Double interview with Marchesi-Santin

The first “three stars” in Italian history answer our questions in parallel

30-06-2015
Gualtiero Marchesi and Ezio Santin: the two Italia

Gualtiero Marchesi and Ezio Santin: the two Italian fine dining masters visited Identità Expo, and then continued to the Rai studios for The Cooking Show

Gualtiero Marchesi and Ezio Santin, that is to say the history of Italian cuisine. They were at Identità Expo a few hours ago.

Mr Gualtiero Marchesi, you were born in 1930 and opened your restaurant in Milan in 1977, which was awarded after only one year with the first Michelin star and right after that with a second star. And the stars became three in 1985, the first to shine on the Italian flag (though one should recall Heinz Winkler from South Tyrol, three stars in Munich in 1982). Please describe yourself with one sentence.
«I’m a chef without prejudgement. And a little anarchic too».

Ezio Santin, born in 1937, you opened Antica Osteria del Ponte in Cassinetta di Lugagnano in 1976, received the first star in 1981, and were the second three-starred Italian of all times, in 1992. Please describe yourself with one sentence.
«I’m a person who chose to become a cook, by passion, at 39. Something unusual, but it was burning inside of me. It was a very successful experience».

Group photo at Identità Expo: left to right, Ezio Santin, Fabio Abbattista, Francesco Apreda and Gualtiero Marchesi
Group photo at Identità Expo: left to right, Ezio Santin, Fabio Abbattista, Francesco Apreda and Gualtiero Marchesi
Please describe your colleague.
Marchesi: «Ezio is a chef who cooks with his heart».
Santin: «I once entered Gualtiero’s kitchen while he was working. I observed him and said: “Nobody can handle raw materials as you do”. Besides, he’s a very cultured person».

Are you friends or enemies, as some people said?
Marchesi
: «We’ve always been good friends. You know why? Because neither of us had to be afraid of the other, we both took our own way without being influenced. I believe things went well for both of us, didn’t they?».
Santin: «We’ve been friends for 40 years. Of course, there was also some competition between us, our restaurants weren’t that far apart... But we’ve always had an excellent relationship».

How would you define your colleague’s cooking?
Marchesi: «A cooking that “comes from within”, perhaps it is not too technical or intellectual, but it is marked by passion for raw materials».
Santin: «Gualtiero’s cooking has always been conceptual».

How about your cooking?
Marchesi: «My cooking is more cerebral».
Santin: «Mine is instinctive».

Marchesi’s dish: Pasta chips with slightly acid butter, saffron, crispy rice with black pepper. Santin prepared a Lobster salad with fish and vanilla mayonnaise
Marchesi’s dish: Pasta chips with slightly acid butter, saffron, crispy rice with black pepper. Santin prepared a Lobster salad with fish and vanilla mayonnaise
One word to describe your passion for cooking in general?
Marchesi: «Love».
Santin: «Passion».

And a sentence?
Marchesi: «Cooking is science in itself, it is the chef who must turn it into art».
Santin: «The making of a good dish is an exercise in style».

Nouvelle cuisine: what was it?
Marchesi: «It was born in France when hotel chefs felt they had to do “everything”, even work in the dining room. It was a mistake. After a year and a half of nouvelle cuisine, in 1979, I returned to the dining room gestures, with the maître completing the dish in front of the guest, something I defined “total cuisine”».
Santin: «We’ve always had a “new cuisine” in Italy, that is to say respectful of seasonality and tending to be lighter. Nouvelle cuisine was born in France because French cuisine needed to be made a little lighter, with all those sauces … I’ve always looked at that model not because of the recipes, but because it taught us a better and more appealing dish presentation».

What are the limits of Italian cuisine today?
Marchesi: «There’s too much research for spectacular things for the sake of it. Many chefs don’t know raw materials, they over work them, I call them the “the variety artists of kitchen crimes”. If they knew the ingredients, they wouldn’t kill them».
Santin: «I don’t think it has great limits. Perhaps in the last few years it was too influenced by the Spanish model, from which I believe we need to detach ourselves to create our own journey, a very Italian one. We have no reason to envy anyone».

Marchesi greets his “heir” at Albereta, Fabio Abbattista, at Identità Expo
 

Marchesi greets his “heir” at Albereta, Fabio Abbattista, at Identità Expo

 

Paolo Marchi sees few young chefs following your track and that of the following generation, that is to say Cracco, Alajmo, Bottura. Could you give us some names?
Marchesi: «There are some good young chefs and many who are supposed to be good. I don’t want to name anyone. I’d just like to say that I’d like a memorable cuisine, where dishes can be remembered. This is rarely the case, lately».
Santin: «I appreciate Luigi Taglienti. And another chef born in 1986, Fabio Aceti, of restaurant Michelangelo, at Linate’s airport. He was a pupil of mine... Very talented».

Your favourite ingredient?
Marchesi: «The one I chose as Expo 2015 Ambassador, wheat».
Santin: «Prawns».

And your favourite dish?
Marchesi: «I believe the Spaghetti salad with caviar was my biggest masterpiece. In that case the forte is not caviar but the spaghetti! Even I understood this only later».
Santin: «Red prawns marinated with shallot and caviar».

Christmas is far away but make a wish.
Marchesi: «I’d like to be a few years younger. And then I’d like to do something naughty, that is to say cook with Ezio, in Cassinetta».
Santin: «I’d like to find a promising young chef who would like to take over my Antica Osteria del Ponte. We can offer special, favourable terms… But we’d like the restaurant to flourish once again».


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