Niko Romito at Identità Milano traces the profile of the "cook of the future"

The chef from Abruzzo: «We must make training and the offer of the entire industry more current. We need a cultural revolution». A few examples... and then he drops 50K "Bombe" on Dubai

04-10-2021
Niko Romito on the stage of Identità Milano 2021

Niko Romito on the stage of Identità Milano 2021. All photos from Brambilla-Serrani

«A big job awaits us. Significant challenges await us in the coming years, because it is clear that things won't go back to how they were before the pandemic». The approach of Niko Romito on the theme of Identità Milano 2021, that is to say “Building a New Future: Work”, is in line with his personality: analytical, reasonable, never banal. On the stage of the Auditorium the chef from Abruzzo warns the audience, and speaks out his point of view: «We must look at the future carefully, both in terms of food (what will be cooks in the future like? And what will the dining experience be like?) and in terms of staff training». This because «cultural changes usually are not sudden. But the pandemic instead has launched a fast process of change, the world is already different compared to what we knew at the beginning of 2020».

Niko is pragmatic. And to try to give answers to the themes under inspection, he uses the trick of referring to his personal experiences, «first of all we must ask ourselves how the new skills will be developed. Ten years ago, I gave life to Accademia Niko Romito, with an 80% employment rate of its graduates». Yet even this success story  will be subject to elements of discontinuity, «we must make the training current, and the same goes for the food offer. We need a real cultural revolution». Which will be based, according to Romito, on some well-defined pillars.

HEALTH – The pandemic swept away the superfluous; it redefined values and made us focus on health: «Cooks of the future must know that all their work will be subjected to the ethical goals of health, and that they will be asked to follow a constant balance between pleasing the palate and a balance of nutrients». The two factors – that is to say flavour and health – must coexist, «and cooks will be asked to study and offer solutions in this sense». Hence, we go back to the concept of “cultural revolution”: «On the one hand we must train professionals who can address this growing need; on the other we must spread food education, because to make a good choice in terms of food, you need a good understanding».

THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE INDUSTRY – We must study a new relationship between fine dining and industry. «Enough with this commonplace that products are only good if artisanal– Romito stresses with even greater clearness something that has been on his mind for years. – On the contrary, we must make sure that industrial processes change» pointing more and more on “standardised” fine quality but for this very reason even more “democratic”: «And it's us chef who must allow this leap to be made, making use of our skills, knowledge, and research. The goal: the finest quality typical of fine dining must be applied to industrial products». Another crucial revolution: and Niko takes the example of Bomba, the new place he opened in Pescara at the end of 2020, where they sell his famous “bomboloni” (he sold 47K in a few weeks) «and I always said it clearly: these are industrial products», but they have nothing less than their artisanal version, in fact they're better, «we've applied our skills and replaced animal with vegetal fat. Hence they are also healthier». And easy to replicate, even long-distance: Romito will open a Bomba corner at the World Fair in Dubai, sending 50K to the emirate. Easy forecast: they will go superfast.

SUSTAINABILITY– There's lots of talking about sustainability: but on top of the ethical aspects that affect us all, to reach a significant result in our industry we need that the logic in the catering industry changes, which is where the largest numbers are. «In 2017 I launched Intelligenza Nutrizionale, a project with the goal of rethinking the whole catering supply chain and the protocols of food transformation». That's where we must make an effort to take significant steps in terms of sustainability, «and everything starts from fine dining, from Reale, in order to then standardise the processes».

DIFFERENT FORMULAS – Romito has always been contaminating models to obtain different, contemporary formats. «For instance, it's good that popular culinary models overlap with the research that is typical of fine dining», this results in fertile ideas like Alt, the street diner that will soon double, when on top of the first location in Castel di Sangro there will be a new one, by the end of the year, in front of the petrol station in Montesilvano.

Romito with Marco Bolasco, who presented the lesson, and Paolo Marchi

Romito with Marco Bolasco, who presented the lesson, and Paolo Marchi

POOR AND RICH– «Onion, artichoke, cabbage, cauliflower, bread…»: Romito lists the ingredients in most of his most famous dishes and it stands out how they are all “poor” products.  Then the thought: «Fine dining is this to me: raising the standards in terms of professionality, that is to say use a fine selection, research and technique to make even a not-so-expensive ingredient rich. After all, this is the essence of Italian cuisine». The process can be applied at every level: even, for instance, inside the Bulgari Hotels, whose menu is designed by the chef in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai and Milano, and soon in Paris and then Moscow.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso