Massimiliano Alajmo at Identità on the road
Here are the thoughts of Massimiliano Alajmo, as told during the chat we had during the masterclass for Identità on the road (where you can see him prepare two dishes, Soup of almond milk with plum oil and oysters, scallops and chanterelle mushrooms, dedicated to Corrado Assenza, and Puffed ravioli with coffee and star anise with turnip tips and capers, dedicated to the late Gianni Frasi. But we'll return on this soon).
A COOK STARTS FROM A FAILURE - «A cook starts from a failure: raw materials have already an absolute value, I believe. To us, an apple is something untouched; it already has endless potential of its own. Our attempt therefore is to enhance one or a few of these features; never all of them, it's impossible. Our goal, in other words, is to make people understand the overall beauty starting from a detail, and feed on this secret. It's the same with photographers: they choose a point of view, start from that and then tell us something wider that we could not see otherwise ».
INGREDIENTS - «I was saying that ingredients already have their potential in them. For us "ingredients" means the penetration of the matter, it comes from the Latin word ingrĕdi, "enter inside". We experience this concept in our daily approach to raw materials: research often leads us to learn unexpected things, unforeseen reactions. We always find, inside raw materials, a world and a hidden truth. We discover an exterior and an interior: like essential with oils, which are the animating part, they were once called "spirits", like the result of a distillation. This wasn't a coincidence. This deep awareness was gradually diluted, but it's still our focus: "listening" to raw materials and working with them offers us the opportunity to better understand ourselves and the world».
CHEF OR COOK - «How would I define myself? This is the boundary: I prefer to be referred to as a cook, rather than a chef. I like to be in contact with raw materials because I like to use my senses. I want to reach the sixth sense, the following sense, which leads to understand a new dimension».
ALAJMO IN EVERY LEVEL - «Cooking is simply cooking. There's no such thing as a high, medium and low level: when we work with a so called "ideology", this can be interpreted in every level. It will always have its dignity. Of course, it's difficult, but not impossible. Our first attempt in this sense was Amor (See All about Amor, the awaited debut of the Alajmos and Philippe Starck in Milan), a format that we have now fine-tuned, but Milan is not ready yet, given what it's going through. But we'll take care of this project, we'll make it grow: we want to approach young people. We don't aim to build a future, but a present. And then there's Hostaria in Certosa in Venice (see Hostaria in Certosa, the new pop-up restaurant of the Alajmos in Venice): born as a reaction to a very difficult situation caused by the pandemic, it led to excellent results. We will invest more on this concept [in the meantime, Hostaria in Cortina was also born, see The Alajmos open the winter version of Hostaria in Cortina)».
FEED YOUR THOUGHTS - «As we said, there's no such thing as the cooking, which implies nourishment, for the body as well as for the spirit, the intellect. I believe this is its meaning. After all, the greatest gastronomic experience is our first flavour, the one we taste at the beginning of our lives, our mothers' imprinting, which of course includes a very powerful message because it's all about senses, affection and intention, which is one of the crucial aspects on which we try to work. In other words, we don't just want to serve good food (I think this is a given, though it's not always the case) and thus flavour, but also intention. This must be perceivable, it's crucial».
SLOWING DOWN TO BECOME MORE AWARE - "Slowing down to become more aware", Massimiliano Alajmo expressed this concept already at Identità Golose 2018 and he returned on this recently, during the first lockdown, see At the end of the emergency we will be better. The opinion of Max Alajmo. He explains now: «The power of this concept can be noticed even in the outcomes of the recent events. Society, in recent years, has sped up exponentially; when this happens, we can no longer go into depth, we keep to the surface. The perfect image of this is a boat in the water. When you speed up, you have no possibility of understanding where you are, of sensing the moment and what you're doing. On the contrary, we should become more aware, and act not out of instinct, but out of our intentions. So slowing down with awareness is more than welcome, but it doesn’t mean stopping. It's about changing perspective: not seeking only to be fast, but if anything to let ourselves search for awareness and meaning. Otherwise, we risk running a lot, but without knowing where to».
AWARENESS IN THE KITCHEN - «What I said applies to society as well as to cooking. We've seen all sorts of things happening in the past twenty years, big fractures within gastronomic movements; many have taken part without even being aware of it, they have followed a specific trend without understanding its meaning. Diversity is great; but you need to be aware. Above all, if you act without awareness you risk turning everything into something meaningless, and you also remove any possibility of contributing with your own ideas, of offering your own interpretation».
Max Alajmo interviewed by Carlo Passera for Identità on the road
IMPROVING - "We're all experiencing a sort of fermentation that will inevitably lead to transforming ourselves into stronger, more unique, livelier people, enhancing our inner yeast and our strength" Massimiliano Alajmo wrote in April, last year, in the above mentioned article. «The idea is to turn the pandemic into something positive, transform it into an opportunity. Basically, an exercise on beauty and on helping each other. If we learn from this moment to let beauty influence us, we will probably manage to get through this. To make an analogy with cooking: good things improve with time. Think of vinegar. Or wine. So it's crucial do work well on ourselves, it's an opportunity we all have. But not tomorrow. Now».
ITALIAN CUISINE - «Is Italian cuisine doing a good job with itself, these days? I believe so: there's ferment, think of the rediscovery of the supply chain, of the Italian essence; of the return to craftmanship, to farming, to an aware breeding, to the respect of natural cycles... On the other hand, I always notice people are hectic: but I must say that compared to the past there's more interest in rediscovering ancient scenarios, recovering more positive visions, with more awareness, research, to work on projects based on naturality with authenticity. This is beautiful. There are young people launched in beautiful projects, which work, perhaps not even too visionary, but well designed: thought over, conducted one step at a time. And it's also nice to see there's an interaction growing between different sectors, which is the great opportunity we have now: sharing and the possibility of elaborating together some new projects, starting from different points of view».
BUILDING A NEW FUTURE - «The theme of Identità on the road is "Build a new future". We can use the latter steps to build a future. But they represent a further stage. The first step is to research authenticity, find ourselves. It's hard: it's a daily exercise, it means knowing when to say yes or no, choosing based on awareness».
journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief
Le Cementine, the restaurant inside H-Farm in Ca' Tron, Roncade (Treviso),