Matias Perdomo: enhancing the complexity of the Human Factor

Together with Simon Press, he’s chef of the year for Identità’s 2018 Guide. His take on the theme of the new congress

by Niccolò Vecchia
Matias Perdomo, from Montevideo. Almost 20 years s

Matias Perdomo, from Montevideo. Almost 20 years spent in Milan, where he brought Pont de Ferr to a Michelin star and then opened Contraste with partners Thomas Piras and Simon Press

One of the warmest applauses welcomed them on the stage of the presentation of the Guida ai ristoranti di Identità Golose, 11th edition: Matias Perdomo and Simon Press, the soul of Contraste’s kitchen in Milan, were voted bests chefs of 2018. The pair – together with third founder and maître, Thomas Piras – have long been among the most beloved people in Milan’s culinary scene; even by their colleagues, who acknowledge not only their talent, but their friendliness and humanity.

So of course we had to ask Perdomo – who recently reconquered a very well deserved Michelin star with his partners – his opinion on the "Fattore Umano", the Human Factor, the theme chosen by Paolo Marchi for the 14th edition of Identità Milano (to take place from the 3rd to the 5th of March). Matias is always the same: despite being shy and disliking public appearances, he has clear views and always expresses them in a strong and straightforward way.

Matias Perdomo and Simon Press get the best chef of 2018 award from Elisabetta Serraiotto, marketing and communication manager at Consorzio Grana Padano 

Matias Perdomo and Simon Press get the best chef of 2018 award from Elisabetta Serraiotto, marketing and communication manager at Consorzio Grana Padano 

«I love this theme chosen by Paolo – he says immediately – and you know why? Because I’m convinced we need to discuss this, perhaps even starting from the fact that this is not a good moment for the human factor. In fact, I’d say the situation is critical».

What do you mean?
I’m not speaking of the culinary industry per se, but of life in general and the relationships we all have. I often think everything gets summed up in a slogan, there’s little honesty. Friends we have on Facebook are more important than those with whom we grew up, we struggle to look into each other’s eyes. Sometimes I feel empathy is something rarer and rarer. As days go by, it’s always harder to share difficult moments, suffering. See, in order to give value to the human factor, I think we must also stress negative aspects, the superficiality surrounding us. Culinary speaking, instead, of course at Contraste we have focused everything on human relations.

Perdomo and Press at work in the kitchen of Contraste

Perdomo and Press at work in the kitchen of Contraste

It’s true. You’ve put guests at the heart of your project from the very first day...
We started from our wish to understand ourselves, so that our guests could then understand us. The key is to make sure the chef is not the protagonist, and this is also why I never leave the kitchen during the service: because I believe it’s important that people who dine at our restaurant, and decide to spend their money here, are the protagonists in every sense. 

Not an easy task, is it?
With Contraste we chose to make our lives harder, and we’re happy we did! We took a risk: not focusing on the chef’s visibility, avoiding every form of egocentricity, aiming for a dialogue with our guests, so that they could enjoy themselves. Even though it would have been easier, I’m not interested in presenting a menu that only represents me, what I can do, what I think is good for you. What’s complicated is that the outcome doesn’t only depend on us: the guest too must be open and ready for this game. It’s a human relation. And again, the human factor is something beautiful, but also complex, difficult. This applies to every relationship, to friends, family. You must always appreciate the people in front of you, their complexities, their virtues and faults.

Thomas Piras, in the middle, leads a meeting before service

Thomas Piras, in the middle, leads a meeting before service

For those in your profession it’s not so easy to set egocentrism aside. What is the greatest source of satisfaction coming from this?
In this case too, we didn’t take the easiest road. ThomasSimon and I wanted to share this adventure completely, so my name doesn’t appear in the restaurant’s sign. I’m really grateful to Paolo and all the team at Identità Golose for the award you gave us and for understanding that Simon Press has been a pillar for our offer, since the days of Pont de Ferr. On the stage, he said he’s "the dark side" of Contraste: for me, he’s most of all the person who keeps my feet on the ground, who makes sure I always put all my energy and reinvent everything every day. Then there’s Thomas, who can give value to our work with his elegance and intelligence, and who represents the most rational component of our team. 

Does this complete sharing also imply some drawbacks?
It sure does. It takes us longer, and more work, to make decisions. If you impose your ideas on the others, it’s faster, isn’t it? Leaving the “I decide, I do” mentality wasn’t easy. Now I must evaluate every choice with them. For instance, they’ve been opposing my idea of buying a new machine for the kitchen for two years now. I’d love to have it, but then it’s Simon who would have to use it, because I’m terrible with technology! But it’s okay. We’re a nice team. We can still grow a lot, by getting to know each other even more. In other words, by developing our human factor. 
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

See also:
The human factor and the dignity of people by Massimo Bottura
Corrado Assenza: The 'fattore umano' in all my speeches at Identità
Camanini: the Fattore Umano è alla base della storia del Lido 84
Disfrutar: the success of a restaurant starts from the Human Factor



IG2018: il fattore umano

Tutto sull’edizione 2018 di Identità Golose, a Milano da sabato 3 a lunedì 5 marzo. Il tema della quattordicesima edizione sarà “Il fattore umano”