We are with Chef Heinz Beck, famous for the three-Michelin-starred La Pergola at the Cavaleri hotel, that will answer questions from our editorial staff and some of our food bloggers.
1. What started your passion for food?
Art. I have always loved expressing myself through colours and shapes.
My passion for art, particularly painting, has made me grow closer to cooking: through both you can communicate and convey your own vision outlook of the world.
2. If you were to take a foreign friend to Italy for the first time which national dish would you suggest for him?
Pasta with Palermo Tenerumi. This is a summtime soup typical of the Palermo area, very rich in vitamins and mineral salts. In its simplicity it is the perfect example of the fresh and healthy flavours of this area.
3. Which product made in Italy do you think is not yet widely known abroad?
The tomato from Piennolo from Vesuvio which has an intense and sweetly sour taste.
4. What do you think could help in “fighting” the Italian Sounding phenomenon?
The Italian Sounding is a phenomenon that affects most representative products of our country with a growing widespread prevalence.
I believe urgent action is needed in order to protect our agricultural heritage.
Firstly we should educate our buyers to understand what real Italian food is. Buyers need to understand about the raw products which represent the quality and the excellence of the Italian culinary tradition.
Train and educate people to buy real Italian food could help eradicate the Italian Sounding and limit the damage to the image of food products made in Italy.
5. In addition to being a world-class chef, you are also a professional sommelier. Do you think that there is always a suitable wine to accompany every dish or do you think an ordinary and neutral glass of water could sometimes be the perfect match for some dishes? (La mora in cucina)
I think that for every dish there is a particular combination able to enhance the essence; be it wine, sparkling wine or water … yes, even water, because there is no ordinary neutral natural water! On “La Pergola”‘s list there are 29 choices of water; surely fewer than the 53,000 bottles of wine found in the basement, but it well represents the rich variety of water available. Each dish deserves the right match, because a dish not adequately accompanied expresses only half of its character.
6. How do you feel whilst cooking? What is your favourite dish, the one that brings up unique emotions? (La mora in cucina)
When I cook I feel the satisfaction of sharing: first directly into the kitchen with my staff, with whom I share my day and my creations and then in the restaurant with my customers. Regarding my favourite dish, right now I can tell you it is “S’Campo”, a dish I created last year which has only recently been available on the menu. I can define an autumnal soup with a modern twist: the autumnal vegetables are whizzed and choreography arranged on the bottom of the plate. A shellfish broth is then poured in front of the customer: in this way each spoonful of soup gives a different flavour depending on the vegetables you are eating. The final touch is a battered shrimp in slightly spicy potatoes fried in extra virgin olive oil.
7. I was impressed when I saw the compositions, shapes and colours of your dishes. This care and attention to every single element shows great passion and great respect for the food, the body and the earth. Has it been difficult to convey this message of sustainability in order for people to understand the true meaning of sustainable power through your dishes? (Profumi e Parole)
It is not always possible to adopt a “zero mile” policy, but in all my restaurants I try to engage as much as possible in favour of an Ecosustainable Gastronomy. I have always addressed due respect to the ingredients, raw materials, and food consumption to be correct and responsible. My concept of sustainability education involves raising the consumer awareness of the relationship between the environment, food consumption and lifestyle. This issue has recently attracted more interest as people are finding out that they can approach the concept of sustainability without sacrificing the taste and the goodness of the food.
8. What are the reactions of Italian people who are often anchored to their culinary traditions even if not always sustainable? (Profumi e Parole)
If we think about it, culinary traditions have always been sustainable.
In the past the variety of ingredients and the chances of getting them from far away were minor therefore without realizing it, environmental sustainability was already widely practiced in the kitchen. These days the sensitivity to food being sustainable has become more widespread in Italian society and it involves a growing number of consumers. I also believe that the choices of individuals have changed in favour of individual responsibility and wellbeing. Today’s consumer is wise, critical and well informed, and although he remains anchored to his culinary traditions, he is conscious and able to evaluate what is best.
9. In your opinion, what will be the Italian kitchen of the future? After the “boom” of Dutch chains selling chips in Naples, as well as in other cities, or the success of burgers, will there still be room for traditional Italian cuisine? (De Food Madam)
I certainly believe so. I think the tradition and uniqueness of Italian cuisine will ultimately be a winner and won’t be wiped out by outside influences.
10. In recent years food intolerances have been steadily on the increase. Have you changed your menu in order to meet these types of needs? (Profumi e Parole)
To meet our customers food needs, we have created the project “SafetyFood”.
At the moment on our list you will find the “QR Code 3” of all types of menus available. The customer can read the code using a mobile device and have access to the corresponding Facebook page where he will be able to see the dishes provided with photos, recipes and nutritional values with a list of all ingredients which can often cause intollerances.
Thanks to My Little Italian Kitchen for the translation
Photo by Antonio Saba