly gives way to silence: this too is Care's.