One year after Gualtiero Marchesi passed away, his greatness leads us into the future

Paolo Lopriore, his favourite pupil: we must start from the decalogue he left us, and nourish the identity of Italian cuisine

02-01-2019

Paolo Lopriore and Gualtiero Marchesi

On December 26th 2017, Gualtiero Marchesi, the Maestro of Italian cuisine, passed away. One year later, we asked his favourite pupil Paolo Lopriore to tell us about his heritage, giving us a portrait that would recall his memory. Here’s what he said

One year without Gualtiero Marchesi. One year that flew by, with his image still strong... But I’m not surprised to feel he’s still beside me: I never thought he would be forgotten. Marchesi left us so much knowledge, that it’s as if he were still alive, as if he were still here with us.

The garland sent by his old pupils for his funeral

The garland sent by his old pupils for his funeral

I really got to know Marchesi one day when I had already been working at Albereta for 3 or 4 years. We left together from Erbusco, at 5 a.m. We were going to Brianza to see a barn. We wanted to buy a calf. Until then, I had never created a real relationship with him, but that occasion was perfect: the early morning, the idea, the trip together with a goal. Entering the barn, then the stamp, the fire, the man. A chef with a principle in his heart. It was on that occasion that I truly understood the essence of Marchesi. In other moments it wouldn’t have been easy: our profession must be respectful of silence.

Marchesi is part of the present and will be a part of the future too: together with the other teachers - I like to stress this – we’re trying to teach the students at Alma the decalogue he left us, his ten rules. We’re trying to offer them, through his words, a real creed for the cook. This is beautiful: we have 10 rules which together lead the way. It’s a strong message and we’ve giving ourselves the task of conveying it.

1. Being a cook is a profession, or better still it is a service, a ministerium.

2. The uniform, which needs to be candid, indicates his essential characteristics: honesty, cleanliness, respect.

3. The law of the cook is the recipe of which he is the perpetrator, reminding that any good execution requires some interpretation, which needs to be carefully dosed, not too much nor too little, and introduced with respectful discretion. Composers are a level above.

4. Three figures represent the different levels of experience and knowledge: executor, interpreter and composer.
In order to reach these goals, the cook has to master the techniques and must gain experience in all the stations: starters, first courses, meat, fish and pastry, even though later he will decided to work in the best possible way in one of these. 

5. One important element to enrich one’s gastronomic experiences is certainly understanding the places: water, earth, air, which preserve the memory of a territory giving substance and flavour to fruits and animals; inhabitants and climate, which they all need to face, inevitably.

6. The study of the food culture of other countries can contribute in forming a wider knowledge of the culinary art and its productions with different elements and content.

7. The skill of a cook is based on two pillars: understanding raw materials and the ways to process them, respecting their nature

8. Technical solutions and virtuosos require technical and material knowledge, in terms of conception and execution. Technique is the appropriate, controlled and non-destructive use of the most suitable tools for the process one is conducting, without killing the raw materials. 

9. With every preparation, a chef must know perfectly well what it is right to do: the cooking methods and timings, the exact temperature and, when necessary, the duration of the stabilization, as even rest is an important part of the procedure, just like a pause or silence in music partition. The final presentation depends on the choice of the most suitable container.

10. One of the tasks that do honour to the good cook is spreading and incrementing gastronomic culture, both teaching to eat well and in the correct way the food offered on the table, and training young people and passing the baton to those who deserve it, introducing them to gastronomic culture, which, when it is really the case, is an experience full of awareness, a research for constant enhancement and adaptation to life.


Paolo Lopriore, Gualtiero Marchesi and Paolo Marchi at Identità Milano

Paolo Lopriore, Gualtiero Marchesi and Paolo Marchi at Identità Milano

These words show why Gualtiero Marchesi is so current. A cook should not be interested just in cooking. In fact, the less he’s interested in cooking, the better he can be at interpreting something important. The decalogue sets rules we must follow – with regards to the uniform, for instance – and roles – like the cook-composer. In this way, it forces us to face a truth: not everyone can become a composer – he explains – there are simple executors and interpreters too. Everyone will have his role. This is beautiful. And reflects the nature of Marchesi, because this is what he was like: he was frank. Indeed, at Alma for the past month or so we’ve been trying both with professors of history and cooking, to explain, teach, give a framework for the decalogue, so that it can be applied by younger generations, by those who are now starting their careers. We’ve just begun, as I said: but I was extremely happy to perceive a huge enthusiasm since the first lesson.

Marchesi at Alma

Marchesi at Alma

It’s good, because Marchesi taught us what I call the profession’s realism. The essence of feeling a cook: when it gets into you, it makes you overcome every obstacle. You’ll fall and rise again, and run, and then fall again, and rise once more. You’re looking for a life with an uncertain outcome, and still you’ll always look for it. It’s a question of awareness, of strength. Work to observe. This is what sets apart the good professional from those who have that extra oomph: they keep feeding this constant curiosity for what it means to be a cook.

Marchesi with his three most famous pupils: Carlo Cracco, Enrico Crippa and Paolo Lopriore. Matteo Baronetto is the last to the right

Marchesi with his three most famous pupils: Carlo Cracco, Enrico Crippa and Paolo Lopriore. Matteo Baronetto is the last to the right

Today in Italy we still miss a firmer courage to make our gestures, our history current. We’re afraid we won’t stand the test with the global trends in cuisine. Instead – this is what Marchesi taught us – we should work on what we are, try to understand our real identity, instead of absorbing concepts that come from elsewhere. This is the energy, the weapon he has shown us. He has taught us that Italian cuisine has a structure that is so powerful it can even stand its decomposition. It’s a bit like that time when Marchesi decomposed lasagna, creating a masterpiece. He has proven, with his great work, that studying our nature can lead to extremely beautiful results, as Italian cuisine has profound roots.

Marchesi’s famous Raviolo aperto, a decomposition between raviolo and lasagna

Marchesi’s famous Raviolo aperto, a decomposition between raviolo and lasagna

So we must search for our essence; each one in his own way, each one with his role: a cook should be a cook, a waiter should be a waiter. Both professions offer so much, it’s best not to abandon their respective principles.

Instead, we must follow the road we have already taken, that of professionalism. And then we should all develop our style in the way we think best. In his view, a cook does not depend on an idea or gastronomic ideology, he has freedom of thought and creativity. But he also pointed out the elements that define a cook’s values. They’re in his decalogue and these are the values we want to teach our students. We’re gradually managing. This is the lesson I hold dearest.

Of course, this is a refined work that requires sensitivity. But it’s worth it. In this journey, our country can have, and discover within itself, a marvellous identity.

These concepts have been pillars in his life. A dish that I believe perfectly sums up his essence comes to mind: Sette penne, sette asparagi, venti grammi di tartufo nero. In this dish he gave value to pasta, that is to say Italy, of which pasta is an offspring and emblem, matching it with something precious. It was perhaps the first time such different elements were placed on the same level: a poor, everyday ingredient, and a rich one, even though he always said that in those days truffles were not that expensive.

Penne, asparagus and truffle by Gualtiero Marchesi. In the beginning, there were only seven penne...

Penne, asparagus and truffle by Gualtiero Marchesi. In the beginning, there were only seven penne...

I don’t feel I’ve inherited this work. I rather feel that I’m a person who must convey this concept. And I’m not alone in this: Alma welcomed me, this was essential. It was an act of courage too. It offered me the right stimuli to take part in their project, plus I always have Il Portico where I can let off steam...

One year after his death, I don’t feel I have any anniversary to celebrate, because he’s with me every day, in my memories. But I would like to create something on this day, December 26th, Saint Stephen’s; I’d like to present an idea that would be a homage to Marchesi and worthy of becoming a part of Italian tradition. And this too was in fact suggested by himself, who loved a double panettone. A cake, of course: with double candies, and smaller in size. A smaller panettone, but richer than the original one. Perfect for Saint Stephen’s (who is also the patron saint of my hometown, Appiano Gentile): a little is enough, there are no big meals that day, it’s even perfect for travelling... I think it could be a good idea: this year I haven’t managed, I hope to make it next year, with the help of the school.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

 

ALSO ON GUALTIERO MARCHESI:
Farewell to Gualtiero Marchesi, the Maestro of Italian cuisine passed away
by Carlo Passera
Marchesi, l'omaggio dei cuochi
by Gabriele Zanatta
Cracco e quella cena da Marchesi nell'85
by Paolo Marchi
Creating means not copying
by Paolo Marchi
My friend Gualtiero Marchesi – The first time at Bonvesin de la Riva...
by Toni Sarcina
Il mio amico Gualtiero Marchesi - Altopalato e la gran disputa sulle orecchiette
by Toni Sarcina
Il Maestro e gli allievi: Oldani, Cracco, Lopriore, Crippa, Canzian...
by Toni Sarcina
Eugenio Medagliani: il mio addio al caro Gualtiero​
by Eugenio Medagliani
The post-Marchesi phase has already began
by Paolo Marchi
Dove mangiava Gualtiero Marchesi
by Carlo Passera
Marchesi’s 85 candles
by Carlo Passera
L'umanesimo scientifico di Gualtiero Marchesi
by Giovanni Leone
L'ultimo saluto a Gualtiero Marchesi​
by Carlo Passera
Double interview with Marchesi-Santin
by Carlo Passera
Amarcord: quella volta che con Marchesi facemmo l'Europa a Tavola
by Toni Sarcina
Tutti gli allievi del Maestro


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