Enogastronomy has the potential to take help Italy and Europe exit the current crisis, Roman chef Riccardo Di Giacinto, one Michelin star chef of Ristorante All’Oro in Rome said.
“Communications have changed the world of gastronomy. But the world has also changed, interest in cuisine is at an all time high and I believe that food and wine could help bring us out of the crisis in Italy and Europe,” Di Giacinto told Food and Wine Gazette when we caught up with him at Flemish Food Bash earlier this month.
Di Giacinto has trained both in Italy and abroad, spending over 11 years away from Italy. He worked four years under Ferran Adrià of el Bulli fame and Marco Pierre White among others, before opening All’Oro in April 2007. “Experience abroad is always important because you meet colleagues and always take something back home with you. And I also hope that you leave something for your colleagues as well.”
The chef from Rome sees Italian cuisine today as being great, “in grande forma”. “I believe that at the moment we have the best cuisine in the world. I have worked in Spain under Ferran Adria and other chefs but believe that Italian cuisine is really on top. And there is still a world to do and discover. I look at the recipes of the regional kitchens in Italy and this is a heritage to humanity. What we have is something extraordinary,” he says.
Di Giacinto believes that it is not easy to work in Italy. “I always say that it is difficult and that if you run a successful business in ltaly with the economic crisis and bureaucracy then you have the vaccine or the antibiotics to be able to create something anywhere in the world.”
When he looks at chefs that inspire him he is not only looking for the techniques they bring to the plate, but rather for the emotions that they create. “I prefer a dish that might not be perfect in terms of technique but which has an exceptional and profound taste. In this sense, the produce is essential and that is why I believe Italy has infinite potential because the produce we work with is exceptional,” Di Giacinto said.
I ask him what he thought about the recent news that cheese producers will be able to make cheese with milk powder. “I try not to read certain things because you end up feeling really bad about this. I believe that while there is evolution in cuisine, if we do not safeguard the products we have in Europe and even in the United States, and help artisans, we are throwing away our traditions and identity.”
Ferran Adrià would have been considered a heretic in Italy
When it comes to food innovation, Italy is a difficult place to be in. Di Giacinto is of the view that Ferran Adria would have been considered a heretic in Italy and not allowed to work. “We are a country that is too closed and a lot of innovation does not go down well in Italy.” I tell him in many ways it is what happened to Massimo Bottura in the beginning. “Yes, Massimo’s beginnings were like that. Massimo in my view has infinite potential when it comes to synthesis but he also has full respect for tradition.”
I ask him who has influenced him most in becoming a chef. “Working abroad has been essential. But we are a synthesis of what we have done in the past. Everyday we try to innovate and never stop exploring but your past is essential in what you do.”
He describes his cuisine as contemporary and traditional at the same time. It has a modern form with traditional flavours. The best dish he has ever created is, from its description, something to die for. He tells me it is a tiramisu which he made with cod (baccala) cooked in milk and finished with olive oil with a foam of potatoes and rosemary and cocoa powder on top.
How long does it take him to create a new dish? I ask. He tells me it depends. “When you are intent on doing something, it can take just a few seconds. But when you are constructing something more complex, you are experimenting, trying to find things or flavours that match, looking at what techniques to use, what textures work. This takes much longer. There are times when you are creative but there are others where you just need to use techniques.”
He explains the secret of a successful restaurant. “I believe that if you respect people the business grows. But it also grows thanks to guides, bloggers, journalists and those who take an interest in food.”
Read his recipe of Fregola with butter, anchovy and orange zest soon on Food and Wine Gazette.