Milone, an unusual mountain man

The chef tells about the passion that drew the mountains into his dishes. With Identità 2015 coming up

13-01-2015
February 8th, the first day of the Identità Golos

February 8th, the first day of the Identità Golose 2015 congress: within the very rich programme there will also be a whole day of lectures dedicated to Identità di Montagna [Mountain Identità] one of the new elements in this edition. Christian Milone, chef and ex cyclist, will be one of the eight speakers in this series, and today he illustrates the story of his falling in love with the roads uphill and the flavours of the Alps

A crossroads: left or right. Going uphill or getting lost in the valley... mountains have always been about this, as far as my memory goes back. Since I was a child, these crossroads have been beside me every day as I go out of Trattoria Zappatori. Outside the door, on the left, there’s the whole Alpine arch which in 56km takes you to 2035 metres above the sea level in Sestrieres, and right, there are the 500 km that guide you down a billiard table to the mouth of river Po.

Mountains are also a great challenge, whether you want to face them on a bicycle, or interpret them in the kitchen. A huge challenge, as in the case of Walter Eynard, my first teacher in catering school, a master of ceremonies of Waldesian cuisine in his Flipot in Torre Pellice. The only great interpreter of Piedmontese mountain cuisine. From him, unknowingly, I absorbed the valorisation of poor ingredients, and a strong connection to my origins.

This was like in the case of the promoters of Arte Povera in the late Sixties, when the gesture of the author was put in second place and was only useful to remove the matter and take it to its primordial, primitive state. Walter Eynard like masters Penone and Pistoletto, gives a new reading and valorises what has always been visible to everyone, though no one had every observed it from that point of view.

The mountains of Val Pellice
The mountains of Val Pellice
His "la" inspired my essay when I graduated: "Mountain cuisine from the Waldesian Valleys". The years spent pedalling then took me kilometres apart from my memories. Those were years of mountains I climbed up and conquered. Followed by the slow decrease and the return home, to Pinerolo, back to my crossroads.

I would define myself as an unusual mountain man, I’m a mountain man at heart, but not in my body: I have not personally experienced the traditions that are strongly rooted in my family but the Alps have marked me and inspired me from time to time. For years now I’ve been drawing the meaning of high mountain cuisine from woods, streams and gorges. A meaning that is sometimes hermetic, hidden, subtle, yet a strong part of my experience.

As in the case of the Pink risotto with blood, a dish on which I will focus my speech at Identità Milano 2015. I remember an afternoon spent with my mum and dad, as a child, at Torre Pellice, the Waldesian capital, in a friends’ rose garden. This afternoon is marked in a photo hanging in my bedroom, which for years I observed with conceit.

Christian Milone during a lesson on the latest edition of Identità Golose. The other lecturers at Identità di Montagna, february 8th 2015, will be: Antonio Borruso, Alessandro Gilmozzi, Stefano Ghetta, Nadia Moscardi, Alessandro Dal Degan, Norbert Niederkofler and Riccardo Gaspari

Christian Milone during a lesson on the latest edition of Identità Golose. The other lecturers at Identità di Montagna, february 8th 2015, will be: Antonio Borruso, Alessandro Gilmozzi, Stefano Ghetta, Nadia Moscardi, Alessandro Dal Degan, Norbert Niederkofler and Riccardo Gaspari

Then, all of a sudden, something clicked in my head: this was the first moment that was connected with the mountains. An afternoon in a rose garden. The scent of petals and the taste of blood. After all, haven’t we all stung a finger with a rose thorn and instinctively sucked it at least once?

Roses, petals but thorns too. The primordial sucking gesture of babies, yet filled with the metal taste of blood. This is a way of making food something more than simply a way to fill one’s stomach, making it three-dimensional, thanks to thoughts and emotions. A huge challenge: like the ones of those who preceded me and those who will follow me in portraying about my land, my mountains.


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