The way we were, we are, and we'll be

The long journey of Identità Golose: from the 18 speakers of the debut in Milan in January 2005 to the 775, from 42 different countries, over sixteen editions. Of them, Corrado Assenza is the only one who has always participated. What's behind this succes

26-01-2022
by Paolo Marchi
The

The "heralds" of Identità Milano. Eighteen years ago, the first edition of the new-born chef congress, founded by Paolo Marchi and Claudio Ceroni was taking place. Since then, over 16 editions, we've had 775 speakers from 42 different countries

From one January to the other, 18 years ago, between Madrid and Milan. It's been indeed 18 years since I promised myself at Madrid Fusión 2004, from the 13th to the 15th of January, that I would give life to a fine dining congress in Italy that would join the other two big events in Spain, the one in the capital, and the other in the Basque Country, Mejor de la Gastronomia, now called Gastronomika. I felt the need, and it was the same for Claudio Ceroni who joined me right away, to give a stage to our talents and put beside them the best the planet could offer at the time: above all, Ferran Adrià.

Today the galaxy of the Internet and of social networks allows us to know everything of everyone. This was not the case then, when you had to travel and there were only a few occasions to meet chefs. Salone del Gusto in Torino, Città del Gusto in Rome, Spain and that was it. No other country. Identità was to be the first congress outside the Iberian peninsula.

2005 – The first edition of the Identità Milano congress begins. Guest of honour, Ferran Adrià (below, with Paolo Marchi)

2005 – The first edition of the Identità Milano congress begins. Guest of honour, Ferran Adrià (below, with Paolo Marchi)

Carlo Cracco with Paolo Marchi on the stage of Identità Milano 2005

Carlo Cracco with Paolo Marchi on the stage of Identità Milano 2005

I remember we had no doubts on the location, Palazzo della Borsa in Piazza Affari; we had many doubts instead about the date, because we could not do without Adrià. Hence when dining at elBulli in Roses, in the spring of 2004, I told him that the following winter we would give birth to Identità Golose. He almost didn't allow me to finish the sentence and told me that he would be there, I just needed to tell him the date and he would note it down. I counterattacked and around that 24th of January, a Monday, we built the entire programme.

Sunday the 23rd, the welcome event at Circolo della Stampa which at the time was still on the first floor of Palazzo Serbelloni in Corso Venezia, a building that welcomed us in the most prestigious hall, as full as ever. I remember that Rafael García Santos, the patron of the congress in San Sebastian gave a nice speech, and I remember that my father, Rolly sitting in the first row, asked if he could speak and wanted to make sure what kind of lesson there was to be. He was afraid the cuisine would be too creative, something he didn't understand. I reassured him, then all the speakers of course did what they felt right.

2006 – A historic photo. Paolo Marchi on the stage of Identità Milano with, left to right, Moreno Cedroni, Davide Scabin, Massimo Bottura, Mauro Uliassi, Carlo Cracco and Pietro Leemann, the best of Italian cuisine (Massimiliano Alajmo had to leave before the photo)

2006 – A historic photo. Paolo Marchi on the stage of Identità Milano with, left to right, Moreno Cedroni, Davide Scabin, Massimo Bottura, Mauro Uliassi, Carlo Cracco and Pietro Leemann, the best of Italian cuisine (Massimiliano Alajmo had to leave before the photo)

2006 – The first lesson given by Massimo Bottura at Identità MIlano

2006 – The first lesson given by Massimo Bottura at Identità MIlano

Eighteen lessons, equally distributed between Monday and Tuesday, exactly seventeen years ago, in January. Thirteen Italians; three Spanish, Ferran Adrià, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Quique Dacosta; a French chef, Jean Luc Fau, and one from the US, Wylie Dufresne. From Italy we had Carlo Cracco, Enrico Crippa, Moreno Cedroni, Nadia Santini, Gianfranco Vissani, Massimiliano Alajmo, Davide Scabin, Pietro Leemann, Ciccio Sultano, Corrado Assenza, Accursio Craparo, Fulvio Pierangelini and Norbert Niederkofler. Of them, Assenza was not to miss a single edition, and the same applied to Massimo Bottura after he joined the following year, and to Mauro Uliassi, Chicco Cerea, Heinz Beck, Iginio Massari, Dani Garcia, Pascal Barbot, a total of 30 people, twelve more than on the first year. They became 55 in 2007 and 82 in 2008, fourth edition. This shows the success of Identità, so much so that Palazzo Mezzanotte was no longer big enough and we had to change location not to suffocate. We chose MiCo, the congress centre in Via Gattamelata where we are still located, with the next event scheduled in April, from Thursday the 21st to Saturday the 23rd, with the following theme: The Future is Now(READ THE PRESENTATION

2008 - Heston Blumenthal

2008 - Heston Blumenthal

2009 - René Redzepi with a young Christian Puglisi

2009 - René Redzepi with a young Christian Puglisi

2021 - Massimiliano Alajmo and Corrado Assenza, the two most assiduous speakers at Identità Milano (Assenza hasn't missed a single edition)

2021 - Massimiliano Alajmo and Corrado Assenza, the two most assiduous speakers at Identità Milano (Assenza hasn't missed a single edition)

In these weeks of preparations, we wondered how many speakers we've had over the past 16 editions and the total number was impressive: 775! A lot, and from 42 different countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finlandia, France, Germany, England, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Faroe Islands. Then from the rest of the world, United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, India, Afghanistan, Thailand, Turkey, Israel, Russia and South Africa.

But we at Identità certainly don't represent just the congress in Milan, but also the others events in London and in some of the American metropolises. It's easy to remember Dave Chang and Daniel Patterson at Identità London and then Michael Tusk and Sarah Grueneberg in Chicago, Daniel Boulud and Michael Anthony in New York. But these would be sterile numbers if we didn't give depth to our projects. Quantity is meaningless if there's no quality and variety in the choices made.

Paolo Marchi and Claudio Ceroni, founders of Identità Golose and of the Identità Milano congress, in front of Identità Golose Milano, the first international hub of gastronomy

Paolo Marchi and Claudio Ceroni, founders of Identità Golose and of the Identità Milano congress, in front of Identità Golose Milano, the first international hub of gastronomy

After a start in which the imperative was to begin, to show that we could talk of cuisine while looking at the future, and go beyond the rhetoric of tradition, Claudio Ceroni and I had no doubt what road to take. If the number of speakers has grown it's because we decided to analyse in more depth the themes that we thought most interesting. Curiosity is a virtue that urges people not to stop. The first new world we explored was pastry making, then fish, pasta, gelato, pizza, rice, meat and finally hospitality, so much so that for a while now Identità Golose has been the “international congress of fine dining, pastry making and hospitality”.

And if we've also become a powerful guide and a website, if the Identità Expo restaurant, the one created for the World Fair in 2015 resulted later in the creation in 2018 of the Identità Golose Milano hub, this is thanks to the deep relationship that has grown between myself and Claudio Ceroni. There cannot be such a tangible growth if the people behind it, and their relationship don't grow.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso