Left to right, Portuguese chef José Avillez, Turkish Mehmet Gürs, Spanish Diego Guerrero and German Tim Raue, four of the international guests at Identità Milano 2019. All photos from Brambilla-Serrani
José Avillez, Diego Guerrero, Mehmet Gürs, Tim Raue. Respectively Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Turk. Four icons of the global culinary scene whom we had the pleasure and the honour to listen to at Identità Milano. Here’s a report on their talks.
José Avillez, 21 restaurants in Lisbon, Oporto and Dubai
Avillez: Portugal’s payback
Thirty-nine years old, 21 restaurants, 600 employees. The latest openings, Casa dos Prazeres and Rei da China, a restaurant with an Asian soul too, opened a few days ago in Chiado, the Lisbon neighbourhood he has colonised. If today’s global culinary maps consider him as the Portuguese Bottura, that’s because Avillez has «created new memories, telling new stories», the real leitmotiv of his lesson in Milan.
An impulse of pride that has driven out his people from their iconic shyness and reserve: «We were the ones to bring tempura to Japan, it needs to be said», he revealed. And it’s only one of the great contributions that Lisbon has given to the world. After all, «cooking and ingredients are constantly changing», he explained, «to the benefit of all of us». A brotherhood that allows him to use, on top of the local prawn and pork, even dashi and avocado, two of the endless techniques and ingredients that his people of seamen have imported from the old colonies. Portugal as a summary of the world, and a cradle for new memories. (Gabriele Zanatta)
Mehmet Gürs, 20 establishments in Istanbul
Gürs: good Turkish food
«Let’s greet our greatest sponsor: the earth». The person sending this greeting from the stage of Identità was Mehmet Gürs from Istanbul, Turkey. Earth (be it with a capital E, referring to the planet, or with a small one, indicating our fertile geological carpet, it doesn’t matter) is his main partner. But partners need looking after. And Mehmet does so.
For instance, he told of the time when a friend of his told him about a variety of wheat from Anatolia that was about to disappear and that was preserved by some heroic (or crazy?) farmers. «Do something», he urged him. And Mehmet took action with other Turkish chefs and now that magnificent neglected wheat is in the menus of the country’s best restaurants. «The other day I saw bread made with that wheat in a supermarket around the corner», he says delighted. Gürs cooks it as a quenelle with dried apricots and pistachios («You can’t do without them», says the Turkish chef). And also prepared tarhana, a dish made with dried cereals fermented in yogurt with chicken stock, octopus, cabbage preserved in vinegar and green plums.
«In this dish there are different moments in history, different regions, ethnic groups, different flavours and different ideas». Gürs is a humanist chef, he gives great importance to people. To him, suppliers are first of all human beings. For instance, he tells about a village where one started to produce berries, and then everyone followed him and finally the entire community focused on this entrepreneurial/artisanal idea and now if no one would buy those berries, the village would die. But this doesn’t mean that hanging on to the pure memory of the past is the only possible way. «The relationship between tradition and the need to question it is very delicate», Gürs said in the end. We can only agree. (Andrea Cuomo)
Diego Guerrero from Madrid
Guerrero: monologues on memory
Five dishes, each one with an ingredient, in three quarters of an hour, including videos. This was the challenge of Diego Guerrero, the bad guy (well not that bad, they draw him like that) of Spanish cuisine, who has redefined its borders by simply acting as if they didn’t exist. Difficult to define, he decides to tackle the theme of the congress, memory, through a strict and fierce journey, made of five monologues with only one ingredient. The goal is also to reduce waste, by using every part of every product.
He started with carabineiro, the sweet red prawn from the Atlantic waters, which is separated in every part and reassembled in a sort of tart. Then there was calamari, transformed into a pastry, fried, soft and elastic, served with a sauce made with the same ingredient, in which the pastry is dipped. And then: a rose of pimiento asado, made with grilled pepper, which at his restaurant Guerrero serves with lard, but in Milan he served it without. A solo of soft and sabroso cod hidden under a foam of the same ingredient. Finally, rice and milk, where the rice is fermented, almost like sake, and becomes a cream shaped with a mould to give the idea of rice grains. Five episodes in a compelling series. Five like the senses, all involved, with only the last one mentioned being taste, strange though it seems. (Andrea Cuomo)
Tim Raue, 45, from Berlin, 2 Michelin stars in his flagship restaurant in Berlin (37th in the World's 50 Best) and a third star at K by Tim Raue in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland
Tim Raue: fuck Instagram
With Tim Raue it was the debut on the stage of Identità Milano of a truly German chef (Heinz Beck is a frequent speaker but Italian blood has been running in his veins for a while), an important presence because Berlin, his hometown, is setting the most interesting trends and offering inspiration from the New German Cuisine. Let’s not forget, however, that TR is an ace of Asian cuisine, so much so that, he recalled in the Auditorium, he has «a beautiful memory of being interviewed by Zanatta, 12 years ago, when I was working at the Swiss Hotel. I told him that in 2018 I could imagine myself working in Singapore. It didn’t really go like that…». But his passion for Asia is always frenzied.
Better for him. Today, to the two stars for the flagship restaurant in Berlin he added one more star in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland. Not to mention all the other cutting-edge establishments he runs, a dozen in total. Raue is everything but a people-pleaser and has no interest in the dictatorship of social media: «Fuck Instagram, go out and eat». And cooks should also keep away from it: «I forced my cook to keep away from screens, from the temptation of copying colleagues: he cooks better now. Besides, good food is much trendier than good looking food. Who’s interested in a dish with the perfect shape these days?». Once again, long live taste. (Gabriele Zanatta)
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
This article is curated by Identità Golose, the publication that organises the international fine dining congress, publishes website www.identitagolose.com and the online Guida Identità Golose, on top of curating many other events in Italy and abroad