My days at Identitŗ and the importance of the dining room

Three days spent in apnoea, always in a hurry and paying attention to everything. My 2018 oscar goes to the lessons on service

12-03-2018

Monday 5th March, Josep Roca (Celler de Can Roca), Will Guidara (Eleven Madison Park) and Laura Price(World's 50 Best Restaurants) speak of dining room service at Identità Milano. Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana), Matteo Lunelli (Cantine Ferrari) and Paolo Marchi were also in the panel moderated by Federico De Cesare Viola (photo Marchi)

It’s always hard for me to speak of my experience at Identità. My experience is like no other, given I am both the creator and curator of the congress. This means I have to run all over the place, be where I’m needed, for instance to give awards, participate in meetings, greet people, all this while keeping an eye on the schedule – a delayed flight is enough to change everything and my most precious collaborator, my guardian angel Giulia Corradetti is always ready to update me. I’d like not to hear from her for 72 hours. It would mean everything is ok, no hiccups whatsoever.

My greatest regret, as one can easily understand, is that I cannot attend all the lessons and all the activities in the booths. This I managed only the first time, in January 2005, when at Palazzo della Borsa in Piazza Affari in Milan we only had one room, and there was a total of 18 speakers, 9 on the first day, 9 on the second.

As for the exhibitors, there were twenty or so. I remember I said goodbye to each one of them at the end. The following year we had an extra day and Dossier Dessert in a room on the floor below. And moving around, given the amount of participants, was never easy. I believe the words I pronounce the most are excuse me, please and thank you. At every edition, no exception.

I’ve come to accept this. Yet it’s always sad to miss this or that moment. This is also because many don’t understand that if I’m not sitting in the front row, it’s not out of spite. It’s always out of necessity. There are countless concurring events, and my role allows for no break. During the three days of the Identità I walk so many kilometres from one end to the other of the congress centre in Via Gattamelata, and there’s hardly time to relax and perhaps eat something nice, and drink a glass of good wine. 

I literally don’t have the time. I’m always in a haste. And this means everything is going well.

I get into the congress mood early in the week. It’s as if I were in apnoea. If I pay attention to something distant, it’s only to distract myself. This year even more so. Identità 2018 started early, between Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd of March, with the latest competition in which we took part. We were afraid of the bad weather – it’s always snowing on the eve of the event – and of the concurring elections on Sunday 4th of March. This complicated our schedule, but there were so many participants, and of such high quality, that we often forgot about this.

Serena Serrani prepares the Leonardian background for the official photos at Identità Golose 2018

Serena Serrani prepares the Leonardian background for the official photos at Identità Golose 2018

There are three versions of Identità: there’s the congress itself, in the different halls; the exhibition area, richer and livelier each year, and all that happens in town at lunchtime, and especially in the evening, in restaurants and the like. There’s the same atmosphere you’d find in the autumn in San Sebastian, when you just had to be at Mejor de la gastronomia, later Gastronomika, ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Identità no longer belongs to its organisers. It no longer belongs to my friend and partner Claudio Ceroni, with whom we constantly exchange ideas, and I. It belongs to all those who follow it and enjoy it, not just during these three days late in the winter.

There’s the website, the guide, the newsletters, as well as the events and competitions for chefs and pastry chefs. Plus there’s the new and exciting project of the international gastronomic hub in Via Romagnosi. We’ll be based at Fondazione Feltrinelli and this is enough to get an idea of the power and importance of what lies ahead of us.

Responsibilities increase daily, as well as in view of edition number 15. The Human Factor, the theme of 2018, was appreciated in all its energy both by speakers and public. Each gave their interpretation. Nobody was cold about this theme that puts man at the heart of everything.

Roberta Pezzella and Papoula Ribeiro, the ladies of bread, the former Italian, the latter Brazilian

Roberta Pezzella and Papoula Ribeiro, the ladies of bread, the former Italian, the latter Brazilian

One last note to answer the question I’m asked every time the curtain falls: Paolo, what did you like the most? The answer is: everything that had to do with service and dining room. On Sunday, a whole day dedicated to discussing the topic from multiple points of view; on Monday, the long and thrilling moment with Massimo BotturaWill GuidaraLaura Price and Josep Roca. Enough self-pity and complaining that most people want to become chefs. It leads to nothing. Tears and complaints have never solved a problem.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso