My Premio Grand Cru

The current winner of the prize tells us about his journey around the temples of Europe’s best chefs

Christian Milone of Trattoria Zappatori’s Gastro

Christian Milone of Trattoria Zappatori’s Gastronavicella in Pinerolo (Torino) in a photo taken one year ago, when he won the second edition of Premio Birra Moretti Grand Cru, reserved for beer-based dishes. As a reward, Milone chose 3 trips to as many temples of high cuisine in Europe: Astrance in Paris, Noma in Copenhagen and El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. With only a few days to go to the finals of the third edition, on November 18th, in Rome,the winner tells us about his (enlightening) experience

"The winner of the second Premio Grand Cru Birra Moretti is... Christian Milone". "And now?", I wondered. There were moments of panic. I went on stage, shook hands, thanked, smiled at the photographers and pronounced a few, confused yet felt words. Then I looked for a secluded corner: I melted down, partly because of the tiredness, partly for the tension, partly because I don’t win very often...

Winning: besides the glory and the satisfaction, there’s the prize. A real one, tangible. I thought about how I had never dined in a starred restaurant abroad. I thought about the little free time my wife Manuela and I have. I thought about my passion for travels and for different cultures. So, among the different options I had, I chose the one of eating in three of the most important restaurants in the world: in Paris at Pascal Barbot’s Astrance, in Copenhagen at Renè Redzepi’s Noma and in Girona at Celler de Can Roca of brothers Joan, Jordi and Josep.

Pascal Barbot, l'Astrance in Paris

Pascal Barbot, l'Astrance in Paris

Cool, without any experience abroad, I was catapulted to the top restaurants, with a good amount of money to spend and finally some time to dedicate to my better half. Pinch me: I’m in paradise! So on I went with planning the trip on the basis of the climate and the seasonal raw materials: «first we go to Paris, which has a climate similar to Torino», «we go to Copenhagen in full summer, so nature is at its best»… Then I studied the architectural beauties that we would visit and organised the schedule. And counted the days before each departure with the greatest expectation.

Off to Paris. Loads of monuments and great life, some scams in terrible restaurants (life isn’t only made of three-starred restaurants!) and then to Barbot’s place. Modern French cuisine, great raw materials and a detailed control of cooking: all you would expect from a French ex enfant in a strangely relaxed climate, with tables close to one another and friendly waiters. For years I had been fantasizing about France’s three-starred restaurants and now that I was there I almost couldn’t believe it. We hardly had the time to focus on all the different emotions and we were already flying to Copenhagen.

The city is beautiful, it invites you to experience nature (we walked for 90 km over 4 days). The hotel had a strategic position in front of the Noma. Noma, can you believe it?! It was there that the Nordic revolution began! There’s still one day to go until our lunch but we can’t resist so we start our exploration... A first few photos at the Nordic Food Lab and then a short visit to Christiania. My staff had told me: «Chef, if you come back without having visited Christiania we won’t speak to you anymore». «What’s that??», I asked. I’m still not sure what it is but we returned there the following days too :-).

Renè Redzepi, Noma, Copenhagen

Renè Redzepi, Noma, Copenhagen

The day of Noma arrived, it was our turn. We arrived long in advance, due to the performance anxiety (indeed, even guests suffer from it). We moved around prudently, tiij pictures. At one point, a refined guy, with a sure pace and an elegant dress, comes out of the restaurant and walks right in my direction. «Hi Christian, how are you doing? Did you have a good trip? Are you hungry?». Bam! As if I had just got a blow in my face. I was left speechless, just like I was after eating the most delicious dish in my life. I could only think: «Making you feel at home even when you’re on the other side of the world: this is what a great restaurant is like».

I still hadn’t understood how the person who gently invited us to come inside could have guessed my name. There was great warmth in all the kitchen team, standing in line. The maître introduced us: «This is a friend of ours from Italy» and from the third row a comment arrives: «Don’t worry, we have some tortellini in the fridge...». I look around for the funny chap, I notice a guy, mid height, who walks towards me offering me his hand in greeting... It’s Renè Redzepi, the chef. A windmill of snacks and dishes followed. But I was already satisfied: the welcome had satisfied my soul.

1. to be continued


Chefs' life stories

Men who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view