Paolo Griffa in Courmayeur, showing maturity

The young chef moved to Grand Hotel Royal e Golf two months ago. He already shows he’s at ease, confirming his talent

08-02-2018

Since the end of November, Paolo Griffa is chef at Grand Hotel Royal e Golf in Courmayeur

Photogallery

Our dinner at Paolo Griffa’s, in the photos by Tanio Liotta. We start with a long selection of appetisers. In this case, Trout marinated in beetroot juice
Savoury churros with squid ink
Fried bread and smoked eel
Cone of goat cheese and olives

Though still very young – he was born in Carmagnola, Piedmont, in 1991 – for some time now Paolo Griffa has shown signs he’s predestined. This can be something rather uncomfortable: he’s talented, aware of his skill, with excellent technique, ambitious and very competitive, both with himself and with the boundaries he meets on his tumultuous and clear journey of growth.

In the past few years we’ve seen him in the finals of the most important competitions – Bocuse d’Or, S.Pellegrino Young Chef, Premio Birra Moretti Grand Cru and so on: he’s always made a good impression, but without ever getting to the very top. A bad prejudgement burdened him: he appeared as someone who wanted to overdo. The kind of person who is perfectly prepared for a contest, studies every detail, analyses every possible unforeseen event, but then there’s someone beating him on the very finish line.

Grand Hotel Royal e Golf

Grand Hotel Royal e Golf

For all these reasons, when we learnt that they handed him the kitchen at Grand Hotel Royal e Golf in Courmayeur, which had already received a star with Maura Gosio, we rejoiced twice. First, because this hotel – famous, illustrious, read its story in the words of Paolo MarchiRoyal, il lusso a Courmayeur (in Italian) – had trusted a young and enthusiastic talent, thus distancing itself from the classic, retro gloss that seemed to have settled on its cuisine.

Second, because the role of head chef – a debut, and in a five star hotel too, a place where balancing creativity and dish structure, innovative touch and sound flavours are essential – would force Griffa to come to terms with his style in fieri. It would induce him to soften his desire to surprise, and quieten his sometimes-excessive audacity, focusing on the best balance. So it was a bet twice promising. The right person, at the right time, in the right place.

The dining room at Petit Royal, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant

The dining room at Petit Royal, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant

It’s two months since the debut in Courmayeur. Though too short a time for a comprehensive analysis, the road is clearly the right one. There’s more: it’s already surprising (or perhaps not: he’s a gem, after all) that in just a few weeks’ time the chef has had the Petit Royal – the Grand Hotel’s gourmet restaurant – make a turning point, marking its cuisine with his personality. Griffa has already been very good at designing a complete, original, authorial, convincing and even fun tasting menu. With remarkable features.

Paolo Griffa in 2015, at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef, where he won the Italian finals

Paolo Griffa in 2015, at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef, where he won the Italian finals

  1. The offer, putting aside the agile à la carte menu, includes some short tasting menus, four dishes based on a main ingredient. You choose what to eat (which depends on the season, on the market and on the chef’s whim: in our case ox from Carrù, mountain potatoes from Valle d’Aosta, capon from Morozzo, venison, lobster) and the chef will present different interpretations throughout the meal. Then, of course, there’s a sixth possibility as well, that is to say playing the “joker”, which gives freedom to Griffa to enjoy creating a best-of selection.
  2. The chef has already put the territory into focus, which in his case it’s a large wine and food area comprised between Valle d’Aosta and Langhe. For instance, it’s nice that he offers a series of tastings based on mountain potatoes. The venison comes from Kiuva d’Arnad, nearby, and the meat is very fresh; «once it’s finished, we’ll move to something else. Boar, for instance, or grey rabbits from Carmagnola». And then he adds his experiences around the world: a strong French note, and a tribute to Asia, «I love the cuisines of China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam…».
  3. The chef chooses complex flavours, mirrored in the service: inspired by a speciality typical of Pierre Gagnaire, almost every course is divided into various dishes, which appear on the table together or in a sequence, depending on their nature or on the choices made in the kitchen. This has its pros and cons: but it has a clear and well thought-of choice of style nonetheless.

The brigade on the snow

The brigade on the snow

Griffa is very demanding, as we mentioned. And he complains about some of the difficulties a fine dining offer faces in Courmayeur: «It’s hard to find a consistent vegetable supplier. It’s a paradox: I’m forced to buy vegetables from South Tyrol. I always say: “Bring what you have! 10 kilos of cabbage? Fine! Beetroot? OK! As long as the raw materials are high quality and fresh. It’s my job to use them in the best possible way». There’s also the issue of client seasonality, in the village and at the Grand Hotel too: «At the weekend, I could fill 80 tables, if I had them. During the week, instead, it’s all quiet».

However, one can already tell this challenge excites him, and is doing him good, as we mentioned. «At first, I wasn’t very sure. The owners called me once, twice, three times. I always said no. They finally convinced me to come and see the place. I arrived in the kitchen, and saw there was a useless wall that prevented a dialogue between the various lines. I told them and moved on with my visit. When I walked back 20 minutes later, the wall was no longer there. “To us, it’s important that you work well”, said patron Sergio Barathier». That’s when every doubt disappeared. (Our dinner, in the photo gallery by Tanio Liotta)
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Our dinner at Paolo Griffa’s, in the photos by Tanio Liotta. We start with a long selection of appetisers. In this case, Trout marinated in beetroot juice
Savoury churros with squid ink
Fried bread and smoked eel
Cone of goat cheese and olives
Moscow Mule in a sphere of white chocolate
Jerusalem artichoke wafers with hazelnut oil, lovely
Spheres of fontina
The delicious homemade bread, with mother yeast, whole-wheat flour and seeds
Shabu shabu with ox leg from Carrù, broth with Sansho pepper, rolled tongue in salmì with bagnetto verde, focaccia with olives. A great dish. Its elements also appear in the three following photos