Cook the Mountain for the future

Niederkofler summoned colleagues and experts to create a network of ideas... in the kitchen

Five of the chefs who participated in Cook the Mou

Five of the chefs who participated in Cook the Mountain a few days ago: Giorgio Ravelli, Rodolfo Guzman, Norbert Niederkofler, Ivan Milani and Giancarlo Morelli. Story (and photos) by Lisa Casali for Identità Golose

«Nature is messy, chaotic and dangerous, not just green, idyllic landscapes and beauty. Mountains are a hard to decipher ecosystem. Don’t stop in front of details, such as the name of a plant, or vague thoughts, but try to go in deep, try to understand biodiversity”. Forest scientist Mauro Tomasi, an expert in mountain flora exhorted us with these words at his debut at Cook the Mountain, a space for creative work so that friends, chefs and experts meet up and create new ideas around a sole common thought, that is to say the understanding, safeguarding and development of local biodiversity, starting from the very mountain habitats, unique places that share similar characteristics, criticalities, needs and unique products around the world.

Indeed we could analyse what’s happening in the world depending on altitude and we would find surprising analogies in terms of climate change, loss of biodiversity, ecosystem complexity but also unique culinary traditions.

Giancarlo Morelli in search of mountain herbs

Giancarlo Morelli in search of mountain herbs

The creator of Cook the Mountain is Norbert Niederkofler, patron chef at St. Hubertus (Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, in Alta Badia), a passionate, brilliant and radical supporter of local (and mountain in particular) cuisine, capable of summoning talents and creating networks with whoever shares his ideas. During these three days Norbert summoned friends in different professions such as chefs, producers, managers from important food and non-food companies, writers, designers, scientists, experts with the goal of letting new ideas emerge, a turning point to create global networks with very local positive impacts.

Alessandro Garofalo, founder at Idee Associate guided the brain storming sessions through a “multi level production”, that is to say a creative technique that facilitates group work by making ideas on different themes emerge, quickly and productively. Paolo Ferretti, founder at HMC, for many years beside Niederkofler and a promoter himself of this project, is instead in charge of transforming these ideas and thoughts into concrete projects. The ultimate goal is to share a new development model on a global scale, that will be socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sustainable starting from the very mountain communities of the world, from the Andes to the Rocky Mountains, from the Pyrenees to the Alps. The experience of course had to include food too, with a series of lunches and dinners prepared by multiple hands following this spirit of sharing and exchange of local products which where often picked by the chefs themselves at the back of the kitchen at Rifugio Graziani, at 2000 metres of altitude in Val Pusteria.

Niederkofler’s Enrosadira 2016 and Guzman’s trout

Niederkofler’s Enrosadira 2016 and Guzman’s trout

The chefs who participated, ambassadors of the Cook the Mountain philosophy around the world, are host Norbert Niederkofler himself, the author of memorable dishes such as the Agone in saor (it’s a mountain sardine), Raviolo with ricotta from Maso Brite, basil pesto, buttermilk and cheese crust, a very elegant dish with an almost impalpable pastry, the Head sandwich with mustard from Val Venosta and Enrosadira 2016, a tribute to the colours of sunset in a fresh and sour dessert, rich of nuances of flavours and colour; then Giancarlo Morelli (Pomiroeu – Seregno) an old friend and creator with Norbert first of Chef’s Cup and then of Cook the mountain and Care’s, picked wild cumin and yarrow flowers, both common in valleys and mountain fields, but which are rarely used in cooking. He used them as aromatic herbs for his Roe deer, pumpkin cream, red berries and crispy corn.

I observed as an intruder at the back of the kitchen as Rodolfo Guzman (Boragò – Santiago del Chile) smoked his trout, kneeling in front of the fire, using just instinct and his love for the wild as his instruments. The result: a perfectly cooked trout with the aroma of wood and freshly picked and toasted leaves.

Guzman smoking behind the shelter’s kitchen
Guzman smoking behind the shelter’s kitchen
Ivan Milani (Piano 35 – Torino) instead presented a dish with a romantic implication, Il tempo dalle uova d’oro [The age of golden eggs] that is to say the dish with which he asked his wife to marry him. The protagonists also included Thorsten Probost (Burg vital Resort – Lech, in Austria) and his heart of chamois paired with a crispy and aromatic stalk of braised cabbage, and Giorgio Ravelli (Brooksbys Walk – London) who ended the dinner with a soft fruit of the forest pudding inspired by London.

The dishes in the various meals were paired with biodynamic wines by Alois Lageder and wines by Ferrari. At the end of the three days, almost 300 ideas emerged, of which at least a dozen are worth pursuing. In order to follow their development keep an eye on this group of chefs and follow the next edition of Care’s which is to take place early next year.


Tecniche, ingredienti e iniziative della ristorazione attenta all'ambiente e agli ideali di Expo 2015, viste da Lisa Casali


Lisa Casali

Environmental scientist and sustainable cooking expert, she's the author of blog Ecocucina on D di Repubblica and of 5 books including “Tutto fa brodo”, "Autoproduzione in cucina" and "Cucinare in lavastoviglie"

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