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Slow Fish 2011: The Protagonists and Their Stories

Italy - 27 Apr 11

Serving the Sea Fusion Without Confusion: The Art of Mehmet Gürs The top floor of Istanbul’s Marmara Pera hotel, with views out from Beyoğlu over the Golden Horn and Topkapi, is the marvelous setting for Mikla, Mehmet Gürs’s restaurant. Born in Finland to a Finnish-Swedish mother and a Turkish father, Mehmet grew up in Stockholm and perfected his culinary skills in the United States (“Wherever I go I’m a foreigner”) before arriving in Istanbul in 1996, back when gastronomic choices were limited to old school Turkish cuisine. Mehmet’s gamble proved successful, and he has come to symbolize the new Anatolian cuisine, grafting his Scandinavian roots onto Turkish tradition to come up with fascinatingly modern dishes. All this is combined with an almost maniacal passion for ancient flavors and foods at risk of extinction, which he hunts out like valuable antiques. He currently has over 250 small-scale producers supplying his restaurant. As if that wasn’t enough, Mehmet is also one of the biggest supporters of the provocatively named Greenpeace campaign “How Big Is Yours,” which is lobbying the Turkish government to establish minimum sizes for caught fish, and he is working tirelessly to promote responsible fish buying among consumers and his fellow chefs. (www.miklarestaurant.com – www.kacsantim.org) Theater of Taste – How Big Is Yours? – Saturday May 28, 4 pm “The Sea Is Not a Free Market” A former diver and the chef at a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant, Breton native Gaël Orieux is also a driving force behind the campaign “Mr Goodfish.” The campaign, whose slogan is “good for the sea, good for you,” was launched in March 2010 by Nausicaa, the Centre National de la Mer (national center of the sea) in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Convinced that chefs can help educate consumers and a passionate supporter of biodiversity, Gaël has transformed his Parisian restaurant Auguste into a model for the initiative. “In 15 years of cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants, I must have used six or seven species of fish,” he says. “As a restaurant owner I have the possibility and the responsibility to point diners towards alternative species. The sea is not a free market.” Gaël’s menus focus on lesser-known species, which are not just delicious but also more abundant than their famous cousins. His style, a perfect marriage of Celtic heritage and modernism, respect for nature and the meeting of land and sea, has been influenced by masters such as Paul Bocuse and Yannick Alléno. The daily changing menu at Auguste gives Gaël a chance to bring forgotten or unfamiliar foods back into the spotlight. (www.restaurantauguste.fr – www.mrgoodfish.com) Theater of Taste – Dive Into Brittany with Mr Goodfish – Sunday May 29, 1 pm Manjit Gill’s India Deeply rooted in the ancient Vedic sciences, India’s culinary culture is currently enjoying a creative renewal, thanks in part to the enthusiasm and passion of Manjit Gill, executive chef of the ITC Sheraton group’s Indian restaurants. With three decades of experience and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Ministry of Tourism (2007), Manjit is considered a guardian of traditional Indian cuisine. President of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations, he recently participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos and is the organizer of “Chef & Child,” a charitable event that has spread across the country thanks to his commitment. As well as a successful chef, Manjit is also an active member and representative of Navdanya, a non-governmental organization led by Vandana Shiva which promotes biodiversity and organic agriculture and defends the rights of farmers and fishers. (www.itcwelcomgroup.in) Theater of Taste – Manjit Gill and India’s Fabulous Fish – Sunday May 29, 7 pm Representing Liguria The Chef-Gardener After training under Gualtiero Marchesi, Georges Blanc and Bernard Loiseau, at the age of 24 Paolo Masieri took over his father’s restaurant in San Remo, now called Paolo & Barbara. A year later he became the youngest Italian chef to receive a Michelin star. Then, as now, he spends every day meeting with fishermen, preparing the kitchen and delegating tasks to his assistants. He grows his own vegetables, and gathers wild herbs from the Nervia Valley countryside. “The fish comes only from local fishermen, which means I can serve it raw, in my own personal version. My cooking gets its life from the local products, and my dishes are either rigorously traditional or what I like to call ‘contemporary Ligurian cuisine.’ The quality of the raw ingredients, their genuinity and fragrance have been at the base of my philosophy since I took over the restaurant from my father in 1988, starting this adventure with my wife Barbara. Now I am continuing it with my son Stefano.” (www.paolobarbara.it) Taste Workshop – Raw Fish and Ligurian Olive Oil – Monday May 30, 12 pm The Elegance of Taste Cooking runs in Andrea Sarri’s family, and he began his career in the kitchen at the tender age of 15. Today he runs Agrodolce in Imperia, where he has created a refined and elegant cuisine. Andrea doesn’t complicate things with unnecessary frills, but cooks his fish perfectly, using flavor pairings that are original but never forced. His artful dishes take traditional recipes as a starting point, but are presented with great attention to beauty and detail. The menu follows what’s growing in the kitchen garden, and the basic ingredients are always the same: “Extra-virgin olive oil, seasonal vegetables and consistency. All the fish we select is exclusively from the open sea.” A promise that reveals his whole philosophy: only the highest quality ingredients chosen personally to best promote his local area. (www.ristoranteagrodolce.it) Taste Workshop – Raw Fish and Ligurian Olive Oil – Monday May 30, 12 pm A Homemade Chef Luca Collami (Ristorante Baldin, Genoa-Sestri) likes to call himself a “homemade chef.” Almost entirely self-taught, he describes his cooking as capricious. “The same dish is almost never identical because I follow my instinct, and maybe during the preparation I’ll change a previous detail.” His dishes reveal great creativity, respect for tradition and an interest in innovations from far away. “Mine is not a traditional cuisine, but it is definitely linked to tradition through the scents of the land, or even better the flavors of Liguria and the Mediterranean. When I was going to the Piazza Cavour market 20 years ago, I was ordering directly, moving from one seller to another, and the ‘poor’ fish I chose was really cheap. I don’t feel the libido of sea bream; I love mackerel, horse mackerel, scabbardfish, barracuda and Atlantic bonito, fish that were once thrown back into the sea by fishermen. Then I use the flavors of the region, like thyme, marjoram and oregano, and seasonal vegetables.” (www.ristorantebaldin.com) Taste Workshop – Raw Fish and Ligurian Olive Oil – Monday May 30, 12 pm Not Just Chefs Carmelo Chiaramonte’s Nomadic Cuisine “This is how it works, someone calls and I see if I can meet their requests, their edible dreams.” For Carmelo, “cuisine has its own paradisiacal meaning in the moment it manages to lighten the souls of those who are smelling and eating with their hearts as well as their minds and their eyes.” The self-professed “chef-errant” achieves this by travelling many miles across Sicily to seek out the artisans of food, farmers and fishermen, “slowly approaching the roots of a culture that is disappearing.” He has an incredible knowledge of unusual fish: “Fish are a kaleidoscope of flavors, textures and moods. It intrigues me to get to know marine species and all this mystery that there always is around the foods of the sea.” He has dedicated himself to researching the gastronomic customs and products of Sicily and its surrounding islands. His interest is linked not only to the hedonistic pleasure of food, but also the anthropology behind his region’s traditional material culture. This passion is also directed into activities outside the kitchen, like working as a “gastronomic scenographer” for theatrical projects. “Constructing a gastronomic set means that the base of a statue is made of bread, and at a certain point the actor has to devour it.” (www.carmelochiaramonte.it) Theater of Taste – Carmelo Chiaramonte: A Different Kettle of Fish – Saturday May 28, 1 pm Back to School Fabio Fauraz was born in 1977, and after attending the Marco Polo hotel school he worked at a series of restaurants in Genoa before opening a pizzeria with his brother in 1997. He quickly realized he was on the wrong path, and soon opened Il Violino Rosso with his wife. This little restaurant with an informal atmosphere has received excellent ratings in the leading Italian guides and won him a best emerging chef award from Gualtiero Marchesi’s prestigious ALMA culinary school. Now he has opened his own cooking school, where he teaches “how to play with ingredients” with courses ranging from the basics (cooking techniques, food safety, utensils) to specializations in fish, meat, finger foods and sushi. (www.fabiofauraz.com) Taste Workshop – Let’s Eat Them All! – Monday May 30, 3 pm Farming the Sea The Fonda family’s sea bass farm, in the beautiful Gulf of Piran (just an hour from Trieste), is the most innovative in Slovenia. Irena, part manager and part biologist, like her father and brother, is the driving force behind the business, confronting the challenge of globalization and focusing on the naturalness of her farm and the sustainability of its practices. In this case there’s no greenwashing, just strict rules that have been followed scrupulously since the beginning. “Ours is not an innovative technology, we mostly use tricks that help our sea bass stand out from the rest: attention to the selection of fry and feed, slow growth without artificial accelerations. So to reach an average weight of around 500 grams takes a good four to five years.” And if technology helps the Fonda family to sell their fish­—their bass is known outside Slovenia, and is particularly popular in Austria’s Carinthia and Italy’s Friuli—the production processes are kept manual, “to better follow our fish, to understand them better.” The Fonda family has Slovenia’s only natural marine fish farm. “We don’t use chemical agents of any kind, we want to have maximum respect for nature and our product.” (it.fonda.si) Taste Workshop – Quality Aquaculture – Friday May 27, 6 pm Taking Time “I believe that the art of smoking has been lost over time, since flavorings and dyes began to be used to accelerate the process. All that has nothing to do with quality. The traditional method, with an initial salting followed by smoking/drying to guarantee good anti-bacterial conditions, is very slow. Our method takes a long time; all the steps are done by hand and many different skills are necessary, particularly during the fileting and salting of the fish. And it’s not easy to guess the exact moment when the fish is perfectly smoked.” Sally Barnes has always lived in Castletownshend, a pretty village on Ireland’s southern coast, in County Cork. She began smoking fish out of necessity, because she had no freezer and her fisherman husband would bring home kilos of fish in need of preservation. And so in 1981 she opened the Woodcock Smokery. Sally doesn’t use farmed fish, is in no rush to get her product on the market and takes great care to get the timing, temperature and wood all just right. “I’ve never had a problem about what fish to use for my products. Choosing local species whose fishing does not damage the marine ecosystem has always seemed the only way to me.” (www.woodcocksmokery.com) Taste Workshop – Irish Smoked Fish with Whiskey and Beer – Saturday May 28, 7 pm The Next Generation Puglia on a Plate All the elements are there: attention to detail, rigorous selection of ingredients, love for the land and local knowledge. “I’m a passionate supporter of the Slow Food Presidia, I go meet the producers personally to understand how they make something that passes on history and tradition.” Michele Rotondo began working as a kitchen boy at age 14 in the exclusive Riva dei Tessali Hotel and Golf Resort in Castellaneta, near Taranto, where he met his first teacher and mentor, Mino Maggi. After a long apprenticeship working in kitchens around Italy, he returned home to Puglia, where he now runs the Masseria Petrino, not far from Palagianello, in the province of Taranto. He divides his time between the kitchen, the garden that supplies the restaurant with produce and a passion for fishing. The result is a modern cuisine, just innovative enough to allow a masterly reinterpretation of the classics. (www.masseriapetrino.it) Theater of Taste – Puglia’s Bounty – Friday May 27, 4 pm Technique and Dedication Between Tradition and Innovation “When technique, love and ideas come together, you get a beautiful dish. I don’t feel obsessed with the quest for emotions. I like transparency, cleanliness, purity.” Despite his young age (he was born in 1979 in Pescia), Enrico Bartolini already has considerable experience. He began working in Tuscany at 14, earning a wine tasting diploma at 16, when he began cooking at his uncle’s trattoria. Three years later he decided to move to London, where he worked at the Royal Commonwealth Club. Then Paris, at Paolo Petrini, before returning to his homeland (via Berlin), first around Padua at Le Calandre in Sarmeola di Rubano and La Montecchia in Selvazzano Dentro (the stronghold of the Alajmos), then at Le Robinie in Montescano near Pavia, where he was awarded his first Michelin star. He recently took on a new challenge at the Devero Hotel in Cavenago, outside Milan, where he learned of his second star on the day of his 31st birthday. (www.deverohotel.it) Taste Workshop – Enrico Bartolini’s New Zealand – Sunday May 29, 1 pm The Anti-Global Chef Luigi Taglienti likes surrounding himself with local examples of excellence and fusing together ancient culinary traditions with the avant-garde, a passion that has earned him the nickname of the “anti-global” chef. In reality, Luigi simply does not want to lose “the contact with the land, because the guiding thread between past, present and future is the passing down of tradition. My cuisine is based on seeking out the small-scale food producers, of whom there are so many in Italy, who escape globalization as much as possible, and on the reinterpretation of ancient recipes in a contemporary key, recipes that are by now found only in classic old cookbooks.” A native of Savona, at the age of 30 he has already won many plaudits (including being named Best Young Chef in Italy by L’Espresso in 2009) and excellent ratings in Italy’s leading restaurant guides. His winning card? Rethinking the classics without betraying their essence. Taste Workshop – Luigi Taglienti, Fish and Beers from the Sea – Friday May 27, 3 pm Keeping It Local Eating the Sea La Pineta is the essence of what gastronomy should be, from the feeling of conviviality as soon as you cross the threshold of the restaurant to the learned and multidisciplinary science practiced by Luciano Zazzeri, who uses food as a starting point to follow a multiplicity of cultural paths. Luciano is not just a chef, but also a fisherman, writer and attentive farmer and above all a profound connoisseur of the sea. La Pineta, in Marina di Bibbona, near Livorno, is a must-visit destination not only for gourmets, but for all those who want to discover the local area, the communities who live there and the food producers and fishermen who make a living from land and sea. Theatre of Taste – Luciano Zazzeri: A Chef with the Sea in his Heart – Sunday May 29, 4 pm Flavors of the Po Delta It’s almost as though time has stopped at La Capanna di Eraclio in Codigoro, near Ferrara. The decor hasn’t changed for 50 years; the old-style trattoria has slightly slanting floors and ceilings and a couple of peacocks strutting around on the roof. Maria Grazia Soncini has skillfully continued the legacy of her mother, Wanda, transforming the family-run osteria (opened in 1922, it became a restaurant in the 1960s) into one of the best fish restaurants in Italy. “Our cooking is timeless, marked by a focus on the local area and the promotion of our products. It’s a cooking of tradition, respectful of the flavors, but always up-to-date. When I see an innovation or read something that inspires me, I try to pair it with that dish and that flavor linked to the local area and to the tradition of this land. Our intention is to recreate at the table the flavors and the atmosphere of the Po delta.” (www.lacapannadieraclio.com) Taste Workshop – The Slowness of the Eel – Friday May 27, 7 pm


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