Antonia Klugmann is chef of L’Argine a Venco, an acclaimed restaurant with a highly personal and unique cuisine in Venco, Fruili Venezia Giulia on the border with Slovenia.
This is the second part of our interview with the Italian chef in the usual Q&A format.
What is the best dish you’ve ever made?
I hope that I still have to make it.
The best dish you’ve ever eaten?
I don’t know. I like so many things. Even a fruit that is perfectly matured and is eaten at its best can change your palate for ever.
Do you cook at home?
What do you like to eat when you don’t cook at home?
I have been on a diet for around two years. So I like to eat soups, salad and meat but I don’t eat pasta and haven’t ate pasta for many months. This is a tragedy for me. But the way you think about your body also has an impact on how you feel. The way I eat has also impacted the way I cook in the restaurant.
In my restaurant, I want to cook in a way that is healthy. For example, I don’t use soffritto (frying onion, carrots and celery). I’ve learnt to cook without a soffritto from my mentor and it is something I’ve continued. For me, a soffritto is about taste and not a base so I use a method to bring out the taste by reduced fat.
When I prepare a tomato sauce, I don’t start with the soffritto but I use oil and garlic at low temperature and then I add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes start to release water, I add the onion. Like this, the onion does not touch fat and the water reduces. If you want to have the traditional taste you reduce the sauce, if you want more freshness you stop cooking it before.
What is something that is in a professional kitchen and which everyone should have in their kitchens?
Iron pans. I love to buy pans and I have a huge collection. I never buy new ones. I go to markets to get second hand pans. And I never use non-stick pans. I have a few copper pans but mostly I use iron ones.
Your best ever meal?
At Niko Romito and Piergiorgio Parini
I am a fan of chefs. Before you get to know a chef you read about his or her ideas, the technique and then you can confirm this when you go to their restaurants. I love Rene Redzepi’s cooking, Pascal Barbot, his book and approach to the restaurant and vegetables is incredible. I really like Alain Passard’s photos. Some of them have had a bigger impact on me that certain meetings. Of course Ferran Adria and also eating at the Roca brothers. I really liked Kobe Desramault’s approach and Enrico Crippa. These are some of the experiences that have really influenced me over the past years.
Where do you want to be in five years?
I don’t know. I have a project for my garden, I have a clear vision and want to amplify it and manage it better. I want it to be more professional than it currently is and to be more coherent to what I do in the restaurant. It would be great to finish this project. Every year it improves but it is a slow process. I want this to grow slowly similar to what we are doing in the restaurant, knowing that the plants and seeds I buy are of good quality.