Enrico Crippa is a perfectionist who loves to set the bar extremely high. Before the four hands dinner with Zaiyu Hasegawa, he comes to show us the dishes that will be prepared for the dinner. That will allow the photographers attending the event to enjoy the dinner without the stress of having to take photos during the dinner.
In passing he tells Andrea Petrini, of GELINAZ! fame that he is extremely pleased with the menu and how the dishes that Zaiyu and he had prepared have blended well. “Coming from you, that is something,” Andrea tells him.
Reflecting on the first four hands dinner that he ever hosted at Piazza Duomo in Alba, Enrico Crippa tells me he felt a sense of liberation when the dinner finished because he felt it had gone very well.
“When I arrived home, I started thinking how simple it ended up being, how easy it was to work with Zaiyu and how easy it was to blend the two cuisines together.” Enrico says that seeing the menu together and looking at the dishes as well as the service and the speed with which it was executed it ended up being the perfect menu.
Collaboration and sharing knowledge is one of the secrets to success in life. And when this happens in the kitchen of one of the best restaurants in the world, then magic is bound to happen. Zaiyu Hasegawa is chef of Jimbochi Den, a restaurant in Tokyo which is also in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It is not usual for Enrico to welcome so many people in his kitchen but this was an occasion to enter into the world of the two chefs. At Piazza Duomo, there was an invasion of journalists and photographers as the two chefs and their teams prepared for the four hands dinner. “I’ve never had so many photographers and journalists in the kitchen at the same time,” he said jokingly.
The Italian chef who spent three years of his career working in Japan used a creative approach to give his dishes a Japanese touch, influenced by his time in the country which has clearly left its mark. “Zaiyu remained consistent and coherent to his work in Japan and also to Japanese flavours. He used a lot of umami flavours and his dishes were exceptional. The texture of the mushroom which was like an abalone, the softness of the beetroot, the delicate broth of fish which had lots of umami flavours but which was extremely delicate and the gelatine he used in his dessert were very consistent to what he is and to his cuisine.”
Enrico loved the experience of working with a chef from another culture. “I think that it is extremely important because on top of understanding the nationality of the person you are working with, it is also great to see how a person thinks and how he works. What I liked about Zaiyu and a similarity I see in myself is the importance he attaches to using great produce. He wants to use something that has to be in a certain way, it has to be in season and it has to be of a certain quality. This is fundamental for those who work in this field but it is not always the case,” Enrico tells Food and Wine Gazette.
He says there are some chefs who do not necessarily give importance to the produce and who prefer to focus on technique to lift flavours. “Personally, I prefer to work with great produce and then technique but the latter should never replace produce.”
Enrico loves the collaboration spirit that comes from meeting chefs from other cultures. “It is extremely important for us to be able to work with people who are completely different. I worked in Japan so I knew the culture and the produce so it was easy but when you work with chefs from other countries that you do not know, you realise how diverse we are although we are all equal.”
There is of course the language barrier which has to be overcome in the kitchen in some cases but Enrico says that when it comes to creativity, the language is common. “The language might not be the same but the concept of work, the artisanal approach, the philosophy of cooking is something unique which you can understand. There was a certain alchemy between Zaiyu and myself and when that happens it is magical but ultimately it is about the food and the kitchen.”
“The language of food and of eating is unique and it is natural for us. It is great that we are living at a time when chefs have no barriers or walls between them. There is an exchange that is great and very constructive,” he says.
Don’t miss our in-depth interview with Enrico Crippa in the coming days. He speaks about cooking as the highest art form, the importance of his garden, his creative process, how he is no longer afraid when he goes days without being creative and the impact his work experience in Japan had on his work.