On being the right arm of Alléno

The story, career and ambitions of Martino Ruggieri, 30, the chef adjont at Pavillon Ledoyen

14-11-2016
In 2014 Martino Ruggieri, from Martina Franca (Tar

In 2014 Martino Ruggieri, from Martina Franca (Taranto), born in 1986, became part of the staff at the Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris (3 Michelin stars) after a long significant experience (among others, Villa Fiordaliso with Riccardo Camanini, La Pergola with Heinz Beck, l'Atelier with Joë Robuchon in Paris). He later became chef adjoint next to Yannick Alléno (in the photo, left to right, Ruggieri, Alléno and Gualtiero)

I first approached the world of cuisine when I was very young. I spent my days between school and a small pastry shop in Martina Franca, my hometown. I immediately fell in love with this profession learning the basics of traditional Italian pastry making from an old man.

I then continued with catering school in Castellana Grotte: I spent my spare time in a restaurant where I had the chance to meet a chef with international experience. Thanks to his stories and the experience of my brother, who’s also a cook, I learnt that the kitchen was to be my first home. Having completed my studies I started to gain experience away from home: in Sardinia, then Germany – an important step with chef Guglielmo De Bonis – then at hotel Cipriani in Venice and at Del Cambio in Torino.

After this period I arrived in a restaurant that was soon to become an important point of reference in my career: Villa Fiordaliso, beside Riccardo Camanini. It was a crucial time. I learnt to change my concept of cuisine which, in some ways, was still unknown to me. These were two intense years, during which I learnt many things and started to approach French cuisine thanks to Riccardo’s previous experience. It was he in fact who, at the end of this period, gave me the opportunity to go to France.

Brûlé grapefruit shell, hot sea urchin soup, crispy duck skin with foie gras en amertume and granita with iodine, a dish in the menu at Pavillon Ledoyen (photo Philippe Vaurès)

Brûlé grapefruit shell, hot sea urchin soup, crispy duck skin with foie gras en amertume and granita with iodine, a dish in the menu at Pavillon Ledoyen (photo Philippe Vaurès)

I believe Italian cuisine has nothing to envy to the French one, but I also think an experience in France must be a compulsory step in the training of a cook. I’ve always been fascinated by the culinary history of this country, by the impressive number of masters - Alain Chapel, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros dynasty – and by the great number of heirs they have. The show no sign of age whatsoever. I’m fascinated by their rigour and constancy, characteristics that are well marked in their DNA.

I start to work at Joël Robuchon’s Atelier. It’s very hard and completely different from my previous restaurants. The restaurant was then directed by one of Robuchon’s closest collaborators. This allowed me to acquire the real basics of French cuisine and understand the life and profession of a chef capable of managing many restaurants around the world, and all of the highest standards.

After this fantastic experience, I returned to Italy to Heinz Beck’s La Pergola and then at Cafè Les Paillotes, also under the supervision of the German chef. But I felt I needed to do something completely different so I left for Australia. I wanted to discover a new territory and ways of working. Sydney was a new world: I alternated periods of intense work to the discovery of new territories (New Zealand, Fiji…), rich of products worth researching.

ALLENO. I’ve been following the work and style of Yannick Alléno for a long time. When Camanini urged me to acquire new experience in France, one of the places where I would have liked to work was certainly Meurice, a hotel restaurant where at the time Alléno was working. But they didn’t accept my application and I chose Robuchon. After my trip to Australia, I applied for Pavillon Ledoyen right away.

Martino back in the days in Sydney
 

Martino back in the days in Sydney
 

In France and beyond, Alléno is associated to great rigour and to the excellence of Modern French Cuisine. He’s one of the most avantgarde and creative chefs. I love his philosophy of continuous evolution. One of the things that struck me the most, was the fact he revolutionised his way of cooking, a drastic change to the least, compared to the previous experience: no concessions to aesthetics but just absolute search for flavour and pleasure. With his modern cuisine he’s laying the foundations for a new French cuisine: new sauces, extractions, fermentations. I’m proud to be part of this ambitious project.

I’ve been working at Pavillon Ledoyen for over two years. I started as sous chef, I’m now chef adjoint. Besides the service, my main tasks include researching and developing new dishes and products. Every day is a different and exciting day. We have important goals. We spend a lot of time experimenting and testing with Alléno. The chef has a great palate and I believe this is essential: every time I ask him to taste something, he always knows what directions he should give me. We like to broaden our horizons. We don’t have any kind of limit and this is very stimulating.

His cuisine has a strong identity. It tries to be as original as possible but never forsaking taste.  I could say that it is here that I really began to cook, to have patience and take into consideration the time you need to make something new. Being beside a chef and a team like his is essential.

We’re now working on opening the new restaurant: works should end by September 2017. It will be a sensational restaurant.


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