Pizza and kitchen: we’ve made contact!

At PizzaUp the meeting of neighbouring worlds. With protagonist Heinz Beck and his different types of dough

03-11-2015
Corrado Assenza and Heinz Beck with some of the pi

Corrado Assenza and Heinz Beck with some of the pizza chefs who participated in the first day of PizzaUp 2015

«The great Expo heritage for Italy? The chance to create here a great hub of food knowledge. We can become the centre of knowledge applied to food, wine and nutrition», philosopher Salvatore Veca, coordinator of the workgroup that led to the birth of Carta di Milano told me a few days ago. These words resounded in my mind in Vighizzolo d’Este, during the first day – just ended – of PizzaUp 2015.

The festival today goes beyond its initial borders and has become the kernel of skills and experiments, a maieutic occasion for all that regards pizza. In fact, more than that: the horizon has widened up, the borders blown away, so much so that Chiara Quaglia confided how the same format will be more inclusive in the future, «how can we leave chefs out of the symposium? They’ve become co-protagonists in this world».

Heinz Beck presents his special types of dough together with his collaborator Giovanni Solofra. In the middle, Francesca Barberini

Heinz Beck presents his special types of dough together with his collaborator Giovanni Solofra. In the middle, Francesca Barberini

A proof of this statement is that, as if it were a tasty anticipation of this announced and forthcoming future, three great signature chefs are under the spotlight in this ninth edition of Pizza Up: Heinz Beck, Nicola Portinari and Piergiorgio Parini. And a further confirmation is given by the fact that perhaps the most vivid moment of the day was the verbal crossfire between the Bavarian chef and the young Venetian pizza-researcher who possibly widens with more courage than anyone else the dough frontier, namely Renato Bosco.

A very significant episode, come to think about it, because it involved – each one starting from his point of view – the celebrated chef who understands how cuisine cannot exclude new pizza and the nervy pizza-chef who understands how new pizza cannot avoid merging with the kitchen. Yet it was not a conflict. The troops are different, but are allies today. The debate – this is the right word – occurred when Beck stopped the delay as he wanted to enter deep into the others’ camp. People expected from him a speech on toppings in gourmet pizza: a chef’s topic, indeed. Yet the German seemingly innocent chef did not stop there: «I thought not about what can end on the pizza, but inside the pizza». That is to say the dough. Everyone remained with a bated breath.

The four pizzas tasted at the end of the day

The four pizzas tasted at the end of the day

He didn’t change the flour («We worked with the best in the world», a praise to host Molino Quaglia) nor the yeast, but focused «on the third element, the architect of the world: water». Removing it completely from the dough in its “standard” version, and using first tomato water, then a rosemary distillate, or lyophilised herbs to which he adds fresh herbs to add fibres before rehydrating everything. This resulted in different, original, aromatic types of dough: «Each time, the physical behaviour of the dough changes, as well as the rising, the hydration, the topping». Everything changes.

Piero Gabrieli with Heinz Beck

Piero Gabrieli with Heinz Beck

It is this total diversity that did not fully convince Bosco: «If the goal is to aromatise the dough, why change its structure, with the consequent problems that were mentioned? Wouldn’t it be simpler to aromatise just the water in which it is cooked, as with the bagel pizza technique?». (This was presented by Bosco himself at Identità Milano 2014 and then again last year: you boil the leavened dough in aromatised water, before finishing the cooking in the oven. In this way, it acquires the typical soft and doughy texture of bagels).

This was an enlightening sparkle of technical yet almost anthropological dialectics: considerations of two professionals who trained in two parallel universes with a thousand interconnecting points: they discussed methodological details influenced by their respective experience, but with a common objective, and finally speaking in the same language. This is (the merit of) PizzaUp.