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The Taste Of Music According To Chef Gualtiero Marchesi

The Taste Of Music According To Chef Gualtiero Marchesi

Waiting for Aida premiere in Verona, we've asked the Godfather of Italian cuisine - and music expert - Gualtiero Marchesi to match some dishes to a composer

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"Giuseppe Verdi's Aida is a Pyramid. Is the Venere black rice pyramid I make with fish. 
Gualtiero Marchesi

The Godfather of the world’s haute cuisine, at the age of 82 chef Gualtiero Marchesi is still bursting with projects, travel plans, ideas, and an upcoming photographic book of his legendary dishes. Surrounded by a musician wife and musical family members, Marchesi was the first chef to suggest such a strong tie between music and food, a pairing that has become a kind of personal philosophy."

In honor of this particularity, on the occasion of the incoming Aida premiére in Verona's Arena, we proposed a kind of gastro-musical game: we chose several dishes, asking which musical associations it brought to mind. From Erbusco on the banks of Iseo lake where he reigns over Albereta, the restaurant and resort next to the Bellavista vineyards, Marchesi played along, while reminding us that creating a recipe is like writing music, and following a recipe is like playing according to sheet music. “Flavours need to be read and pre-tasted through sight, and even ‘sol-fa’-ing”, he explains.

“If I think about pasta with tomato sauce I think about Vivaldi’s Primavera (Spring): the music is full of light, of joy. It’s an explosion of enthusiasm that conveys a strong sense of re-birth, of a new season. It’s the moment when a tomato ripens and when we begin to perceive all of the fresh scents of the Mediterranean. My version of the dish is a cold one: raw oil, a tomato sauce made from fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes, which allows us to appreciate the consistency and softness of the pulp – and basil. And then just barely cooked.”

His sumptuous version of this dish, which has now become world famous, includes an edible gold leaf placed atop the rice. He recently created a squid ink version with silver leaf. “This risotto makes me think of Bach in terms of technique: it’s fundamental to understand technique in order to cook a good risotto. It’s a perfect composition because, as Bach said, ‘how you touch the key isn’t that important, because it’s all in the composition.’ You can add a bit of your own personal touch, but the composition always remains absoloute.”

Thick or thin, well-cooked or rare, butter or oil? Marchesi uses shape to modify the taste. He cubes the veal and then covers them on all four sides with bread crubs and cooks them in clarified butter. “The veal cutlet alla Milanese is a cheerful, tasty dish that brings Mozart to mind because of its ties to Austria, its elegant music, full of life and irony. Like with Bach, with Mozart every element is a work of art unto itself. This is why I wanted to decompose the cutlet and spread it out onto the plate in an explosion of taste, with the joy of trying to taste the simplicity and crunch in every bite. It’s an ironic piece of work – irreverent and joyful. Like much of Mozart’s music.”

Click here for the Gualtiero Marchesi's recipe of Milanese cutlet.

Perhaps no other dessert has such a symbolic and identifiable taste as this traditional Christmas cake, particularly popular in Northern Italy. “Mine is a truthful kind of cuisine, both in its form as its substance. This is a complex thought, but it’s simple as well. Because complexity is often found in the simplest of things. Panettone is pure and simple on the outside, but its interior can be opulent, full of experiences, passionate and timid. It reminds me of La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi: a work of great importance that manages to join passion and pain, love and despair.”

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