Metullio - De Pra: chefs of the year, a shared project

The two chefs from Harry's Piccolo in Trieste, awarded as chefs of the year for the 2022 Guida di Identità Golose, present themselves: «It's doable: sharing the role of leader is not easy, but can be the best choice»

22-03-2022
by Niccolò Vecchia
Davide De Pra and Matteo Metullio on the stage w

Davide De Pra and Matteo Metullio on the stage with Sara Biasi, marketing and communication manager at Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, who gave them the award for Best Chef 2022 from the Guida di Identità

When they went on stage to get their award, Matteo Metullio and Davide De Pra were clearly excited. This was a nice and spontaneous constant of the presentation of the Guida ai Ristoranti di Identità Golose 2022 that took place at the Triennale in Milan: at last, in person, and seeing the Young Stars of this edition (here is the complete list) cheered by the audience was a strong emotion that brought many to tears. 

Besides, Metullio and De Pra, were given a very important award, that of Chefs of the Year: this is also why, when joining Paolo Marchi and host Francesca Romana Barberini, they tried to contain their emotions. Especially Metullio, whose first words as best chef of 2022 were: «I'll try not to cry, because when we got the second star at Harry's Piccolo [in 2020] I burst into tears and became famous for that».

But we like emotions: and Metullio, with his partner Davide De Pra, is well deserving of them. His career has been impressive, burning the stages and conquering attention, audience, admiration, stars, since he was very young. He arrived at 19 anni in Alta Badia, and joined the prestigious brigade of Norbert Niederkofler, where he stayed for 4 years perfecting technique and vision. He then worked with Fabio Cucchelli as sous chef at La Siriola. Soon Cucchelli took another road and the Wieser family, owners of the hotel and restaurant, decided to focus on the talented Matteo. At 24 he faced the challenge with enthusiasm and conquered his first star in 2013; and the second in 2017. 

The partnership with Davide De Pra, sous chef at the time, also started at SiriolaMetullio however is from Trieste and at one point, in 2019, his hometown, and most of all his family (his son was just born) called him back, a call stronger than anything else. So with De Pra they left the restaurant where they cemented their friendship and professional collaboration and went to Trieste, to take care of the restaurant inside the elegant Hotel Duchi d'Aosta, overlooking the scenic Piazza Unità d'Italia.

The rest is recent history: two stars within three years (two of which battered by the pandemic...) for the hotel's gourmet restaurant, Harry's Piccolo (here is the review in the brand new Guide, signed by Stefano Vegliani), and the great job they're also doing running the other two establishments inside the hotel, Bistrò and Pasticceria. In perfect cohabitation, sharing efforts, responsibility and honours too, like the award they've just received.

«We're very proud - Davide De Pra commented only minutes after the award ceremony, - even because of this anomaly we represent. Working as a couple is not more complicated, but for sure it's not easy. However, there are more and more chefs who share this responsibility and we'd like to think we can inspire even younger chefs. It can be done, and we have been doing it for four years: joining forces can be a winning choice. This makes us very happy».

This is not an easy choice, especially not for someone like you, Matteo, given that you had already received many achievements when you were still the only signature. Did it come natural to share the role of chef?
Yes, especially because it's been four years now that Davide and I sign the offer at Harry's Piccolo, but in fact we've been working side by side for many more years, since the days of Siriola. So it was like continuing a road we had already taken and tested. Today, however, I would above all like to remind people of something, and I'll use this opportunity to do so. The effort as a cook, now, cannot be only in terms of the ethics of choosing the right ingredients or reducing waste. We must also do our best to give value to our collaborators, and to create work environments where it's not all about sacrifice. Our work must resemble more the jobs you can find in this country. People must arrive in the kitchen out of passion and pleasure: the challenge of the cook of the future must be that of creating a workplace where people can be happy. 

You're a close-knit team. Do you have definite roles in the day-to-day, or are you completely interchangeable, Davide?
We both do everything. Then of course we each have our strongpoints, and we follow those. Matteo is more in charge of communication or hiring. I am of orders and food cost. But then the important things, like creating the dishes, are born from a complete collaboration and from sharing every step. A dish is never born from the idea of only one of us. 

Matteo, how much does Trieste, your city, count in your culinary project?
A lot, it's crucial. It's my home and the idea that I had, and which we made true with Davide, brought to this town something that wasn't here. The last year in which there were no Michelin stars in Trieste was 1989, the year when I was born. And the city had never had a great representative restaurant. Trieste is growing now, it has a huge potential in its port, and it can become a real capital for Mittel Europa. But to be so, the culinary offer must grow, not just at Harry's, but also around us. When I left Trieste to follow my passion for this work, there was no catering school. I hope that many young cooks, waiters, and bartenders can find in our work a point of reference and perhaps a place where they can grow. 

In a matter of a few years you have reached many goals: what do you ask for the near future?
Well... of course we have a dream, but we won't mention it [the two men smile]. Ever since we started working together, we never thought of goals, but focused on doing a good job each day, on improving. Accomplishments, awards, are of course a pleasure to receive. But it's the critiques that make you grow: when we receive one, out of a thousand compliments, we try to pay careful attention, to question ourselves with our team. Over the years we've always seen the public more and more interested. More and more often, they order the tasting menu, they don't just choose à la carte. This is very gratifying. We can only continue like this, trying to do our best each day.

And they'll reach the next goal for sure: congratulations from all the team at Identità Golose to Davide De Pra and Matteo Metullio.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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