Alfio Ghezzi’s flight over the Alps

A vocational crisis led the chef from Trentino to take an incredible paragliding trip. He returned with a new energy

18-01-2017

Alfio Ghezzi, chef at Locanda Margon in Trento, in a picture from August, taken during the “Attraverso... senza lasciare tracce” trip, 900 km on foot or paragliding between Trento and Alpe d'Huez, in France, following a vocational crisis. The chef from Trentino will open "Identità di Montagna" on Monday 6th March at 10, in Sala Blu Uno (photo Waldner)

The topic of the 13th edition of Identità Golose is the journey. Among the one hundred chefs or so scheduled to speak in Milan from the 4th to the 6th March 2017 there’s one who last summer covered 550 km on foot and 350 paragliding. A trip that started on the 2nd August from the restaurant where he’s the chef, Locanda Margon in Trento, and ended 18 days later at Alpe d’Huez in France, already the location of some of the greatest enterprises in the Tour de France.

Ghezzi’s alpine journey included Plan de Corones, lake Como, the upper valley of Lario, Bellinzona, Airolo, Valais up to Martigny, Chamonix, Albertville. «The last stop was meant to be at Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo», says the chef, «but the weather in the last few days wasn’t in my favour».

How did you get the idea for this project?
It started from a professional crisis. Last year I lost my motivation. People believe we’re very creative people who go on looking for products and recipes to develop. Yet chefs these days don’t just think of cooking: they must take care of logistics, management, communication... Many demanding tasks that overcome cooking itself. At one point, I succumbed to all the pressure. And the alienation of respecting every day the rhythm of serving two meals without showing any tiredness in front of the guests. I needed new stimuli. The extraordinary Lunelli family (the owner of Cantine Ferrari, editor's note), understood and in fact supported my project.

Why paragliding?
I come from a sporty family and mountain is a part of me. My brother is an Alpine guide. Together, we’ve always climbed, ascended waterfalls of ice, worn skis and telemark skis. I try to run for at least an hour every day, and in the summer and spring, if I don’t have any engagement on my free day, I ascend high up. Last June, starting from Val Pusteria, I spent 10 hours and 20 minutes in the sky, flying for 270 km. I decided I wanted to spend more time flying, so this is how the “Attraverso... senza lasciare tracce” project was born.

The equipment used by Ghezzi on the trip

The equipment used by Ghezzi on the trip

Why this name?
I wanted to convey the territory the way I had received it. By walking and flying, with a minimal and discreet contact. I chose a slow approach, what with silences and contemplation, the same attitude I foudn in the people I met in the alpine huts or at the camp. Mountain people are simple and very rich: they always surprise you with just a few words.

Has there been any critical moment?
At one point my wife joined me by car because I had a problem with blisters on my feet. She gave me all I needed to continue. Then in Martigny I had to descend with strong yet manageable wind. But the worst moment was when I learnt of Uli Emanuele and Alexander Polli, the two base jumpers who died while flying on the 18th and 22nd August. Those were terrible days. I felt very sad. Luckily the thrilling moments outnumbered the critical ones by far: I’ll always remember the fantastic flight from Predazzo to the field in front of Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano. I descended to say hi to my friend Norbert [colleague Niederkofler].

What was it like to be back at work?
The crisis was over. I returned with lots of energy and a new vision of my profession. And also with a renewed concept of cuisine, which is now simpler, more straightforward and immediate. I also realised I’m increasingly interested in special projects, that go beyond fine dining per se but include safeguarding the territory. I’ve always thought of mountain and cooking as two prima donnas, both always having the highest expectations. I’ll try to maintain this bigamy as long as possible.

A few weeks ago Locanda Margon was awarded with a second Michelin star: «We had already raised our ambition standards a couple of years ago», explains Alfio Ghezzi, here in the kitchen in the photo by Eugenio Luti
 

A few weeks ago Locanda Margon was awarded with a second Michelin star: «We had already raised our ambition standards a couple of years ago», explains Alfio Ghezzi, here in the kitchen in the photo by Eugenio Luti
 

In Milan you’ll open the day dedicated to mountain cuisine.
I’ll bring two dishes. The first is based on yak: I’ll try to promote a lesser known meat, produced by a breeder fully focused on ethics and territory. The second dish will be a reflection on the concept of microclimate. Because, it’s true there are often big differences in the cuisine of nearby regions. However, it’s also incredible to notice that there are similar recipes in countries that are very far apart but are extremely close “vertically”, that is to say in terms of altitude.

Can you give an example?
I’ll present a tartiflette at Identità. I tasted an extraordinary one in Chamonix, Haute Savoy, on the trip. It’s a dish made with potatoes, cheese and mint and cooked in butter aromatised with onion. In Friuli there’s Frico, in Trentino there’s Patate Rostide. The recipes are very similar, the result of similar microclimates, like where I live.


Sections

Zanattamente buono

Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world