Cannavacciuolo, the motivator

After the show at the Stadio Olimpico, the chef tells us about this new dimension of his. Between stove and training

26-04-2016

Antonino Cannavacciuolo, patron at Villa Crespi in Orta San Giulio (Novara), 2 Michelin stars, portrayed last 19th April at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The chef from Vico Equense, born in 1975, founded the Cannavacciuolo Academy, a training firm that teaches aspiring cooks how to become “perfect restaurateurs" (photo by Carlo Lannutti for cucina.corriere.it)

You should have already read the news: last 19th April Antonino Cannavacciuolo, chef at Villa Crespi and very popular on television, held a lesson at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Not the classic cooking lecture but an 8-hour culinary-training-motivational show, capable of attracting an audience of 1,400 swooning people to the Tribuna Monte Mario, willing to spend 97 euros (full price ticket), with peaks of 247 (for the “VIP experience”: seat in the first row, lunch break and selfie with the chef) and 35 euros (student concession).

A day conceived by the Cannavacciuolo Academy, «An activity», as stated in the online claim «that aims at conveying successful examples and help other entrepreneurs build they enterprise in an effective and profitable way». «A sort of Cucine da Incubo with the cameras turned off», effectively sums up the chef from Vico Equense, when we phoned him in his headquarters in Orta San Giulio, in that short break between saying goodbye to the guests at the end of the lunch and preparing for the dinner service.

What’s the idea behind the Academy?
Ever since I’ve started working on TV, more and more restaurateurs ask me how to solve the problems in their firm. The most frequent issue is related to the staff: motivating them, finding the right maître, which school to attend... The requests had become so persistent that the 4 collaborators I had working on the phone especially for this were no longer enough. So I took a further step with the guys from consultancy and training firm Osm, with whom I’ve been working for over a decade. 

November 2015, Sheraton Malpensa, the chef holds his first fine dining, training and motivation meeting. 1,200 people come running

November 2015, Sheraton Malpensa, the chef holds his first fine dining, training and motivation meeting. 1,200 people come running

Why at the Stadio Olimpico?
I saw a football match played by Roma with Cucine da Incubo’s director of production. We met the stadium’s manager. That’s where the idea was born. I must say we did a similar show at the Sheraton hotel in Malpensa, last November. Except it didn’t have the same echo as the stadium. But even then, 1.200 people came running.

Did you tell about your famous dishes?
No, no Liquid endive salad or Linguine baby calamari and bread sauce. I invited the audience to focus on four concepts, rather than specific recipes. First concept: observing a fresh ingredient under a new light. For instance the mayonnaise made with octopus water and cooked octopus vegetables. And potatoes: even the peel is edible. Hence comes the idea of the bin.

That is to say?
At the end of the day, chefs must get used to observe the food waste bin. The ideal one is empty. If you cook all you normally discard, you save 10 euros a day. This is the real profit for a company and a chef, the thing that allows one to go on holiday. I’m not interested in teaching you how to make a soufflé, you can learn that from a cookbook.

Like your latest publication?
Yes, I transcribed “50 recipes from South to North” but even in this case I tried to go beyond the ingredients and the method. The title is in fact “Il piatto forte è l'emozione” [Emotion is the meaty bit]. If you don’t set your mind on giving that, even the most perfect dish in the world won’t work.

Cannavacciuolo is the chef of the year according to the 2013 Guida di Identità Golose (photo by Brambilla/Serrani)

Cannavacciuolo is the chef of the year according to the 2013 Guida di Identità Golose (photo by Brambilla/Serrani)

What are the other 3 concepts you covered at the Olimpico?
The second was an invitation to always interpret a recipe personally, even the most banal-looking ones. For instance with Pennette cream and prosciutto, by adding gorgonzola. Or the more evolved Conchigliolini filled with celery and apple centrifuge juice. With the third concept I invited to associate seemingly contrasting flavours, with a Salad of Belgian endive vacuum stewed for hours, then tossed in the pan adding a reduction of orange and red mullet. The sweet, the bitter, the sour and the sapid. Fourth concept: how to handle the growing crowd of clients allergic to eggs and milk. I cooked some Mango ravioli filled with a lime cream plus carrot sauce.

You were not alone on stage.
I had four more motivators beside me, who covered different themes: recognising and motivating talents, making a brand recognisable, using social networks effectively. The last speaker, Bruno Bruni, explained how to deal with 5 different types of clients, including the pain in the a***.

Will the next stop be at the San Paolo stadium in Naples?
I wish. I don’t think so though, because I’ve learnt the event is most effective if organised in a closed space like the one in Malpensa. People are more focused, there’s less of a show-effect and more substance. The only benefit of the stadium is for my body: last week, when I returned home, I felt I’d lost 30 kilos.

Another pic from the Stadio Olimpico. The chef’s stardom began in 2013 with Cucine da Incubo (as of this year on Deejay Tv-Nove), the Italian version of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, now in its fourth season (photo by Carlo Lannutti for cucina.corriere.it)
 

Another pic from the Stadio Olimpico. The chef’s stardom began in 2013 with Cucine da Incubo (as of this year on Deejay Tv-Nove), the Italian version of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, now in its fourth season (photo by Carlo Lannutti for cucina.corriere.it)
 

Have TV and shows changed your cooking too?
Of course. They necessarily have a very positive influence: Thanks to Masterchef I constantly discover new ingredients. Within 40 episodes of Cucine da Incubo I had to learn to make 15/16 dishes every 5/10 minutes. They force me to think all the time. And I also think better because I no longer smoke, I drink two glasses of wine per day at most and no spirits. So I cook better.

Are you often in Villa Crespi?
Always. In fact I could delegate some of the work thanks to the 20 cooks I have in my team. But I don’t do it because I love being in the kitchen. It’s my gym, my favourite form of relax.

You never rest, in other words.
I’ll have plenty of time once I’m dead.


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Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, he's been working as a co-author and coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since the first edition (2007) and is a contributor for several on and offline magazines. twitter @gabrielezanatt