What a lesson from Riccardo Camanini, 2017 chef of the year

With a pressed kidney and a soup, the chef from Brescia reduced the gap between fine dining and popular tradition

by Andrea Cuomo
Riccardo Camanini, 43, chef at Lido 84 in Gardone

Riccardo Camanini, 43, chef at Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera (Brescia). He captured the audience with two very symbolic recipes: Pasta risoni in a soup of pistachios and Kidney al torchio

“Scusate il ritardo” [Sorry I’m late]. By quoting Massimo Troisi, Paolo Marchi announced from the Identità Golose auditorium the winner of the 2017 Chef of the Year: Riccardo Camanini of Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera, on the Brescian banks of lake Garda. Late because this 43-year-old chef only recently arrived in a location where he can express his calm and visionary talent, escaping the cliché of being the most misunderstood chef in Italy, with all its set of typos and sufferance.

Now the time has come: Camanini is perhaps the most appreciated chef among his colleagues, the man with whom everyone would like to share opinions on ingredients and ideas. His restaurant is constantly sold-out, with endless waiting lists also thanks to his moving prices. However, he doesn’t stop. For instance, he’s thinking of how he can create a better dialogue between dining room and kitchen. Some things he’s doing already. Some others he’ll invent later on.

From the stage Caminini captures the audience with two unusual dishes and not in terms of complexity or bizarre elements but because of the powerful idea and the clean implementation. His journey in time goes back to over two centuries ago, to the days of Marcus Gavius Apicius, his sauces, honey, the cooked must, the guts used to transport food in lack of other tools.

Camanini, Chef of the Year , with Paolo Marchi and Gian Luca Uccelli of Contadi Castaldi

Camanini, Chef of the Year , with Paolo Marchi and Gian Luca Uccelli of Contadi Castaldi

We start with soup. Yes, a simple soup, with rice but without broth, no sucking please, covered with a pesto of Sicilian pistachios and tomato water, with tomato water from marinda green tomatoes, and a drop of oil from Lebanese cedar that captures the eye. And now, try and associate soup with hospitals.

Then Caminini with his 20 or so year old bright collaborator Gilles (“it may sound French but he’s from Bergamo”) works with veal kidney: he sears it, extracts the blood with a press and adds it to some guinea fowl jus, a reduction of old Marsala, groppello vinegar, shallot, honey, mustard, anchovy colatura and perhaps something else we’ve forgotten. And with this primordial sauce he seasons a kidney steak tartare. Last touch, some sprinkled crispy Nebbiolo skins. The gap between fine dining and popular cuisine shortens in the course of a lesson.

At the end, he points out that most of the people working in his restaurant – currently 17 – are hired. "Giving trust and at the same time tying the guys with a stable project is essential. Everyone benefits". Sustainability and far sightedness.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso