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Chef Berti: 'Be technical and tell a story'. Behind the scenes of Alma's selection process

Chef Berti: 'Be technical and tell a story'. Behind the scenes of Alma's selection process

Chef Matteo Berti, chief of Alma International School of Italian Cuisine, explains how the commission is evaluating all S.Pellegrino Young Chef's applications.

By FDL on

The moment is drawing near: on 7th of June the names of the young chefs admitted to the S.Pellegrino Young Chef regional finals will be revealed.

During the coming weeks, in the headquarters of Alma, the International School of Italian Cuisine, based in Colorno (Parma, Italy), a special commission will evaluate all the applications from the 12 regions.

We took the chance to have a chat with chef Matteo Berti, Alma's director, to take a look behind the scenes at the process of selecting the competitors for the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2020.

How many people and are in the team that selects the recipes for S.Pellegrino Young Chef and what are their positions?
This year, the idea was to have both ALMA teachers and sous chefs evaluating the recipes. Among the teachers, there are not only chefs and pastry chefs, but also academics of history and culture. The support of the sous chefs will also allow a more practical evaluation of the feasibility of the recipe itself. The whole team of 21 people - 9 teacher chefs, 2 pastry chef teachers and 2 teachers of the history and gastronomic culture of Italian cuisine, 8 sous chefs - is composed to maintain a balance between men and women, also adding some international figures, to have many different points of view.

What criteria were used to judge the candidates' recipes?
The criteria are given in the rules: sustainability, the quality of the material and the unusual but sustainable product, never forgetting safety from the health point of view. All the competitors seem to have understood these indications; in fact, they tried to propose something that surprises. Of course, we are also very careful in judging the preparation techniques, and we are very careful about those techniques that can be harmful to health, such as fermentation or the perishability of the selected products. Obviously, the layout, the explicitness and the photography of a recipe are essential to convey the message.

How is the work of the ALMA team allocated at this stage?
The first evaluation is made by the teacher, the second by the sous chef.

Can you tell us about ALMA’s "historic-commission" and what role does it play in the selection?
The historians we have at ALMA are extremely well prepared both from a technical and practical point of view, being an integral part of the demo lessons with the chefs and the juries of the cooking and pastry exams. For this reason, like chefs, they play a leading role in the evaluation of candidates.

Does ALMA also take part to other phases of the competition?
ALMA guarantees the selection of the ten finalists for the areas throughout the competition. This year an ALMA juror will be present at the selections for the final phase of each area and we will also be present in the final, both by providing our sous chefs to assist the S.Pellegrino Young Chef in the competition, and with two figures in the jury. In addition, we are a partner in the logistical organization of the event.

How is ALMA - the International School of Italian Cuisine - able to evaluate preparations and techniques from all over the world?
The technique is technical and as such, must be comprehensible. Even an innovative technique must be understandable on paper, otherwise there is a real problem of communication, and knowing how to tell a story is one of the strengths of all the greatest chefs in the world.

This is the fourth edition of S.Pellegrino Young Chef: what has changed, if it has changed, from your point of view?
The first thing that I personally decided was to introduce a budget for all participants. This concept is fundamental for two reasons: firstly, sustainability, the spending limit ensures no waste of ingredients. Secondly, this gives all competitors the same opportunities and difficulties.

What are the most recurrent "mistakes" that you find in the conception of the dishes?
Probably the most common mistake is to tell the story of the dish through a memory. However, what we want to hear is more a technical or gustatory impression rather than a childhood memory. There are other concepts that it is much more important to express in a limited space. Even the layout of the recipe is often not so accurate.

What advice would you give to a young chef selected for the regional finals who aspires to the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2020?
Practicing the ability to tell stories; as I said before, this is a prerogative of all great chefs. They should know how to convey the message and they should do so in an ethical way.

What advice would you give to a young chef selected for the regional finals who aspires to the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2020?
Practicing the ability to tell stories; as I said before, this is a prerogative of all great chefs. They should know how to convey the message and they should do so in an ethical way.

 

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