Identità Milano 2015

a tasty intelligence


Pino Cuttaia's Cuttlefish egg

Pino Cuttaia's "Cuttlefish" egg

What do you ask of a chef? To be good. All the rest comes later. A chef needs to be good in studying his menu, good in proposing logical dishes because he’s facing a paying audience, good in doing the maths so as to get some results, not only following his dreams, good in understanding the evolution of taste and seasonality, good in surrounding himself with talented collaborators who will make his work stand out instead of mortifying it, good in admitting his mistakes and correcting them straight away, good in charming those who approach his cuisine and want to taste it but still don’t know if it’s worth it.

This, however, has always been the case. Times change, though. Each time interprets things according to the priority of that particular moment and the next edition of Identità Milano, from February 9th to February 11th at the MiCo – Milano Congressi in Via Gattamelata, will be no less so. We chose “A tasty intelligence” as the theme for the tenth edition because never as in a time of deep economic crisis as this, you need to be intelligent. And when I refer to intelligence, I don’t mean managerial skills or the capacity of seizing the moment and creating something new, a couple of dishes that would help balancing the books, perhaps something more commercial that would please everyone.

Quite the opposite: contemporary chefs need to be intelligent in combining flavours, costs, tastes and the client’s physical pleasure because it should be clear by now that a meal doesn’t finish with the last bite, but with digestion. Which should happen “unnoticed”. A dish cannot be just good, sometimes even excellent, but detached from any reflection on the evermore pressing request of health.

A new intelligence is necessary in the kitchen. One needs the capacity to safeguard memories and tastes, the capacity to use new combinations in order to innovate, to lighten fats and useless presences and highlight raw materials, scents, shapes, creative genius and assertiveness. Guests should leave with the satisfaction of having tasted a wide spectre of aromas, of having appreciated the most perfect textures, happy of being pleased and satisfied, but not heavy and bored. They need to remember a meal because of its qualities, not because it will take them hours to digest it. Even tradition needs to be served in a new way: after all, men and women have been the same for thousands of years and they still desire each other. This should be the case even with food, knowing how to renovate oneself, knowing how to think with intelligence.

Attention though: this is not the triumph of a vegetarian philosophy. A modern chef will be expected to offer health and physical and psychological wellbeing together with the hedonistic pleasure of eating well. Eating everything, even meat and fish but not in an indiscriminate way. Aside from those who really believe in the effectiveness of the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and one needs to respect them by avoiding any silly joke, the demand for harmony between man, pleasure and nature is such that health combined with taste will be increasingly important. In the same way as doctors are learning they don’t have to punish someone because they enjoyed themselves by eating or drinking, so restaurateurs are comprehending they cannot knock their guests out with the excesses that are due to ignorance. And in the same way as a doctor learns the importance of pleasure and of taste, so a chef needs to grasp the centrality of digestion and of the functioning of the human body. This is a Tasty Intelligence.

This new theme will illuminate an important edition of the Identità Golose congress, as the 2014 one will be edition number 10. This is a finish line, one would say, except it is not because we don’t feel we haven’t reached the end yet. Those who cross the finish line, relax and don’t work further. We, on the contrary, look forward to 2015 when, among other things, Milan will host the Expo, from May to October. Still, one cannot pretend not to feel something special. It’s a peculiar feeling, a mix of satisfaction, warmth, esteem, pride and even regret because in certain moments one could have done more and better, but these are things you only realise later. There will certainly be no self-celebration, in fact we will pay even more attention to creating a contemporary and concrete programme, with lots of substance and little useless glitter - following our mantra, that is to say taste.

We have always looked for taste, style, pleasure, substance, mouth-watering dishes, always taking care to avoid excesses, saying no to special effects that are an end to themselves – who would be interested in a fine looking yet tasteless and empty dish? But we’re also saying no to those dishes that seem to just narrow-mindedly accumulate ingredients without any taste-logic, just for the sake of feeding while avoiding any sort of reasoning that is tied to quality, just focusing on quantity.

We chose “A tasty intelligence” as our theme because clients are not only containers you need to fill, or chicken to pluck. What is needed is an all-comprising intelligence because health and pleasure start from the kitchen and go together in unison.

Paolo Marchi
Creator and curator of Identità Golose