A training ground for the dining room, in memory of Frank

Giuseppe Palmieri explains his project, in honour of Rizzuti. He will present it at Arrabbiatissima

01-04-2016
Dining room and kitchen on the same level. And a

Dining room and kitchen on the same level. And a "training ground" so as to make it possible for the former to rise to the level of the latter, which in Italy is of the highest standard. This is the message Giuseppe Palmieri is to send during Arrabbiatissima, the festival scheduled in Modena on Sunday 3rd April. Here’s a preview for Identità Golose

[To find out more about Arrabbiatissima, on the 3rd of April in Modena, and discover why lots will be said on dining room service, read this post which Giuseppe Palmieri wrote a few days ago. He spoke with such passion it was pointless for a journalist to create a thread in his words. So here we have, simple and clear, Palmieri’s words. (Carlo Passera)]

Arrabbiatissima is first of all a feast, not the first one we’ve organised at Da Panino, and all the others have had a good success. In this case, however, going beyond the pleasure of being in good company and the fun challenge characterising the event, we wanted to do something different: we wanted to attract the attention of our public to a theme I hold very dear, that of the dining room. It is today a much-debated issue, whose importance has emerged, also thanks to you at Identità Golose presenting its stories, or to the others who show their awareness though in a different way.

"The best of" the dining room staff at Francescana

The great Italian opportunity – It’s incredible how the growth of Italian chefs has today become a clear reality. Thing is, we’ve pointed everything on them, neglecting the dining room. Many restaurateurs write to me saying they find it hard not so much to find good service personnel, but to find personnel of the same standards as the chef. This is the real gap: since Italian kitchens have so many talents, the lag in the dining room stands out even more. This incongruity is very negative: a great dish ending in the hands of a person who is not capable of metaphorically matching its weight in the dining room is like having a missing link. Dish and service, kitchen and dining room should instead be on the same level. Today we have the greatest kitchen in the world, but the French dining room service is still the best. To make up for it, on the other side of the Alps the kitchen has gone missing. We must do better in compensating this lack in the dining room than what the French might do to find a solution to their difficulties in the kitchen: I wouldn’t like to find myself, in a while, to have to deal with a new generation of chefs form France supported as always by a perfect dining room. With us behind, once again. Please, no.

Mania of grandeur? – I realise a misunderstanding could arise. And a danger emerge. Some may suspect: could it be that behind all this talking about the dining room there are personal ambitions? That is to say, the person animating the discussion doing it for self-centred reasons? Because he envies the fame of the chefs and wants to be on the same level just out of vanity, in search for the spotlight to illuminate him with the same intensity? Let’s make one premise right away: even in these hard years for the dining room service, champions such as Alessandro Pipero, Marco Amato, Alberto Tasinato have emerged… See: we want that in the next few years many will become not like Carlo Cracco, but like Alberto Tasinato. This is when we’d like to see the spotlights; and in the future we’d like to have on stage at congresses like Identità, next to the chef, his dining room colleague. This is not to give importance to the person but to the role. To give credibility to the work done every single day. And with the same logic, we’d like critique, which today is only focused on the food, to pay equal attention to the service.

Frank Rizzuti

Frank Rizzuti

A new, different school – What I’ve just said is important yet not new: many words have already been said. I now want to move to facts. That is to say create something new. We already have excellent schools teaching cooking and service, like Alma, Noidisala… I don’t want to propose a double, I don’t want a school, but a training ground. As a dining room professional I believe study, theory count for 25% of the total, while 75% is made by daily practice. Only the latter can make one understand how things work and how to deal with difficulties, the necessary approach. I’m thinking of courses with 3 or 6 months of classes (the first pilot group will have 10 people for 3 months) immediately followed by work experience, on all levels: you can work in a pizzeria with the Salvo brothers or in a big ice cream laboratory, next to a fisherman like Uliassi. It doesn’t matter: it’s the general experience that becomes professionalism. I believe that those who complete such a journey can have excellent job opportunities right away because – one must always remember this, especially when the balances in Italian haute cuisine are often not that nice: in a restaurant it is the dining room that keeps the numbers in order, not the kitchen.

The right reward – Speaking of money one needs to say that from now on, we also need to reward, money-wise, those working in the dining room. As I said, many contact me. Among them, many are looking for a lad to smite and pay little. Sent on the ring without preparation, so he make do. See: we need to start to look at the training of the dining room staff with different eyes: everyone needs economic reward, or else they’ll take a plane to London or Dubai as soon as possible. It is not by chance that in these places the best dining rooms have Italian protagonists.

How long does it take? – Putting chef and maître, sommelier and chef de partie, cook and waiter on the same level... It seems a gigantic challenge, one requiring years and years, at best. I’m convinced of the contrary: the road we’ll take to catch up will be fast because the system is ready. I remember the first Identità Milano, 12 years ago: the picture was different. Foundations needed to be built, it was necessary to induce Italian cuisine to take on a new journey. It took time. We now already have the foundations, history is already written, it just needs to be resumed: this will allow us, in a few years’ time, to find the missing link.

Massimo & Giuseppe

Massimo & Giuseppe

In the name of Frank Rizzuti – I wanted to dedicate this school-laboratory of mine to Frank Rizzuti. I met him during the last years of his life. He was from Basilicata, like me, he came from a land which is – they say – the perfect place to start a failure. I love Basilicata, it’s an extraordinary region; but it’s also tremendously motionless, where the culture of complaint triumphs. This is why, at 18, I decided to leave; and for the same reason I valued very much someone who, like Rizzuti, bravely chose to stay and try to accomplish his dreams as a visionary with open eyes. Even though he was surrounded by no-men. Well, he’s made it, because he was a determined person, even though he paid a big price for his rebellion to the culture of resignation: if only they had diagnosed in time the illness that took him away, instead of wasting a year… So it’s right that, following his example, the school I have in mind will be dedicated to him.

Bottura and I – The dining room exists for the kitchen, not so that we can have a separate stage. A restaurant has a meaning if it is guided by a great chef; he’s the protagonist, while the dining room must be on the same level but only to second dutifully the excellence of the dishes. And you can do so only by being aware of your role, which is functional and coordinated, not subordinate. I believe I can refer to Massimo in the same way, that is to say in the way I find most correct: he’s a genius expecting a lot, it’s often hard to be beside him. But you need to make an effort and I make it every day.

In Modena, as of January – The school dedicated to Frank Rizzuti will open in January 2017, in Modena. It will be a private school, you’ll need to pay fees, but those who’ll prove to have passion and determination won’t need to pay a cent. Come on, we can make it!


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